A lot of small business owners don’t realize there are ADA requirements for websites—let alone understand the consequences if those requirements aren’t met.
The CEO of ATX the Brand was recently featured in an Inc. Magazine article titled How Poor Website Accessibility Can Hurt Your Brand and Business. The article explains how ADA compliance lawsuits over websites have increased significantly in recent years, and that any size business may be at risk.
What is an ADA Lawsuit?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that mandates accommodations to ensure equal access for individuals with disabilities. While many people associate ADA requirements with physical adjustments, such as building ramps, the scope of the ADA extends to the virtual realm, specifically website accessibility. An ADA lawsuit can be initiated against your company if your website fails to meet the necessary accessibility standards.
Common Reasons for ADA Lawsuits
Several factors can trigger an ADA lawsuit against a company. Inaccessible content can be a significant issue. Websites that do not provide text alternatives for images or videos make them unusable for those who are visually impaired, effectively excluding them from your digital presence.
Another common issue is the lack of proper heading structure. Missing or incorrect headings can make navigating the website difficult for screen reader users, an essential tool for many with visual impairments.
Non-compliant forms are a source of frustration for many users with disabilities. Online forms that are not compatible with screen readers or lack proper labels can be a major roadblock. Unintuitive navigation further compounds the problem.
Websites without clear navigation pathways hinder users with cognitive disabilities and may drive potential customers away. Inadequate color contrast, poor color choices that make content hard to read for those with vision impairments, can lead to non-compliance. Additionally, videos without captions are a common issue. Video content without proper captions makes it inaccessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, further limiting your audience.
How to Prevent Website Accessibility Lawsuits
To prevent ADA lawsuits and ensure your website is accessible, consider the following steps:
- Educate Yourself: The first step is understanding the basics of web accessibility, including guidelines and standards like WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). This knowledge is fundamental in creating an inclusive digital space.
- Professional ADA Audit: Hire a qualified professional to conduct a thorough ADA audit of your website, identifying accessibility issues and providing recommendations for improvement. This professional evaluation will pinpoint specific problem areas and offer solutions.
- Use Tools: Accessibility evaluation tools like wave.webaim.org can be invaluable. These tools help pinpoint specific accessibility issues. Work with developers to implement the necessary changes, focusing on making your content more accessible.
- Regular Monitoring: Develop a plan for consistent monitoring and updates to maintain accessibility standards. Ensuring ongoing compliance is crucial in a constantly evolving digital landscape. Regular checks and updates are essential to keep up with best practices.
Additional Benefits of ADA Compliance
Compliance with ADA not only reduces the risk of legal action and damage to your brand reputation but also offers several additional advantages:
- Reaching a Broader Audience: Making your website accessible expands your potential audience. By accommodating users with disabilities, you attract individuals who may have been excluded from your digital presence, thereby broadening your customer base.
- Improved User Experience: An accessible website is easier for all users to navigate, enhancing the overall user experience. Creating a user-friendly website ensures that visitors stay longer, engage more, and are more likely to convert.
- SEO Benefits: Search engines favor websites with good usability and accessibility. Implementing features like descriptive image alt text and clear headings can improve your search engine rankings, increasing online visibility and organic traffic. This translates into a more significant online presence and more opportunities to connect with potential customers.
The Broader Significance of ADA Compliance
Today, website accessibility is not merely a legal obligation but a crucial factor affecting user experience, brand reputation, and business growth. Ignoring it can result in lost opportunities and customers. In an era where a strong online presence is essential for businesses, ADA compliance becomes a competitive advantage. Ensuring that your website is accessible is not just a compliance requirement but a proactive step toward creating an inclusive, user-friendly, and competitive digital space.
What Happens if You Do Get Sued?
If your company faces an ADA lawsuit, here’s what you should do:
- Don’t Ignore the Notice: Take the lawsuit seriously and act promptly. Ignoring the situation can escalate the issue and damage your reputation further.
- Professional ADA Audit: Secure the services of a professional to perform a comprehensive ADA audit. This will help you identify the extent of non-compliance and establish a roadmap to rectify the issues.
- Compliance Priority: Make website compliance a top priority, starting with addressing the most significant issues first. Focusing on resolving the most critical accessibility issues first ensures you’re making progress efficiently.
- Consult an Attorney: Seek legal counsel to determine whether it’s in your best interest to settle or go to trial. An attorney with expertise in ADA law can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions regarding legal actions.
Frequently Asked Questions about ADA Compliance for Websites
Q: My company is small. Can I still get sued for website accessibility issues?
A: Yes, regardless of your company’s size, you can be subject to ADA lawsuits related to website accessibility. ADA compliance requirements apply to businesses of all sizes, including small companies. Lawsuits can be initiated by individuals with disabilities or advocacy groups, and non-compliance could lead to legal action, potentially resulting in financial penalties.
Q: How much does an ADA lawsuit typically cost?
A: The cost of an ADA lawsuit can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, legal fees, potential settlement amounts, and court expenses. While specific costs can vary, it’s crucial to understand that ADA lawsuits can be financially burdensome, making it more cost-effective to proactively address accessibility issues.
Q: What are the benefits of an ADA audit for my website?
A: An ADA audit for your website offers numerous benefits, such as:
Identifying accessibility issues that may lead to ADA lawsuits.
Demonstrating your commitment to inclusivity and equal access.
Enhancing the user experience for all visitors, potentially increasing customer engagement.
Improving search engine rankings, leading to better online visibility.
Reducing the risk of legal action and associated costs.
Q: How much does a website accessibility audit typically cost?
A: Prices can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The investment is generally worthwhile, considering the potential savings in legal fees, penalties, and the benefits of a more inclusive and user-friendly website.
Start Your ADA Compliance Audit Today
Take the first step towards a more inclusive and accessible online presence today. Get a professional ADA audit of your website and uncover the areas that need improvement. By addressing accessibility issues, you’ll not only protect your business but also create a more welcoming digital space for all users. To learn more, click here to request your website accessibility audit and ensure that your digital presence complies with ADA standards.