Since the original writing of this article, Domino’s Pizza has been in the news for trying to bring a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that ADA Compliance should not apply to their website.
Our feeling on this is that is will fail, and that it makes more sense for websites to be accessible to all.
Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, any business that “holds itself publicly accessible” has had to make reasonable accommodations for anyone who is considered disabled. These accommodations apply to buildings, restrooms, elevators, parking lots, and cover everything from the width of the parking spot to the height of door handles. Anyone who fails to meet these standards can and frequently is subject to lawsuits that lead to costly renovations, fines, and of course legal costs.
But what about websites? Is there any truth to the rumor that if your website is not ADA compliant, you could end up being sued? Simply put, this is more than just a rumor, in fact, there have many cases in which lawsuits have been filed for just this reason. We’ve had several clients who have either been sued or received letters threatening legal action because their websites were not ADA compliant. We feel that it’s a good practice to make your website ADA compliant regardless, for better usability, search engine “credit”, and ethical reasons.
Your website may not be ADA compliant if, for example, it doesn’t include code to display alternate text for images, which is used by screen reading devices commonly used by people who are visually impaired. Links need similar tags and videos must have captions. Most of the requirements are pretty easy to adhere to, and should not significantly alter the look of your website. In fact, most of the updates are done in the back end, in the code.
As of this moment, there are no ADA laws currently on the books. However, the ADA is in the middle of working with the Department of Justice to create a new set of guidelines or laws governing websites and access for those with disabilities.
It is a safe bet that once these new ADA guidelines for websites are in place, the number of lawsuits will increase significantly. For those who are concerned about this eventuality, you can access the basic guidelines covering what makes a website ADA compliant at How to Meet WCAG 2.0. This guideline has been developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative and will give you a basic overview of what your website needs in order to become ADA compliant.
It’s likely only a matter of time before the Department of Justice mandates website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since it is a good idea to be compliant anyway, and could be beneficial as far as search engine visibility, why not just take the steps to make your website compliant now? Don’t do it only for fear of being sued, but also because it is the right thing to do.