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How to avoid an ADA website compliance lawsuit

Feb 27, 2019, 5:03 am

As the roster of a business website that has been snared by ADA lawsuits targeting non-compliance content, companies are learning there is an urgent need to upgrade their websites into compliance. The Trump administration’s unfortunate decision to stop drafting ADA rules for website compliance leaves the marketplace vulnerable to a wave of legal actions. Some websites have already experienced ADA lawsuits thrust against them now have ugly disclaimers front and center on their homepage pushing down valuable information about their actual business far down below the fold.

As such, what is needed to be in compliance to avoid potential lawsuits and forced content changes to your website that would obscure your business’ purpose?

Explaining ADA Website Compliance

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was legislated to remove barriers preventing a disabled person from accessing facilities, services, and benefits akin to a non-disabled person. As a result, businesses have made physical plant adjustments such as installing wheelchair ramps, yet many still don’t realize their websites should also be compliant with the ADA’s parameters of easy access.

The key tenant for ADA website compliance relates to if the website can be used by people who have problems seeing or hearing. As such, an initiative by a consortium of web innovators published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) addressing how to tweak business websites that are typically stocked with images and video; the type of assets that tend to be more difficult to modify.

Compliance Steps

The key is what’s termed WCAG compliance testing. WCAG defines how to make web content more accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. For a website to be deemed accessible:

  • The content must be coded so screen-reading software can convert the words to an audio translation.
  • A video that appears on a website must include descriptions for the deaf.
  • Images must have ALT text embedded into the code.
  • All interactive functions must be operable through keyboard commands for people who can’t use a mouse.
  • Color contrast needs to be verified to be in compliance.
  • Proper HTML website code semantics must be in place in a manner where a computer screen reader can understand the web page document on behalf of a blind person.

Is My Website At Risk?

Consult a checker, such as https://achecker.ca/checker/index.php – punch in a URL, specify what level of WCAG you want (though version 2.1 is not yet supported), and it will generate a report.

Development Agency Support

Website development agencies can be enlisted to perform the necessary WCAG compliance testing and then proceed to make the assessed needed modifications. Most modifications will have no bearing on the general look, feel, and functionality of the site, but will be essential to the underlying codebase in a manner impacting how effectively and comprehensively the website conveys the same information to the tools used by a disabled visitor to that site.

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