You are most likely familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To comply with this act, you may have installed handicap parking spaces, access ramps to your building, elevators rather than stairs if public areas are on different levels, bathrooms that accommodate the handicapped, etc. But is your website ADA compliant? I’ll bet you didn’t know that it needs to be. While websites are not specifically identified in the ADA itself, leave it to lawyers and certain judges to interpret the act in a way that could put your business in legal jeopardy. Certain states, like California, have laws that take the ADA to the next level.
Back in 1990, the ADA was established to end discrimination based on various types of disabilities, for both employees and customers. Title I narrows the act down and may exempt you from needing to worry about it by saying that you must be in full compliance if you have at least 15 full-time staff members and are open at least 20 weeks of the year. Title III addresses places of “public accommodation.” Equal access to services must be available. And this is where the waters get muddy.
Yes – No – Maybe
Does this rule about public accommodation apply to websites? The answer is yes…and no…and maybe. How’s that for clarity?
The ADA doesn’t say websites are places of public accommodation, nor does it say they aren’t. That leaves things open to the interpretation of the courts, whose rulings have been all over the map. Companies like Dominos, H&R Block, Winn-Dixie, Mutual of Omaha and many others have all had to either pay fines, pay damages to those who have claimed they were blocked from public accommodation, update their websites or all of the above. Fees to defend themselves have cost these companies thousands. Rest assured, corporate attorneys at nearly all the Fortune 1,000 companies have all been assessing this situation and advising their web presence departments on what they need to do.
You may not need in-house legal counsel, nor am I going to give you legal advice. But, I’m going to alert you on what the issue is and what you might want to do about it. As always with legal matters, seek the advice of an attorney for what constitutes compliance in your particular situation. It is always a best practice to anticipate the realm of the possible, the chance that someone might sue you someday because they couldn’t navigate your website effectively because they’re blind or can’t hear your videos because they’re deaf.
So, what do you do? If you want to know how accessible your website likely is, we at Optima Automotive have a tool that will offer you our best assessment. To access it, visit optimaautomotive.com/ada.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
For clients who want it, we often target some of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG 2.1, Level A and sometimes Level AA. The key things here are the following:
- Text alternatives. A website should provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms for people with certain disabilities. Examples include larger fonts, text to speech, symbols, image tags, etc.
- Time-based media. For any video or audio recorded assets on a website, include alternative ways to deliver this content (such as captions or sign language) so as not to leave out people with certain disabilities. If you provide step-by-step videos on how to access any of your services by video or audio means, this is an area you should address.
- Adaptable. This is very convoluted for collision shops but, for example, if you provide a step-by-step process to follow, it needs to not solely rely on sensory characteristics like shape, colors, size, visual location, sound or screen orientation.
- Distinguishable. Sites should not use color alone as a visual method of delivering information, and there must be sufficient visual contrast. Audio that plays for more than three seconds should be able to be paused, and volume should be controllable.
- Operable. All functionality should be able to be done with a keyboard.
- Seizures and physical reactions. On-screen things that trigger seizures or physical reactions should be avoided.
- Navigable. Alternative ways to help visitors navigate the site should be included.
There’s much, much more. These are some of the most important things we’re starting to pay attention to. Use our tool to see how your site is performing and see if you might possibly be at risk: optimaautomotive.com/ada.