When it comes to your website, you might be asking yourself: “What do I need to do to make my website ADA compliant?”

If you have not considered ADA compliance, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

Maybe you’re planning a website or updating your current site. Either way, ADA website compliance has become an important part of your website.

Those numbers come according to a study conducted by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, an internationally recognized law firm. That is an increase of 177% from the 814 filed in 2017. 

This trend is going to continue, so it’s imperative that you take the steps necessary to make your website ADA compliant.

In filed cases, judges determined that complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is enough. This provides an acceptable level of accessibility to those that have disabilities limiting their ability to navigate and read websites.

We’ll address what you need to know about ADA compliance and give you action steps to reach an acceptable level of accessibility. That way, you can be in compliance and avoid a potential lawsuit.

Where did ADA compliance originate?

The idea of website compliance originates from The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. 

Below is the definition of the act from the ADA website.

“The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.” 

The phrase that became the catalyst for compliance is in Title III, the scope of the definition of “place of public accommodations.”

This section states that private businesses must make “reasonable modifications” to serve people with disabilities. 

The act also requires entities to take necessary steps to communicate with customers who have visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities. This is being enforced by the Department of Justice. 

There’s another issue that makes this complicated and at times confusing. Right now, there is no definitive standard or law directed at website accessibility. 

Over time, judges ruling on cases have identified websites as “places of public accommodations,” so they’re holding them accountable to the act just as with a brick and mortar location.

What is ADA website compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act does not directly require businesses to be compliant. But they do say that businesses are obligated to comply. This terminology can get confusing when building an ADA compliant website.

So far, judges have determined that complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is enough. This standard provides acceptable accessibility to those who have disabilities that limit their ability to navigate and read websites.

To determine if you’re obligated to comply, you must first determine if you are a Title III entity. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a Title III entity as:

You’ll find the 12 categories under Section III -1.2000 Public accommodations in the ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual. This section is titled “Covering Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities.” 

Now that you’ve identified whether you’re a Title III entity, this quote in this ADA link gives the clearest explanation of what ADA website compliance is: 

“Currently WCAG 2.0 guidelines are not a requirement of the DOJ for Title III entities using the web. Title III entities are, however, obligated to provide access to their goods and services by individuals with disabilities. That includes access to Title III entity websites, which must be accessible.” 

Note: This doesn’t call WCAG 2.0 guidelines a requirement, but it does obligate Title III entities to make sure users have accessibility.

Why is ADA website compliance important?

Lawsuits are hitting large corporations and local businesses alike. Because of this trend, the best course of action is to make sure your website is ADA compliant under WCAG 2.0. 

Often, the only option available to those with disabilities is to buy goods and services over the Internet. Compliance gives people with disabilities equal access to purchasing your goods and services. It can also give you an advantage over competitors.

Being the target of lawsuits can cost businesses thousands of dollars to settle. Lawsuits will likely increase until ADA compliance becomes a standard for all websites. 

But the benefits of ADA compliance go beyond avoiding lawsuits. Once your site is compliant, you’ll be able to serve and reach more customers, and that’s great news for both your business and your new customers.

Being the target of lawsuits can cost businesses thousands of dollars to settle. Lawsuits will likely increase until ADA compliance becomes a standard for all websites.

Important ADA Court Cases

Domino’s Pizza LLC v. Robles

When: 2016-2019

Why: Guillermo Robles claimed he couldn’t order pizza from Domino’s website because the site didn’t work with screen-reading software. The company also offered online-only discounts which were unusable for Robles. 

Results: A judge ruled in Guillermo Robles’ favor, stating “The alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises – which are places of public accommodation.”

Conner v. Parkwood Entertainment LLC

When: 2019

Why: The lawsuit, filed by Mary Connor, claims that she was presented with numerous barriers when attempting to buy Beyoncé concert tickets, including no alt-text, lack of prompting information on forms, and lack of accessible drop-down menus. 

Results: The lawsuit is ongoing. 

Maria Mendizabal v. Nike Inc.

When: 2017-2018

Why: Nike’s website didn’t use alt-text to provide text-equivalents for every element on a page. Without alt-text, visually impared users couldn’t use screen reading software fails to correctly render non-text elements.

Results: The case was dismissed as parties reached a settlement agreement. 



Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

When: 2017

Why: Sean Gorecki claimed Hobby Lobby’s website was inaccessible using the JAWS screen reading tool, rendering it inaccessible for individuals with disabilities. 

