When thinking of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many people first consider physical access to public spaces. Ramps, electronic button-operated doors, braille signs and accessible bathrooms are common fixtures in places like restaurants and stores. But what about online accessibility? As many as 25% of American adults have a disability. Low vision or blindness, hearing impairments, and dexterity limitations are just some of the conditions that could limit or inhibit someone from interacting with a non-compliant website. The ADA is now being interpreted and applied to access to online places as well; meaning that companies’ websites should be compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Not only could failing to do so could lead to legal trouble, but you are probably already leaving money on the table.
While no website specific laws are on the books, courts have found that inaccessible websites are discriminatory against people living with disabilities and violate their civil rights. You can read about a few of these suits here, here and here. ADA compliance for websites is a topic that has been bubbling up for web developers since mid-2019 and is picking up speed in 2020. Since most Americans are sheltering at home these days, it’s reasonable to think that everyone, including people living with disabilities, are attempting to access services and retail stores online. Websites that are not ADA compliant make this difficult, which may lead to an uptick in lawsuits this year.
There’s no question online shopping is huge. “Cyber Monday” 2019 became the biggest single shopping day ever, with $9.4 billion spent online alone. However, a recent study estimates that businesses with inaccessible sites are losing $6.9 billion annually to their accessible competitors. If your website is not accessible, you’re essentially telling a large number of people they are not welcome in your store. It’s easy to show the math for online retailers, but even service businesses may be losing business. If a potential client can’t reach you easily, they’ll find someone else whose site is easier to navigate and who will be a better fit.
Developing and maintaining a website that everyone can access should be a 2020 imperative for all businesses. We encourage you to take notice of this newer interpretation of the ADA. As you know, we at LGA are not attorneys, so please take this notice in the spirit it is intended, which is to educate, and not as legal advice. We are committed to supporting clients with ideas and solutions and have a network of people who can help you with a range of issues, including website ADA compliance. Please contact us to be connected with a professional team to help you get your website updated this year.