We focus so much on optimizing our websites for conversion, but did you know that you also need to optimize your site compliance? Specifically, we’re talking about accommodating visitors with disabilities.
*Important Note: I want to preface the information outlined in this blog with the suggestion that every practice consult their attorney when it comes to privacy and ADA compliance.
What is ADA Compliance?
ADA Compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, which states that all websites must be accessible to people with disabilities. In short, this means, but is not limited to, ensuring your website is easily readable for those with vision impairments.
The disability laws vary from state to state, but all complement the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that “to the extent that a state law conflicts with the ADA, the state law is preempted by the federal law“. In other words, federal law trumps state law.
Who Does the Law Affect?
- Americans with disabilities and their friends, families, and caregivers
- Private employers with 15 or more employees
- Businesses operating for the benefit of the public
- All state and local government agencies
The Challenge: The Laws Have Changed and Are Constantly Changing
The laws are somewhat vague, but organizations are encouraged to use WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines until the Department Of Justice defines the regulations.
In short, WCAG follows these core principles:
- perceivable: easy to perceive ALL information, including text, images, video
- operable: easy to navigate and move from page-to-page
- understandable: easy to understand and follow all the content, in any format
- robust: multiple ways for users to read and engage with your website’s content
W3 Web Accessibility Initiative, Stanford Online Accessibility Program and Berkeley WebAccess, have put resources online for designers, developers and content creators for ensuring your website is compliant.
Why Should You Care?
There have been several notable lawsuits over the past few years, including Netflix, who was sued back in 2011 over closed captioning. The Hooters restaurant chain was sued in 2017, even after they agreed to fix their website. More recently, both Domino’s Pizza and the singer Beyoncé were sued for non-compliant websites.
The examples above are large companies or well-known public figures (i.e.- deep pockets), so should your “small” aesthetic practice care?
According to the LA Times, nearly 5,000 ADA compliance lawsuits were filed in federal court in 2018, and there was a 12% jump in 2019. This doesn’t mean you’re next up on the target list, but there are…
Small Steps Your Practice Can Take Now
Here are several best practices, some directly from Metaverse Law, to help ensure your website is more accessible to those with disabilities:
1. Use headings correctly to organize the structure of your content
2. Pay attention to color contrast
3. Images should include alternate text in the markup/code; complex images should have more extensive descriptions near the image
4. Create transcripts for your podcasts
5. Websites with videos should provide visual access to the audio information through in-sync captioning
6. Add a tool or plugin to your website that easily allows visitors to easily adjust text size, adjust text spacing, highlight links, stop animations, enhance color contrast, and much more.
The first three items are basic UX/design and SEO best practices you should already be following. The next two items are specifically related to audio and video recordings. If you host your videos on YouTube you can add subtitles in 3 easy steps.
Keep in mind that a plugin alone will not make your website fully compliant, but the more steps you take to make your website compliant the less of a chance you’ll see any demand letter coming your way.
Be Wary of Fear Mongering, Trust the Experts (Attorneys)
With new lawsuits emerging there are “entrepreneurs” emerging that are using scare tactics to drive business. The threat of a lawsuit, specifically.
What I have personally seen is organizations run scans on websites that generate numerous “errors,” some of which are related and some completely unrelated to any kind of compliance issue. They’ll then present you with a document that says you’re not compliant and you could be sued.
Here are some examples of items I’ve seen called out as a problem related to Compliance, Accessibility, or Usability:
- “alt text should not be an image file name”
- “ensure that text and background colors have a 7:1 contrast ratio”
- “avoid underlined text – people will click on it and think it’s a broken link”
- “keep URLs shorter than 78 characters so they don’t wrap when emailed”
- “radio buttons are easier to use than drop-downs when there are 6 choices or fewer”
- “use bold text sparingly – for one or two words or a short phrase”
- “use italic text sparingly – for one or two words or a short phrase”
…my response to all of these points is: says who? There’s no authority on this so to blanketly make these claims in the name of compliance, accessibility or usability is utterly absurd. Therefore, our advice is to please avoid jumping to any conclusions if you see a report of this nature.
When it comes to anything legal, I’d prefer to turn to the experts for their feedback, which is why TRBO consulted our attorney who specializes in this field for the detailed list above.
How TRBO Can Help
TRBO takes ADA compliance seriously and follows best practices that our attorney has outlined. We recommend you speak to your attorney to review your digital privacy, data security, and cybersecurity.
If you do not have an attorney who specializes in this type of law, we can recommend one.
If you would like to learn more about creating a new website or implementing a marketing plan that follows legal guidelines then schedule a strategy session our growth expert Sonja Vaisz. You can also reach TRBO directly at 877-673-7096 x2 and drop us a line here.