In the wave of a recent Supreme Court judgment, we take a look at how companies can prevent ADA website accessibility lawsuits. From catching them unawares and potentially even bringing them down as a result of it. Here's everything you need to know about making your website ADA compliant.
Recent Lawsuits By The Disabled Against Websites
Three years ago, a blind person called Guillermo Robles filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles in which he complained he'd been unable to order a Domino's pizza online. The reason was their website, which lacked the functionality that he needed to be able to interact with. In doing so, he cited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires companies to offer disabled people "full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services of any place of public accommodations."
The exciting thing about this is that Domino's appealed, arguing that it should only apply in-store at the company's physical locations. Meanwhile, Supreme Court justices turned down the appeal and ruled that the ADA also applies to websites and smartphone applications, as well as in-store. Critics of the decision, such as the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, have warned that this could set a precedent for a "tsunami of litigation" and "[impose] a nation-wide website accessibility mandate".
How to make your website ADA compliant
So what exactly can we do about this if we want to keep ourselves safe from lawsuits and other problems due to noncompliance? This all comes back to your website, and it helps if you start to think about your website in the same way that you think about your physical, real-world locations. In the same way that you'd have to provide disabled access and accessible toilets, you need to make sure that your website offers all of the accessibility features that people might need.
It can help to work with a specialist agency to accomplish this because people have different disabilities, and various disabilities require specific solutions. As a general rule, you can get started by ensuring that you provide tools like magnification software and text-to-speech software. Make sure that all of your images include alt text so that these types of software can process them.
Is Your Website at Risk of ADA Compliance?
One of the best ways to figure out if your website is at risk of ADA noncompliance is to ask people with visual, hearing, or other impairments to browse your site and to watch what they do. You'll be able to see whether they're experiencing any difficulties in real-time so that you can fix stumbling blocks before they become a problem.
Of course, if you're struggling if your website is 100% ADA compliant, you could do a lot worse than to get started with our ADA compliance website survival guide. We'll also be more than happy to help you to bring your website into full compliance, so be sure to reach out to us to find out more.
What happens if you don't make your website accessible
The latest move by the Supreme Court has essentially opened up the way for blind people to sue online retailers and e-commerce stores if their websites aren't accessible. That means that if you fail to make your website easy to use for those with disabilities, you could fall victim to a lawsuit and face hefty legal bills at best and extensive fines at worst.
For some people, the temptation is to think that they'll be able to get away without making any updates to their website, but that's simply not the case. Beyoncé has been on the receiving end of an ADA compliance suit, and so have Fox News, Burger King, Nike, and Harvard University. In each of these cases, they could have avoided the problem simply by making their website accessible and compliant in the first place.
How to hire an accessibility specialist for your site?
If you're looking to hire an accessibility specialist for your website, the most important thing to do is to make sure that the custom software development that you're working with has proven the experience of accessible website builds. An excellent way to do that is to take a look through their previous builds and to see what works and what doesn't.
Other than that, you can pretty much turn to your regular recruitment channels, whether you put it out for tender or whether you list the vacancy on freelancing websites and take your pick out of whoever reaches out to you. It's more important to vet applicants for their accessibility experience than it is to hire them from any specific source, so just be sure to take a look at their portfolios before you commit to hiring someone.
Now that you know how to prevent ADA website accessibility lawsuits, it's over to you to put what you've learned today into practice to make sure that you're fully within the law. After all, apart from all the accessibility issues and legislation, making sure that your website is accessible is also good business – especially if it means that more people are able to buy from you. Good luck.