Results: The court ruled that Hobby Lobby’s website should be considered a public accommodation and should allow customers to buy products, search store locations, check for special price offers, receive coupons, and purchase gift cards online.

What does ADA compliance for websites look like?

An ADA compliant website contains characteristics outlined in the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. 

Within these guidelines are 4 WCAG principles, which will give you best practices to make your website compliant.

WCAG principles are granular and technical. Because of this, we recommend you or your team refer to the site to get the full scope and description of each principle.

Below, we define the four principles. We also offer suggestions and recommendations to achieve compliance.

Please note that our descriptions and suggestions aren’t the definitive authority to determine if your website meets the requirements of “obligation” set forth in the ADA terminology.

This is just an overview of how to get started.

The information provided will give you a general idea of the steps and actions you need to take. This will help you meet the minimum requirements of compliance defined by the ADA.

Additionally, taking these steps may help you avoid having a case filed against you.

Perceivable

“Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.”

Under this principle, you will need to apply the following elements to the visual, audio, and written content of your website.

Operable

“User interface components and navigation must be operable.”

This principle may sound obvious and over-simplistic, but people without disabilities often take for granted things that can be burdensome or impossible for those living with disabilities. So it’s important to make sure your website is operable according to WGAC 2.0 Standards.

Understandable

“Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.”

The understandability of your content is open for interpretation. It’s also often at the discretion of the content author. Keep in mind the suggestions below guidelines when writing any content for your site. They are in alignment with WCAG 2.0.

Robust

“Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.”

This deals primarily with user-assisted technologies that improve user experience on your site. This principle is best understood by developers and designers who are well-versed with the vernacular of their work.

Is ADA compliance mandatory?

It depends on who you ask. 

As we mentioned on this page, the ADA does not explicitly say it’s required. But they do mention that Title III entities are “obligated” to adhere to WGAC 2.0 Guidelines. 

There is a grey area when it comes to this question. That’s because there is no government regulated standard for ADA compliant websites. 

Up to now, the entities that have been forced to comply are ones that have had a case filed against them. 

Various courts have heard cases about discrimination toward people with disabilities. Some rulings were in favor of defendants, and others against. In many cases, defendants were forced to pay damages and take steps necessary to comply. 

According to an LA Times article written in November of 2018, lawsuits targeting businesses over ADA violations are on the rise

Again, the ADA doesn’t explicitly address website compliance, and there’s no specific coverage under the law. It’s fallen on the courts to determine how ADA standards will or won’t apply to websites. 

YOUR NEXT STEP TO ASSURE ADA COMPLIANCE 

Understanding and achieving ADA website compliance isn’t easy. 

We strongly recommend that you have someone on your team review and refer to the WGAC 2.0 guidelines. This will assure you don’t overlook anything as you work toward achieving compliance. 

You can also do a web search for “free web accessibility checkers.” These will identify areas of your websites accessibility features. 

Keep in mind that online tools will only check accessibility features, not usability. Many online tools require registration, and some require a subscription. 

Only use these sites as a guideline to help you achieve compliance. One such site is AChecker. 

In general, if someone with a disability visits your site, make sure your content is available in:

  • Readable text 
  • Adjustable audio
  • Adjustable visual formats

This assures you’re communicating the content in a method that users can understand.

To make sure your site is within the WGAC guidelines, incorporate these points into your site. This will help you reach more customers and avoid a potential lawsuit.

We welcome any questions that you have about the accessibility of your website.

Our team can also test the accessibility of your website and take steps to help your site meet the requirements set forth in the WGAC Guidelines.

Learn more about DE Website Accessibility Service. 

How do I make my website ADA and WCAG compliant?

It all starts with a website accessibility audit. At Design Extensions, once we perform this audit, you can choose from three different plans to help fix these issues based on your company’s unique needs.

If you’re interested in a FREE ADA compliance scan, we’ll help you put together some clear plans to mitigate your risk while improving accessibility for those who need it.

Some things to keep in mind following this free ADA scan is that each website is different, and therefore each scan reveals different roadblocks to accessibility. These roadblocks can be based on the front-end appearance of your site or be related to the backend code of your webpages. Some issues are easy fixes while others  might require a more in-depth solution.

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Clear Forms, Buttons & Focus States

ARIA Labels

Image ALT Attributes