September 26, 2019

What Does ADA Compliant Mean for Websites?

Minute Read

Web accessibility is the practice of removing barriers for people with disabilities that might prevent their access to websites or mobile apps. Businesses who don’t comply are at risk of being sued for being in violation of ADA, Title III.

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What Does ADA Compliant Mean for Websites?

Web accessibility is the practice of removing barriers for people with disabilities that might prevent their interaction with, or access to, websites or mobile applications. The American Disabilities Act (ADA), Title III, is interpreted to include websites as “places of public accommodation.” Businesses who don’t comply are at risk of being sued for being in violation.

What does Compliance Look Like?

The Web Accessibility Standards (WAS) provide a checklist of web accessibility components. These include:

  • Website Presentation (clear text, nested headings, clean code)
  • Website Appearance (zoom text, color contrast ratio, distinctive links)
  • Content Alternatives (descriptive alt text, audio and video text transcripts, closed captioning)
  • User Control (no automatic, commercial popups, no automatic video or audio, ability to pause updating/refreshing content)
  • Website usability (search function, sitemap, all functions and content available by keyboard only)

Who has been sued for ADA Non-Compliance?

Cases of businesses who have been sued for non-compliance are piling up. The number of federal court cases jumped from 814 in 2017 to 2,258 in 2018. Sites sued include some huge brands, like:

  • Beyoncé (entertainment): for issues of no alt-text, no accessible dropdown menus, no keyboard access
  • Domino’s Pizza (restaurant): site and app not accessible with screen reading software
  • Nike (apparel): site not accessible with screen reading software, and no alt-tags for images, empty links without text
  • Harvard (education): online courses and video content didn’t have captions, so the content wasn’t accessible to deaf users 
“Many organizations are waking up to the fact that embracing accessibility leads to multiple benefits – reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience and colleague productivity.” – Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays

Making Your Website Accessible to More People

One out of five (1:5) people reports requiring some type of assistive technology to access websites or apps — 650 Million people worldwide. This includes hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, independent living difficulty. Ron Mace (1941-1998) coined the term “universal design” in 1985 and spent his life advocating for people with disabilities. 

Universal design makes products usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. - Ron Mace

Accessibility is Good for People. It’s Also Good for Business.

There are financial and future-forward reasons to build accessibility into your website roadmap.

  • Digitally inclusive companies have 28% higher revenue and 30% greater profit margin on average.
  • Discretionary spending power of people with disabilities is estimated at $220B/yr.
  • 28% better website satisfaction scores on average
  • Increases in earned traffic (6-10% on average) and search rank (SEO/SERP)
  • Eligibility for government contracts for goods or services

There are also clear risks (beyond lawsuits) of maintaining non-accessible site elements:

  • Loss of customers
  • Voluntary reduction of workforce candidates, specifically veterans
  • Voluntary contraction of market size and serviceable industries
  • Lower CSAT and CX scores
“Accessibility is a core value at Apple and something we view as a basic human right.” – Sarah Herrlinger, Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Apple

About the Author

Kelly Rader, CUA and VP of Digital Experience‍

Digital pioneer with 20+ years of experience bringing innovative digital products and services to market successfully for many industries and within a variety of challenging environments ranging from start-up to Fortune 100 companies. Effective in gaining organizational alignment on strategy and delivering creative solutions that solve real business problems.

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