The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that the web content of certain businesses should be accessible to users who are blind or deaf, as well as to others whose impairments require them to use assistive technologies to navigate commercial websites.
In other words, your commercial website is supposed to provide effective communication and full and equal access to everyone.
When you think about it, you wouldn’t want it any other way, although you might have missed the mark when you created and subsequently enhanced your website.
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How could you have missed being ADA compliant?
If yours is like most businesses, you may not have considered ADA compliance when you invested your time, ideas, and money in developing your company website.
When ADA was introduced, most businesses thought about things like doors, stairs, curbs, chairs, workstations, and the like – obvious ways to accommodate disabled persons in the typical physical work or shopping environment.
Times have changed. More work and shopping is done digitally, and in 2018 the Department of Justice said that the ADA applied to digital platforms as well as physical ones.
You aren’t alone if you are surprised by this shift – it is estimated that as many as 98% of commercial websites are not ADA compliant.
The good news is, that while you certainly don’t want another jumble of tangled regulations or additional surprise business expenses, affordable remedies are available that not only solve compliance problems but open doors to greater opportunity.
Why should you care about ADA compliance?
Your website is vital to the success of your business. In many cases, it is your business. In any case, it is your face to the world.
Your goals for your website include telling your story and presenting your products for sale to as many people as possible in an inexpensive, positive, compelling, and legal manner.
Your website has a profound influence on how your business is perceived and helps form customer attitudes about how easy it is to do business with you. Image is important, especially in a digital world, but that’s only part of the rationale for striving for ADA compliancy.
Here are a few other practical reasons for making your website ADA compliant:
- You will reach more potential customers. It’s shocking to learn that about 20% of the world’s population suffers from some sort of physical impairment. That’s 1.8b people who may not be able to navigate your website and consequently be unable to learn about your business or buy your products. That number includes more than 60,000,000 Americans, half of whom are adults between the ages of 18 and 64.
- You want to avoid costly lawsuits. The number of digital accessibility lawsuits is skyrocketing. Last year in the US, they grew by 25% to more than 3,500 and the trend is shooting straight up. If you want to lose some extra sleep, consider that last December alone, the number doubled over November.
- You want to avoid becoming a target. Digital accessibility lawsuits are tricky and complicated, and some attorneys are like sharks when they smell blood in the water. You will be alarmed to learn that almost 25% of the companies that get sued are sued more than once.
- You want to keep your profits. The overwhelming majority of demand letters have been settled out of court for anywhere from $20,000 to $150,000. The cost of being compliant, and thereby avoiding legal bills, is a drop in the bucket.
- You want to promote a positive company image. Your ADA compliant website levels the field for buying opportunities for everyone. Open the door for all shoppers and information seekers so that as many people as possible can learn about your business and buy your products.
Does my website have to be ADA compliant?
In a word, yes. Unless you want to risk receiving demand letters or getting sued.
As a business person you know that anyone can be sued for any reason at any time. While there are some exemptions written into the law, such as for some small businesses and non-profits, the fact is that there is an uptick in legal actions against all types and sizes of enterprises for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination rules.
The prudent business decision is to protect yourself from potential demand letters and lawsuits while you can opportunistically expand the size of your potential customer base by ensuring that your website is ADA compliant and that it meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.1 A and AA).
It doesn’t make sense to expose yourself to risk when reasonably priced remedies are so readily available.
Who is added to your customer pool with an ADA compliant website?
Your eyes may be opened when you see this list of people who can become visitors to your website and possibly your customers when your website is ADA compliant.
Consider the number of people who live with:
- Impaired vision. Did you know that almost 20% of the world’s population suffers from impaired vision? In the US, there are more than 1M blind people and approximately another 11M who have other forms of impaired vision, such as color-blindness or cataracts. They struggle to see what you have invested in to put on your website.
- Impaired hearing. Deaf persons might have hearing loss in one or both ears. More than 37.5M Americans report trouble hearing. People with impaired hearing can’t be enticed or educated by any audio effects built into your website.
- Cognition or learning difficulties. Factors like age, educational level, conditions like dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD, and developmental issues can make it difficult for people to retain or process large amounts of information or deal with types of animation. This is a significant segment of the population, so you want to make it as easy and attractive as possible for them to visit and react to your website.
- Chronic or temporary emotional or behavioral issues. You can design your website so that it helps these people grasp information and stay on task by paying attention to sentence structure, the amount of white space on the page, and the page layout.
- Chronic or temporary injuries or diseases. Assistive devices like audible software and others enable potential customers and information seekers who can not use a mouse, a pointer, or a touch screen to navigate your site. You can stay open for business with these people with a strategically constructed and effectively managed website.
This list could be expanded, but you get an idea of the size and needs of the audience that you may be missing if your website is not ADA compliant.
How do I know if my website is ADA compliant?
The best way to determine ADA compliance is to hire an accessibility expert to manually evaluate and test your website against WCAG2.1 AA shortfalls.
It is important to hire an expert because ADA law is classified as strict liability. This means that there are no acceptable excuses for non-compliance. You can’t plead that you were unaware of a provision of the law or that your company is working on the issues. You will lose.
After the audit, you’ll get receive a complete report with recommendations.
What steps are needed to bring my website into ADA compliance?
There are typically four steps involved in your engagement with an accessibility expert:
- A risk assessment. The expert will scan your website to determine the extent to which it is ADA compliant. This will give you a sense of your status but does not comprise a formal audit.
- A formal audit. This will tell you specifically what work needs to be done to bring your website into ADA compliance and make any other appropriate recommendations.
- Doing the work needed to bring your website into compliance.
- Regular monitoring and updates to ensure continued compliance. Your website is a living thing to which you are adding or changing content from time to time. You want someone to keep an eye out to make sure that you stay in compliance with all current laws and rulings.
Is it expensive to make my website ADA compliant?
The cost of achieving ADA compliancy will vary depending on the results of your audit and the degree to which you choose to implement recommendations.
A professional audit alone will usually run into four figures.
We live and do business in a digital world in which individual and business consumers increasingly depend on the Internet to gather information and make buying decisions. A commercial website is among the most powerful marketing tools that you have.
Universal accessibility has legal, monetary, transactional, informational, moral, and practical aspects that can enable a business to cast a wider net without incurring significant expense. Compliance with ADA rules and WCAG guidelines are doors that open to an expanded customer pool while staving off potential legal expenses that harm both the bottom line and the image of an enterprise.
It is easy and reasonably priced to make sure that your commercial website is optimized and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Contact the experts at Lana Lee Digital today to get your free risk assessment.