Could your website be a lawsuit waiting to happen? There’s a growing trend in the United States that could impact virtually any business or non-profit with a website. Lawsuits are on the rise claiming that websites are not in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
For those who are legal buffs, you can look at the original law and argue that there is no reference to websites. However, over the years various court rulings have expanded the interpretation of places of “public accommodation” to include websites.
Under the ADA the bar of bringing a lawsuit is very low. The ADA allows individuals to recover his or her attorney’s fee if they win a lawsuit. To some plaintiff attorneys this can be a solid source of revenue. According to some lawyers, ADA lawsuits regarding websites are a growing trend.
What is lacking in official form from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are technical guidelines concerning how websites should comply with the ADA. Guidelines were originally set to release in 2010 but have been delayed until 2018. President Donald Trump also signed an executive order shortly after taking office in January 2017 that required all government agencies to eliminate two regulations for one new regulation being put into effect. Therefore, it’s possible that new DOJ guidelines may be pushed back well beyond 2018.
What we do know is that the DOJ uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as a guide to what a website should be built to. The WCAG guidelines are not a US government law by any means but are an agreed upon protocol by the World Wide Web Consortium providing standardization of websites.
When it comes to your company or organizations website, you should consult with a website developer to do an in-depth audit of your site to see how it stacks up against the WCAG standard.
There are two ways of performing a WCAG standard audit and that is by software review or visual review. The software method is probably the fastest way, but it does not pick up everything that is wrong. For example, if your website plays a video, the software may not be able to review the video to see if it has captions for those who have visual impairments. It’s better to have a consultant do both software and visual reviews to ensure you are in full compliance with the standard.
There are some common sense items that you can implement to help reduce some of the risks you face under the ADA law:
For individuals who are visually impaired, consider the following ideas:
- If your website features videos, see how your video player can play captions under the video or develop video that has captions built into it.
- Make sure that an individual can navigate to all portions of your website using a keyboard. This also includes the usage of the keyboard to fill out forms on your site.
- Some individuals use Screen Reading software to read a website. Therefore, use correct alternative text for all images that are not for decorative purposes.
- Provide a link or text on your page that directs users with visual impairments to call your organization for any help in assisting them with the forms on your website. Also train your staff on the proper handling of those who call who need help with your website.
This list is obviously not comprehensive nor does it guarantee that you are in full compliance with ADA law.
The steps you take to protect your company from a lawsuit are well worth the effort.