Is your website ADA compliant? Perhaps it’s not something you think about often, but it is a federal law to give access to individuals with disabilities, and that includes the online environment.
What is ADA?
The ADA (American Disabilities Act) was created in 1990 and updated to cover any type of disabilities people might have that would prohibit them from being able to carry on their life’s activities. The ADA itself is a federal government agency and is considered a part of the civil rights act. It provides accommodation that all business owners, schools, hospitals, recreational centers, and other outlets must follow. This provides for everything from wheelchair access to a building to handicap-accessible equipment, literature, and other assets that help give access to someone who is disabled.
What many people don’t understand is that the same laws that apply to the real world also apply (to a great degree) in the virtual world of the internet. So, if you are a site owner, there are some things you need to know to be in compliance.
Is the ADA Law Applicable to Digital Space?
Yes! Title III of the Civil Rights Act requires that places of public accommodation be accessible to anyone with a disability, and courts have held that this includes websites, mobile apps, and any other digital “space.”
Some argue that the entire ADA act does not apply to websites because the law was never changed to include the online environment. The problem with assuming that the law doesn’t apply to the digital world is that it may take a lawsuit to prove the point, even though it does apply through indirect application of the fact that the real world is often represented in the digital world.
With most businesses being online now, schools, medical clinics, and HR employment sites, it could easily be argued that lack of accessibility to any or all of these sites is as much of a hindrance to a disabled person as denying them access in the real world. You don’t want to be the website to go to court over this, do you?
Considerations for Your Website
When striving to make sure you are compliant with ADA guidelines, here are a few steps to follow:
- Read the ADA guidelines from the 1990 legislation to get familiar with the way they apply to the physical world.
- Consider how your website space correlates to the physical space and how your website might hinder someone from getting the information or having the experience they need or want.
- Make sure all media and digital files such as PDFs, audio files, and video files are easily accessible.
- Add “alt text” tags to images so that someone who does not understand the picture will be able to see what it represents.
- Provide a “skip navigation’ link so that the visitor will not have to go through your entire website to access what they need.
- Place a statement about your handicap accessibility policy somewhere in your page to notify users that you are aware of the ADA legislation and that you are trying to accommodate them.
- Offer to assist users who have trouble accessing something on your site and provide a quick response to questions.
Do Websites Have to Follow the ADA Act of 1990?
Yes. Even though the ADA law never added “digital space” to their verbiage, it is implied that any public or private entity should follow the tenets of the law of 1990 to be sure that they are in compliance.
It also wouldn’t hurt to have a statement on your page that states something like: “We at (company name) understand that some of our visitors may have difficulties accessing certain information due to a disability or impairment. We want all of our customers to be able to get what they need. We have made as many accommodations as we could do, but if you need additional help, feel free to reach out to us at our contact listing.”
Just Good Business
Remember that, no matter how good your product or service is, you want all of your visitors and customers to be able to access them and to have a positive experience on your site. Following and integrating the ADA guidelines is just one more way you improve the customer experience. And that’s not only letting them know that you respect their civil rights, but it’s just good business!
If you need further assistance in checking to make sure your website is digitally accessible, learn more regarding web accessibility and make the web a fairer place for all.