What All Business Owners Need to Know About New Accessibility Guidelines

07/10/2018

Zack Poelwijk

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Is your website accessible to people with disabilities?

Maybe you think it doesn’t matter. You haven’t heard much about this before now. Or maybe you have heard about it but don’t think it applies to you. The problem is, there’s no hard and fast rule on this, so until the language of the Americans With Disabilities act is clarified, all businesses are at risk.

Let me explain further. The law is murky about whether the ADA applies to websites, all websites or just some websites. We already know that the ADA applies to businesses, museums, movie theaters, retail stores, and other “places of public accommodation.” The websites of federal websites along with schools and financial institutions are required to be accessible to people with disabilities. What isn’t clear is whether the website of a privately owned business is also a “place of public accommodation.” Some appeals courts have said yes.

Even if it isn’t clear right now, all signs point to the law changing to include all websites. This means that any website is potentially at risk for a lawsuit if it is not accessible. Since the law isn’t clear, it also leaves little or no defense for businesses. They can’t simply claim that their business is not a “place of public accommodation” because a precedent has been set in previous lawsuits that it is. If the Department of Justice gets involved in a lawsuit, the defendants can seek civil fines and penalties.

If there is a lawsuit, the sites that have been sued before are required to make their site compliant. There’s little defense at this point for businesses other than to show that they are actively working on becoming compliant. If you’re actively working on compliance, there’s not much a lawsuit can do to you, and you have much more of a defense than simply doing nothing.

That’s why we are urging businesses to come into compliance before you become a target. To make things even more uncertain for businesses, there is not a sure-fire checklist to ensure 100% compliance. However, there are respected guidelines that most people believe will be the standard for when the legal language does change. This standard is the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. These guidelines were most recently updated June 5, 2018.

WCAG guidelines cover three levels of compliance: A, AA, and AAA. The DOJ has hinted that websites should aim to conform to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Levels A and AA. If you’re a business owner and you don’t know where your site stands with regard to these guidelines, you need a site audit to find out.

Web developers who are knowledgeable about compliance are few and far between. Since they have this specialized knowledge, they are often much more expensive than “regular” developers. Who can you trust? Let me tell you, it will be a lot less expensive and you’ll have far more peace of mind if you can go to your developer and let them know what needs to be updated on the site, as opposed to going to them and asking what needs to be updated on the site.

When you run a site audit from OnlineADA.com, you’ll know exactly what elements on your site violate accessibility. After the scan, you’ll own the results. Take it to another developer if you want, or fix the site issues yourself. Either way, every day you wait is another day you’re putting yourself at risk from unclear laws and predatory lawsuits, not to mention the customers you’re not serving. Contact us to learn more about your site audit.

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