The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law that governs accessibility for those with disabilities. In essence, the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in places of public accommodation. The ADA requires businesses to provide “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation”.
Despite the lack of the word “website” appearing in the text of the ADA, courts have interpreted the text to include websites. Due to court rulings, websites and mobile apps are now considered “places of public accommodation”.
Businesses that operate online must make their websites accessible to those with disabilities. If they don’t, they can be accused of discriminating against people with disabilities. Businesses need to design their websites so that everyone, including people with disabilities, can enjoy the “full and equal” use of the website.
ADA website compliance essentially comes down to making sure your website conforms with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA requirements. This includes ensuring access to content, ability to navigate the website successfully without a mouse and visual cues, and ability to engage with different elements.
Web-based businesses are increasingly being swept up in ADA compliance lawsuits. In 2019, there were over 11,000 federal lawsuits filed regarding ADA Title III. California, New York, and Florida have the most stringent ADA requirements, and the vast majority of lawsuits have been happening there.
By default, Cirkuit follows general best practices for coding websites. Many of the traditional SEO techniques we use meet many ADA requirements- such as alt text on images, the use of proper heading tags, and using a consistent information architecture and structured/tiered website pages.
Since our clients’ websites are optimized with traditional SEO techniques, they are off to a strong start regarding accessibility and ADA compliance.
There are many automated tools that cover only a small portion of potential issues. We caution using automated tools, automated solutions, or purchasing accessibility audits. A manual fix by a developer is most likely the best and most cost-effective path forward.
As in recent years, we anticipate the number of ADA cases alleging the inaccessibility of websites and mobile apps to rise. We are keeping an eye on the Eleventh Circuit as the Court is posed to issue its decision in the Gil v. Winn Dixie appeal. The decision may provide guidance on whether WCAG should be the legal standard for accessible public accommodations.