The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in July 1990 and remains one of the nation’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. It prevents discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities are granted the same opportunities as everyone else in terms of participating in day to day American life.
Most of us are familiar with the ADA, especially if you are running your own physical business. Wheelchair accessibility, signage for the blind, and assistive listening devices are all common in the world today. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that websites may also need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
At this point in time, very few websites are actually compliant with the regulations and qualify as “Accessible” per the ADA guidelines. Fortunately however, existing websites rarely need a full redesign to become compliant. Generally, a few “under the hood” changes need to be made to become compliant, and as guidelines are updated, some of those changes need to be adapted to maintain compliance.
Web content should always be accessible to blind users, deaf users, and those who need to navigate by voice, screen readers, or other assistive technology. This is especially critical for businesses who have clients that visit their office or facility. It’s also important for larger businesses even if they may not have a physical office.
Lately, predatory law firms are finding websites that aren’t in compliance with the ADA website requirements and are serving them with letters containing settlement offers or threats of legal action. Unfortunately, these letters and lawsuits are also being sent to sole proprietors with only home offices. In fact, members of our own community have received threats and have paid large “fines” dictated by these law firms. But paying the settlement doesn’t mean you aren’t liable anymore. It simply means that one specific threat against you has been averted. Other lawyers or other firms can still demand settlements or threaten to sue.
So what can you do?
We strongly recommend NOT simply relying on a plug-in or automated service to do the work for you. Having a plugin that “automatically” makes your site compliant, is essentially NEVER sufficient. There are always elements that need to be manually integrated into the website or edited in order to make the site compliant. And some law offices actually look for well-known plugins specifically so they know who to take a closer look at. The plugins become “red flags” for those looking for businesses to sue or threaten in the hopes of a payout.
Rather than risking drawing undue attention to your website, talk to your web developer and let them do an audit to make sure your site is fully compliant.
If a compliance audit isn’t in their wheelhouse, or if you have other questions, contact us. But whatever you do, DO NOT call a large firm. We have seen businesses paying upwards of $5000 just to have their site “made compliant.” ADA guidelines are rarely, if ever, so complicated and demanding that you would need to rebuild everything.
We are more than happy to sit down with you to talk through the specific needs for your site, if there are any.