Last summer we detailed that in the near future ADA compliance will need to be a factor when a website is designed. This has been something that has been in the pipeline for some time and many businesses continue to kick the can down the road. That is not a good idea. While you may not have the ability to make upgrades at the moment it is something that you should start considering because lawsuits are beginning to be filed and at least one has already been settled.

ADA compliance for my website?

Just like you need to have ADA compliance for a physical storefront you need to be in compliance for your virtual storefront as well. Businesses that have 15 or more employees and operate more than 20 weeks out of the year as well as businesses that are considered to be places of public accommodation like hotels, banks and government facilities are included. For these entities not only does their physical entrance need to be in compliance but their virtual storefront does as well.

Why is this not being talked about?

The main reason that this is not in the forefront is relatively simple: there is no legislation regarding it. Lawsuits are being filed using the current ADA law but neither state nor federal legislators have taken up the mantle to determine what should be done in the virtual world. While only the entities previously mentioned are covered today it is a very good bet that at some point in the near future that will change. As the Internet becomes more intertwined into everyone’s lives the ADA will need to be amended to include other websites as well.

My website is not included so why should I care?

Over the summer of 2017 a verdict was handed down in Juan Carlos Gil of Miami, Florida’s lawsuit against the Winn-Dixie chain of supermarkets over ADA compliance. Gil, who is blind and has cerebral palsy, depends on screen reader software in order to navigate websites. When he went onto Winn-Dixie’s site it did not work.

The website had been designed in 2015 and ADA compliance was not even considered at that time. To compound the problem each of their third-party vendors that were linked to the site had their own ADA requirements. The judge found in Gil’s favor stating that Gil did not get “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.” It starts with these but this will eventually expand to include other websites as well.

Winn-Dixie redesigned their website in order to meet ADA compliance. Gil was not awarded any damages but was able to recover attorney fees of around $100,000. The ruling has since been appealed to Federal Circuit Court with their attorneys claiming that a website is not a place of public accommodation.

There is also a financial cost that comes with this. Of course redesigning a website may not be a cheap proposition but the cost of that is nothing compared to what the cost of a potential lawsuit is between both the payout to the plaintiff as well as attorney fees. For a small business owner that could potentially break you. Do you have $100,000 sitting around? Probably not. This is a potentially serious issue and while your business may not fall into the category covered now it very well could in the future.

In fact it probably will. If your business does not need to do this immediately and you want to wait until legislation is set forth that is fine but this should be in the back of your mind.

So what do I need to have on my website?

There are five main things that you can do to make your website ADA compliant:

1. All images, videos and audio files should have alt tags

2. All audio and video files should have text transcripts

3. Identify the site’s language in the header

4. Make sure there are alternative ways to navigate a site, particularly via the keyboard, or offer recommendations for now a user can navigate to the content that they are looking for

5. Make your site’s layout consistent across the entire site and clearly differentiate between menus, buttons and links and make all of them keyboard accessible.

Some of these can be done relatively easily, albeit a bit time consuming. Some of these things may not even need to be done on your site. A good first start would be looking over it and seeing what you would need to potentially do and if you need contact Nicely Done Sites. We anticipate that this will be the norm one day so it is best to at least get started with a project like this so that when it does come time you will be prepared and can sit back while everyone else scrambles.

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