Twenty-five years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. The act has been amended many times since its inception to include areas which may not have previously been covered. One such amendment that is in development provides rules and regulations for web accessibility. Under this amendment, websites must have features that allow everyone to experience them. This change includes features such as closed captioning for audio and videos, alternative text for photos, compatibility with keyboards and touch screens and other features that make your site easily navigable for people with disabilities.
Features of the site
Many businesses may feel that their website is already optimized, but chances are high that it is not. According to an Entrepreneur.com article by Kimberly Reindl titled “5 Things You Need to Know About Web Accessibility,” there are many factors that may affect your compliance status. “Some people might need speech-recognition software, or others might need a screen reader to convert information provided on a website into speech. Still others might need closed captioning of information in videos or the ability to interact with a website without a mouse or touch screen. Many commercial websites do not have the features necessary for assistive technologies to translate their content into a usable format or only provide a limited amount of accessible content. Making a website accessible means removing these technical barriers that limit the content available to people with disabilities or make it difficult for them to navigate the internet.”
Not having an accessible website could land you in court
The ADA amendment governing internet sites was initially drafted in 2010, but it has been delayed and may not go into full effect until at least 2018. However, people with disabilities may still be able to file suit against your company. In the Entrepreneur.com article, Reindl states, “The ADA allows private parties to bring claims in court, and if they win the case, their attorneys’ fees are paid by the defendant. While the Department of Justice’s web accessibility proceeding remains on hold, more and more private plaintiffs are bringing these claims or at least threatening to do so.” The Sun Sentinel in Florida noted the following statistics in its article, “Looming ADA Website Rules Could Affect Millions of Websites,” by Ron Hurbitise. “More than 2,300 federal disabled-access suits have been filed in the Southern District of Florida since January 1, 2013, court records show. Nearly two-thirds were filed by the same 10 plaintiffs; the most prolific plaintiff filed 435 complaints.”
If your company has not taken steps to optimize its website, it should hire a website design specialist with knowledge of the regulations to assess the site. Doing so may cost some money, but it could save you from future lawsuits, and it will widen your customer base by ensuring that people with disabilities can access your content.
This article was written by Alaina Brandenburger for Small Business Pulse