ADA Website Compliance for Small Businesses
Building an ADA Compliant Website
Recent lawsuits against Domino’s Pizza, Winn-Dixie, and even Beyoncé have made it clear that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) no longer just applies to physical locations, but to websites and other digital spaces as well. This means that businesses need to ensure that their websites are accessible to people experiencing disabilities, including the blind, hard of hearing, and anyone using assistive technologies to navigate the internet, such as screen readers or refreshable braille displays. While definitive regulations for website accessibility have yet to be released, there are some well agreed-upon best practices that your business can follow to help reduce the chance of facing lawsuits.
What Businesses Have to Comply With the ADA?
Before rushing to overhaul your website, you should make sure that your business is required to comply with the ADA. There are two sections of the ADA that you can use to figure this out – Title I and Title III. Title I requires businesses that operate for at least 20 weeks each year with 15 or more full-time employees to stay compliant with the Act. Title III, on the other hand, applies to businesses that provide “public accommodations.” This includes hotels, banks, and public transportation, just to give a few examples.
Where Can I Find the Regulations on Website Accessibility?
Unfortunately, because we’re still in the early days of ADA website compliance, there are no hard and fast rules for you to follow. While this ambiguity can be frustrating, there are some actions that you can take to make your website more accessible to people experiencing disabilities. Not only does this show that your business has acted in good faith and shown its best efforts should it ever face a lawsuit, but it also keeps you from limiting your client base. After all, every person that can’t use your website is another sale that you’ll never have the opportunity to close.
How Can I Make My Business’s Website Accessible?
Having an accessible website under the ADA means that it’s reasonably easy to navigate and engage with for people experiencing disabilities or using assistive technologies. Without statutes or explicit regulations to follow, experts have turned to recent legal decisions and requirements for federal websites for guidance. Some of the most common practices for enhancing website accessibility include:
- Organizing its layout in a consistent manner. All buttons, menus, and links should be easy to find and browse in a way that makes it easy for users to navigate from one page to another. You’ll want to make sure that your font is easy to read as well.
- Paying attention to header code. Many text readers use headers to figure out what language the website is written in, and different header “tiers” help guide the reader through the page’s content.
- Providing transcripts for audio and video content. Giving your users access to text transcripts is critical to helping the hearing-impaired understand your AV content. They’re useful for screen readers as well.
- Ensuring all documents are accessible to text readers. Because .pdf files can be problematic, it’s often suggested that you provide your documents in alternative formats, such as rich text format
- Using alt tags for images, videos, and audio files. These give users experiencing disabilities a way to either read or hear descriptions of content that they wouldn’t have any access to otherwise.
- Helping users get around input errors. Users with disabilities or assistive technologies interact with websites in a unique way, which can lead to them encountering a large number of input errors when navigating a website. Make sure that your website automatically suggests alternative “routes” for them to get to the information they need.
What Happens if My Business’s Website Is Noncompliant?
Without a website that’s up to the ADA’s standards, your business is vulnerable to lawsuits than could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars. Don’t think that you can just fly under the radar and hope for the best. Attorneys frequently seek out noncompliant businesses in both digital and physical spaces. This gets expensive fast – in addition to the money you’ll spend on bringing your business’s website into compliance, you’ll be responsible for attorney’s fees, too.
We also can’t stress this enough – noncompliant websites that are difficult to navigate for users with disabilities create a barrier between your business and countless potential clients. Many of the best practices for digital ADA compliance help with SEO, or search engine optimization, as well. In other words, having an ADA compliant website doesn’t just help lower the risk of your business facing regulatory enforcement, it can make your website easier to find compared to competitors, too.
For more recommendations on how to build an ADA compliant website, schedule a consultation with us or give us a call at (727) 279-5037.