Business Websites and ADA Compliance

This a guest blog from Tom Shipley at Cole-Dalton Marketing Services. Tom helps The Alexander Group and several of our clients with all of their marketing needs. Tom is also a board member of TAG Board 404.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal law and mandates that all websites are easily navigable by people with visual, motor, cognitive and/or auditory disabilities.

Recently, the ADA has become something of a stumbling block for some businesses. You may have read about the legally blind man who sued Playboy Magazine for violation of the law. In certain cases, companies have been hit with threats of lawsuits from attorneys who focus on this new area of litigation.  In fact, one of my clients recently received one such letter from a California attorney who represented a blind consumer. In it, the attorney stated the website didn’t pass the Website Accessibility Evaluation (WAVE) protocol and that, under the ADA, his client was entitled to a minimum of $4,000 in statutory damages.

Aside from the irony that when I looked into the details, the attorney’s website was far from compliant, it turns out that businesses should take ADA compliance seriously to avoid litigation in the first place. You may be thinking, “Well, I’m a small business owner so this doesn’t apply to me!” Unfortunately, that’s where you’re wrong. The law applies to every business website, regardless of company size.

Further, it’s important to check your business insurance policies. Employment Practices Liability and General Liability policies only cover the cost of your defense, not remedies made to the plaintiff.

Making your website ADA compliant can be a complicated task but ensuring that it is can be important to the success of your business. Why? Primarily because you want everyone who views your website to have a friendly user experience… and also because it’s the law.

Potential customers or clients navigate your site using diverse methods based on their specific needs. For example, someone who is legally blind might use a screen reader to hear details about your company’s products. Someone who has a motor disability might check out your business offerings by navigating with the tab key rather than a mouse or trackpad.

Consider your business’s website: Is it user-friendly for everyone? Could a site visitor fully understand your content without viewing it on a monitor, navigating it with a mouse, or hearing a video?

While it might seem like a difficult task to handle, making your website ADA compliant will provide a user-friendly experience to all of your prospects and customers. To explain more about the importance of not running afoul of the ADA, we’ve put together a short guide to help you be proactive about compliance.

Being Proactive about ADA Compliance

The ADA has two levels of compliance: Level A and Level AA. Level A items should be considered the barebones requirements to ensure compliance.

Level A ADA Compliance

  • Images have alternate text that can be read by screen reader software.
  • Recorded video content includes captions.
  • Video or audio-only content is accompanied by text transcript or description.
  • Links are provided to media players required to view content.
  • Headings are presented in logical order.
  • “b” and “i” tags are replaced with “strong” and “em.”
  • No empty links or heading tags.
  • Presentation does not rely solely on color.
  • Automatically played audio does not occur or can be stopped.
  • The keyboard can be used to navigate the site.
  • Keyboard focus is never stuck on one particular page element.
  • Time limits provide notifications to the user.
  • Automatically scrolling or blinking content can be stopped.
  • No strobe effects or rapidly flashing colors occur on the site.
  • “Skip navigation”” functionality allows keyboard users to quickly access content.
  • Page titles clearly and succinctly describe page content.
  • Buttons and links are clearly and logically named.
  • The language of each page is identified in code.
  • Elements receiving focus do not change content in a substantial way.
  • Invalid form input is identified to the user.
  • Forms have labels and legends that can be read by screen reader software.
  • No major validation errors. 

Level AA Compliance

  • Live video or audio content includes captions.
  • Contrast ratio between text and page backgrounds is at least 4.5-to-1.
  • Text on pages can be resized to 200% while still maintaining form.
  • Images are not used where text can achieve the same purpose.
  • Pages on the site can be accessed in multiple ways.
  • Keyboard focus is visible and clear.
  • The language of content is identified in code with any language changes.
  • Menus and buttons are used consistently regardless of the user’s location in the site.
  • Users are given suggestions on how to solve input errors.
  • An error prevention technique is used whenever the user is entering sensitive data.
  • Underlined text that does not provide a link is removed.
  • Redundant links on the same page are eliminated or minimized.

If you’re concerned that your website isn’t ADA compliant, you can use one of the many free or very inexpensive tools available—such as WaTool for WordPress or UserWay—to scan your website. And if you find an ADA compliance issue, talk with your website expert to fix the problems.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.