ADA Compliant Website

What It Is, and What You Need to Know

When it comes to your website, you might be asking yourself: “What do I need to do to make my website ADA compliant?”

If you have not considered ADA compliance, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Maybe you’re planning a website or updating your current site. Either way, ADA website compliance has become an important part of your website.Those numbers come according to a study conducted by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, an internationally recognized law firm. That is an increase of 177% from the 814 filed in 2017.

This trend is going to continue, so it’s imperative that you take the steps necessary to make your website ADA compliant. In filed cases, judges determined that complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is enough. This provides an acceptable level of accessibility to those that have disabilities limiting their ability to navigate and read websites.

We’ll address what you need to know about ADA compliance and give you action steps to reach an acceptable level of accessibility. That way, you can be in compliance and avoid a potential lawsuit.

In 2018, there were 2,258 web accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court.

Where did ADA compliance originate?

The idea of website compliance originates from The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. 

Below is the definition of the act from the ADA website.

“The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.” 

The phrase that became the catalyst for compliance is in Title III, the scope of the definition of “place of public accommodations.”

This section states that private businesses must make “reasonable modifications” to serve people with disabilities. 

The act also requires entities to take necessary steps to communicate with customers who have visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities. This is being enforced by the Department of Justice. 

There’s another issue that makes this complicated and at times confusing. Right now, there is no definitive standard or law directed at website accessibility. 

Over time, judges ruling on cases have identified websites as “places of public accommodations,” so they’re holding them accountable to the act just as with a brick and mortar location.

ADA Compliance for Websites: A Guide for Businesses

The Americans with Disabilities Act does not directly require businesses to be compliant.

You’ll find the 12 categories under Section III -1.2000 Public accommodations in the ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual. This section is titled “Covering Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities.”

Now that you’ve identified whether you’re a Title III entity, this quote in this ADA link gives the clearest explanation of what ADA website compliance is:

“Currently WCAG 2.0 guidelines are not a requirement of the DOJ for Title III entities using the web. Title III entities are, however, obligated to provide access to their goods and services by individuals with disabilities. That includes access to Title III entity websites, which must be accessible.”

Note: This doesn’t call WCAG 2.0 guidelines a requirement, but it does obligate Title III entities to make sure users have accessibility.

Why is ADA website compliance important?

Lawsuits are hitting large corporations and local businesses alike. Because of this trend, the best course of action is to make sure your website is ADA compliant under WCAG 2.0.

Often, the only option available to those with disabilities is to buy goods and services over the Internet. Compliance gives people with disabilities equal access to purchasing your goods and services. It can also give you an advantage over competitors.

Being the target of lawsuits can cost businesses thousands of dollars to settle. Lawsuits will likely increase until ADA compliance becomes a standard for all websites.

But the benefits of ADA compliance go beyond avoiding lawsuits. Once your site is compliant, you’ll be able to serve and reach more customers, and that’s great news for both your business and your new customers.

Being the target of lawsuits can cost businesses thousands of dollars to settle. Lawsuits will likely increase until ADA compliance becomes a standard for all websites.

Important ADA Court Cases

Domino’s Pizza LLC v. Robles

When: 2016-2019

Why: Guillermo Robles claimed he couldn’t order pizza from Domino’s website because the site didn’t work with screen-reading software. The company also offered online-only discounts which were unusable for Robles. 

Results: A judge ruled in Guillermo Robles’ favor, stating “The alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises – which are places of public accommodation.”

Conner v. Parkwood Entertainment LLC

When: 2019

Why: The lawsuit, filed by Mary Connor, claims that she was presented with numerous barriers when attempting to buy Beyoncé concert tickets, including no alt-text, lack of prompting information on forms, and lack of accessible drop-down menus. 

Results: The lawsuit is ongoing. 

Maria Mendizabal v. Nike Inc.

When: 2017-2018

Why: Nike’s website didn’t use alt-text to provide text-equivalents for every element on a page. Without alt-text, visually impared users couldn’t use screen reading software fails to correctly render non-text elements.

Results: The case was dismissed as parties reached a settlement agreement. 



Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

When: 2017

Why: Sean Gorecki claimed Hobby Lobby’s website was inaccessible using the JAWS screen reading tool, rendering it inaccessible for individuals with disabilities. 

Results: The court ruled that Hobby Lobby’s website should be considered a public accommodation and should allow customers to buy products, search store locations, check for special price offers, receive coupons, and purchase gift cards online.

What does ADA compliance for websites look like?

An ADA compliant website contains characteristics outlined in the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. Within these guidelines are 4 WCAG principles, which will give you best practices to make your website compliant. WCAG principles are granular and technical. Because of this, we recommend you or your team refer to the site to get the full scope and description of each principle.

Below, we define the four principles. We also offer suggestions and recommendations to achieve compliance. Please note that our descriptions and suggestions aren’t the definitive authority to determine if your website meets the requirements of “obligation” set forth in the ADA terminology.

This is just an overview of how to get started. The information provided will give you a general idea of the steps and actions you need to take. This will help you meet the minimum requirements of compliance defined by the ADA. Additionally, taking these steps may help you avoid having a case filed against you.

Is ADA compliance mandatory?

How do I make my website ADA and WCAG compliant?

It all starts with a website accessibility audit. At Business Builders, once we perform this audit, you can choose from three different plans to help fix these issues based on your company’s unique needs. 

If you’re interested in a FREE ADA compliance scan, we’ll help you put together some clear plans to mitigate your risk while improving accessibility for those who need it.

Some things to keep in mind following this free ADA scan is that each website is different, and therefore each scan reveals different roadblocks to accessibility. These roadblocks can be based on the front-end appearance of your site or be related to the backend code of your webpages. Some issues are easy fixes while others might require a more in-depth solution.

Good Text Contrast
The WebAIM guidelines recommend a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for all text. An exception is made for very large text (120-150% larger than the default body text), for which the ratio can go down to 3:1.
Responsive Grid
Content should reflow when the page changes size. These layouts are also produced using relative units like percents, ems, or rems instead of hard-coded pixel values.
Key Animations
Don’t just animate something because you can. It can potentially annoys users and feel obstructive. Instead, use strategically placed animations to reinforce the user interactions.
Accessible Forms
Forms should be navigable using the keyboard. Each successive press of the TAB key brings us to the next field automatically, and then to the Submit button last. Pressing SHIFT-TAB through the fields also works backwards as expected.
HTML 5 Semantics
Use HTML5 semantic elements such as header, footer, article, aside, nav, main, and section in place of div.
Image Alt Attributes
Image ALT attributes ensure screen readers can describe the image accurately to our visually impaired readers.
Clear Forms, buttons & Color States
Each form field should have a clear label in addition to placeholder text. In addition, buttons or links should be large and have enough space around them to make them easy to press without accidentally overlapping other elements. This benefits all users, but is especially helpful for anyone with a motor impairment.
Aria Labels
The Web Accessibility Initiative’s Accessible Rich Internet Applications specification (WAI-ARIA, or just ARIA) is good for bridging areas with accessibility issues that can’t be managed with native HTML. It works by allowing you to specify attributes that modify the way an element is translated into the accessibility tree. These can be handled with custom code development or through some website page builders.
Variable Font Sizes
Just by designing responsively, we’re meeting rule 1.4.4 of the WebAIM checklist, which states that a page “…should be readable and functional when the text size is doubled.” Consider using relative units like em or rem for things like text size, instead of pixel values.

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