Avoid Lawsuits By Complying With ADA Legislation
ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, is the most important US law regarding accessibility. It aims to prohibit discrimination against anyone based on their ability or disability. Following this legislation is a vital part of running a business. It’s also the only way to protect your company from an ADA-related lawsuit.
According to ADA, a disability is defined as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” While the Act doesn’t list any specific impairments, it is generally viewed as a document that guarantees equal opportunity for everybody in the majority of situations.
ADA applies to brick-and-mortar and online businesses alike. Hence, a business website is expected to serve its visitors efficiently and equally regardless of visual impairments, motor skill level, and cognitive disabilities.
ADA compliance measures in three levels: A for the lowest, AA for medium, and AAA for the highest. And while regulations defining these levels are somewhat ambiguous, it is the responsibility of businesses to make sure that they comply. If a company fails to do so, the consequences can be devastating.
Trending ADA lawsuits
In the United States, there has been a 320% increase in ADA-related lawsuits over the past eight years. And since court fees are paid by the company being sued, the risk of opening a new case is minimal. Because of that, some high-profile cases have involved large corporations, such as Netflix, Domino’s Pizza, and Amazon.
However, these lawsuits do not target only well-known brands: 85% of both federal and state cases involve small and medium-sized retail businesses. A non-complying website can have catastrophic consequences for a mom-and-pop shop as the average lawsuit settlement reaches $35,000.
The Department of Justice frequently references the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as the goal for website accessibility. However, that isn’t codified into law and may change as new standards develop. At the moment, WCAG 2.1 is the best measure of web accessibility, with the draft of the 2.2 version expected to be finalized by December 2022.
Caring for the customer
But it’s not just about the risk of being taken to court. 20% of the world's population is disabled, and not accommodating this huge group of people closes your doors to a lot of customers. That point may be even more impactful since the pandemic because online shopping has become so much more common. Many disabled people are immune-compromised and are less likely to go back to the traditional in-person shopping experience.
Additionally, many companies claim inclusivity as a core value. The way an inclusive business operates on a daily basis is informed by the awareness that some of the customers may be disabled. Hence, ensuring that the website is ADA-compliant is one of the ways to demonstrate that value in action.
What does ADA compliance involve?
ADA aims to improve accessibility for people with physical and mental disabilities. In practicality, that usually involves improving UI so that anybody can meaningfully browse your website. That often means changing the contrast between colors, making page fonts larger, and accommodating a limited use of a mouse or a keyboard. Additionally, it requires providing adequate alt text for images so that someone utilizing a screen reader can successfully navigate the website and complete a transaction without being able to see the product photo. Another example is the use of flashing images and animation across pages. They can negatively impact the browsing experience; it is advised that that feature can be turned off and on upon request.
While these requirements are absolutely reasonable requests to make the website easy to use for everybody, they may seem like a tall order for an owner of a busy company. Creating a website has become a relatively simple task, and many small businesses forego professional website development. Instead, they use a popular CMS such as Shopify to make their site themselves. This may be a fine choice at an early stage of business development since it’s a cheap and fast solution. However, in the long term, it leaves your business vulnerable to ADA-related lawsuits if the person who creates the website has a lack of experience in the web development field.
Making an existing website ADA-compliant
Let’s say we have a working website that brings in traffic and sales, but it’s not ADA-compliant. What’s the best and quickest way to tackle this issue?
You can approach it from several directions. You can consult a lawyer specializing in ADA and try to adjust things accordingly. If that sounds too complex, you can order a custom redesign from a professional web development studio. Web studios do not provide legal consultations, but they make it easy to outsource the challenging task of complying with ADA in accordance with the current guidelines and standards. The downside of both of these approaches is that you’ll still have to keep up with the ADA legislation since it is prone to change with time.
Alternatively, you can use third-party software to make your website ADA-compliant. accessiBe has created a widget that helps businesses adapt their website to user needs. With accessWidget, you won’t have to do a complete overhaul of your website design since it is a session-based tool. That means that the widget provides UI adjustments on demand based on the specific impairments of a user. All adjustments are compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA requirements. In addition, the widget is constantly improved since it utilizes machine learning technology, contextual understanding, and computer vision to address the complex accessibility requirements.
It is important to mention that accessWidget is not just a plugin; it’s an accessibility solution suite. It accommodates various impairments and helps people navigate websites regardless of their disabilities. Over 150,000 companies use it, small businesses and industry leaders alike. Its popularity is also due to a volume pricing policy; the number of pages determines the price. Additionally, a seven-day free trial lets you explore the full range of services the widget provides. And if you’d like to see the scope of work to be done, there is a free testing tool that highlights the most pressing issues on your website.
Another great benefit is that you might be eligible to take advantage of the Disabled Access Credit that provides up to a $5,000 tax credit for web accessibility-related expenses.
accessWidget saves you from having to get an expensive redesign. You won’t have to worry about compromising the branding of the website for the sake of legal requirements. It’s a plug-and-play solution; however, proper installation is key. But if you need assistance, Studio Umbrella can help you install accessWidget and make sure that it functions appropriately, effectively making your website ADA-compliant.