ADA Website Compliance

This article was originally published on March 12, 2018, and has been updated per the date displayed above.
Being one-third of the way into 2019, we opted to follow up on the 2018 discussion we had regarding ADA Website Compliance. Per last year, making sure your website is ADA compliant is significant in offering an equal opportunity for everyone to experience the products and/or services your business offers. An ADA compliant website also help prevent lawsuits and potential government action.

In the video and article below, we'll update you one some useful information in reference to ADA website regulations. We'll also bring current events to your attention, including a couple of ongoing ADA website compliance lawsuits.

A Brief Background on ADA Regulations

The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed almost 30 years ago in 1990. This act was originally put in motion pertaining solely to physical location. It requires establishments to provide people with disabilities easy access to various levels throughout the business. This act was set to achieve an equal experience to all people, handicapped or not.

In 2016, the ADA began to include web presence. Lawsuits have since been on the rise, targeting commercial businesses with websites not compliant with the ADA. Common types of businesses hit with lawsuits: hotels, restaurants, and retail shops.

Simply put, these lawsuits occur when websites are not properly coded to assist those with disabilities. For example, a website that does not provide ADA compliant technology, like screen-readers, for those who are blind.

Recap of Changes to ADA Website Compliance in 2018

From 2017-2018, lawsuits for ADA website compliance increased by 177%, with more than 2,258 filed in 2018 - up from 814 in 2017. New York and Florida were dubbed the busiest jurisdictions, with fourteen other states making the charts. The top nine being:

    1. New York
    2. Florida
    3. Pennsylvania
    4. Massachusetts
    5. California
    6. Ohio
    7. Virginia
    8. Illinois
    9. Texas

Last year, we discussed:

  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Upon discovering issues faced by disabled government employees and the public, revisions to section 508 were made. The issues that were uncovered involved websites, documents, and software programs. As of January 2018, the updated 508 standards require all federal agencies and contractors to create web content accessible to all. The updated standards also include Website 508 compliance.

The original versions of the WCAG (WCAG 1.0 & WCAG 2.0) were also out of date and underwent a variety of changes. The most current version is WCAG 2.1. It released in mid-2018 and covers guidelines regarding web-connected technologies, mobile devices, and tablets.

Revisions to both section 508 and the WCAG were made to eliminate discrimination towards individuals with disabilities.

Ongoing ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits in 2019

Jason Camacho vs. 50 colleges across the U.S.

Camacho is a blind resident of Brooklyn, NY. He is currently making headline news for taking 50 colleges to court under ADA lawsuits. Camacho filed lawsuits regarding website accessibility for all 50 of the colleges. The plaintiff uses a screen-reader but experienced a barrier when trying to access information. The majority of colleges being taken to court are private, including Cornell and Vanderbilt to name a couple.

All 50 colleges were part of a college fair held in New York City. While all 50 are not located in NY, they all recruit students from this state and are, therefore, capable of being sued in NY.

Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs, CA

Avanti is a boutique hotel. It is under a current lawsuit for failure to obtain a website accessible to those who cannot see or hear. The coding in Avanti’s site does not provide screen-reading software to convert words into audio. It also does not have video with audio transcription.

For Avanti Hotel to address the issue and make its website ADA compliant, it will cost around $3,000. However, oftentimes businesses must pay damages to the plaintiff on top of making the fix. In this particular case, the settlement is expected to be between $8,000-13,000. If the owner chooses to fight, damages plus lawyer fees could put him at more than $25,000. This is a heavy burden for a small business.

Why Are ADA Regulations Important?

As a business, you want consumers to easily access what you offer. The ultimate goal of the ADA is to eliminate exclusivity and offer an equal experience to all people, thus taking away any type of struggle or barrier for those with disabilities.

This act wants businesses to be inviting to everybody via physical location and website.

An ADA compliant site meets the WCAG 2.0 website compliance guidelines and offers an online experience that is user-friendly for all.

Does My Website Need to be ADA Compliant?

  1. Are you a business that benefits the public?
  2. Are you a local, state, or government agency?
  3. Are you a private employer with 15 or more employees?

If you answered, "yes" to any of the aforementioned questions - your website should be compliant with ADA regulations. We would be happy to help you learn whether your site is ADA compliant.

Whether it's the law or not, your website should provide a struggle-free online experience for all users.

How Can I Tell if my Website is ADA Compliant?

According to Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 being the most current), website content must be:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

While there are some free tools you can use to understand if your site has flagrant accessibility violations, the only way to ensure your site is fully compliant with the guidelines is to actually use the technology those with visual impairments use.

If you're interested in a full audit to ensure compliance with these standards contact us. Our process starts with what is called a JAWS (Job Access With Speech) audit - that is an audit from accessibility specialists using screen readers to review your site and report back on compliance issues.

If you've received legal notice, or are concerned you might, a JAWS audit is your best bet to ensure complete accessibility and compliance for your website. These audits can be simple, or quite in depth, and usually start at $2,500, with them costing more for a higher volume of pages, or page types, and additional complexity.

You're welcome to contact us for a free website accessibility audit estimate.

If you're not concerned with pressing action, or don't have the budget for a full in-depth accessibility audit, some of the free tools below will help you spot and correct easily noticed issues and begin to make improvements in your experience.

Do you have additional questions about website compliance and accessibility as it pertains to ADA, 508, WCAG, or any specific usability concern? Feel free to contact us for a consultation, or comment below and we'll get back to you.

Coauthored by Melissa Miller.

Past Updates:

ADA Website Compliance in 2018

15 comments on “ADA Website Compliance

  1. I have some questions.

    1. What is detail requirement for a website to be ADA compliance?
    2. Search for Audit companies for a website to be ADA compliance? and the cost?

    1. Aloha Tatiana! I wish your questions had straightforward easy answers – and if you are government funded it kind of is. (See here: https://www.ada.gov/websites2_prnt.pdf) if you are not government funded, this is something that is currently being debated in the legal system. That being said, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are a good set of guidelines to help protect yourself if you feel you should. (You can see more on WCAG here: https://www.yokoco.com/find-out-how-to-make-your-website-compliant/)

      As for an audit for compliance, it is something we can assist with if you need a hand. The costs are commensurate with the size and complexity of the site. If you’d like to determine costs for your site, contact us here: yokoco.com/contact or drop us an email at questions@yokoco.com 🙂

    1. Hey OB – Disclaimer – none of this is legal advice and you’d want to check with a lawyer to know if you’re at risk for any action if you’re not ADA compliant. Based on what we’ve seen if you don’t have a physical retail or service location, and you don’t receive any funding from the government you likely aren’t required to have a website that would be considered compliant. Some people expect that to change in the next few years, but that’s what we know for now. Let us know if you have more questions or would like to test your site.

  2. So I’m UK based and I’m a bit confused by some of your comments. You say that “if you don’t have a physical retail or service location…you likely aren’t required to have a website that would be considered compliant”. Does this imply that because I have a physical store the website is implicitly required to be compliant?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      I suppose the good news is that if you’re in the UK you don’t really have to worry about this, because ADA compliance is only for US companies.

      The bad news is that the UK passed the Equality Act of 2010 which requires you to make your site compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA. More info is available here: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/helping-people-to-use-your-service/making-your-service-accessible-an-introduction

      Hope this helps! And if you need a hand determining if your site is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, let us know and we can fill you in on options, including us helping you with it.

      Mahalo,
      Yoko

  3. I own a medical practice in California with 5 employees. Since I have under 15 employees am I exempt from needing to have my website comply with the ADA? I know that my physical practice is exempt from ADA policies regarding employment (under 15) but I don’t know if that extends to websites. My website is not an important part of my practice and I don’t really want to sink any funds into it if I don’t need to.

    1. Hi Ilan,

      Thanks for writing. While I’m not a lawyer I believe if your physical practice is ADA exempt your web presence, as an extension of that physical business would maintain the same exemption status. If you’d like to be absolutely certain I’d confer with an ADA lawyer (email us, questions at yokoco dot com if you need a referral) but I don’t believe you have reason to worry.

  4. Hi Chris,
    I have a membership website teaching martial arts. It is accessible only to people who pay a monthly membership fee. I recently had a gentleman in Malta ask if I could make more than 850 videos on the site accessible to him (he is visually impaired). That is an impossible task for a one-man business. If I understand this article correctly, my site is not required to be accessible?
    Thanks for this page.

    1. Hi Ken,

      I’m not a lawyer, but I believe would is being requested would be considered an undue burden on your business and wouldn’t be required.

      For discussion’s sake – while I don’t know the specific nature of your videos, my guess is that they might be demonstrating various techniques or other content in which simply hearing the audio of the video wouldn’t deliver the full context of the content. If making that content accessible is something you’d want to do, you’d likely want to start with a written description of what takes place in the video. Beyond that, high contrast vector images or diagrams showcasing specific parts of the technique would certainly help.

      As you said, too much for a single person, or even a small person to do in addition to the production needs to create the video. But if that is a market you find receptive to your teachings, at some point it may be worth the investment.

      Thanks for the note, hope this helps! If you have further questions feel free to contact us: questions at yokoco dot com.

  5. This is an amazing article.
    You gave these amazing bullet point for those to be concerned.
    Questions on these:

    Are you a business that benefits the public?
    – Does this mean brick and mortar? What about a professional service firm like accountants?

    Are you a private employer with 15 or more employees?
    – Is it written in the “law” in Massachusetts or these other states – or is this your perception based on the mounting lawsuits? And if it is law, do you know when the law was put on the books?

    1. Hey Dale,

      Pretty much any physical location open to the public is supposed to make ADA accommodations. You’d have to ask a lawyer for more information on who, specifically, it applies to and in what circumstances. It’s something that is actively being argued in a number of cases we’re following.

      Regarding the 15 or more employees, that is applied through the ADA nationally. Per the EEOC – “The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.”

      Hope this helps, if you guys need a hand with it happy to talk about how we can help.

      Mahalo,
      Yoko

    1. It’s still something that is up in the air. About a week ago there was new info in the Kroger case which was one of the first large website compliance suits that went to court: https://www.adatitleiii.com/2019/06/sdny-dismisses-website-accessibility-lawsuit-based-on-mootness-and-lack-of-personal-jurisdiction/

      The ADA itself holds different organizations to more/less stringent standards based on a host of factors, government funding being a major one. Government agencies themselves are usually held to the most severe standards. That said, while ADA has adopted WCAG as the defacto standard, from what I’ve seen it appears they’re going with AA compliance as the most reliable one. That said, we’ve done work with some organizations who’ve chosen to comply with AAA in an effort to be as buttoned up as possible from an accessibility and experiential perspective. We’ve also worked with some who have tighter budgers and aim for level A compliance and have a more “react and repair” mindset when they discover anything in their site that is giving someone hardship from an accessibilirt standpoint.

      Hope this helps Courtney!

      Mahalo,
      Yoko

  6. Amazing article. I liked it because you attached every point related to ADA regulations. Thanks for sharing.

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