What does an ADA Website Accessibility Compliance Notice entail?
Before diving into website accessibility heres some background on ADA Title III which states “places of public accommodation” be accessible to the disabled. Most businesses operating some form of physical facility open to the public understand their obligations to make those physical facilities accessible. In recent years rulings have upheld the responsibility of business owners operating a public space to make their websites accessible as well. The language of notices varies so do not use this a legal advice. Typically you have a set period of time to make the noted changes to the websites mentioned or appeal the notice in court.
Why is this happening?
The DOJ is amending the rules around ADA compliance and should release new guidance in 2017. Regardless of any new guidance, Title III of the ADA is still in effect and your notice is likely in response to your site:
- Acting as the virtual companion to a public space like a store, or school
- Being the required portal for all of your job applications
- Not meeting some or all of the Website Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- Not being tested for compatibility with website accessibility software like screen readers
What Does Title III of the ADA Require?
Title III of the ADA requires individuals with a disability be offered the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” Some industries such as airlines, and schools must already meet these standards.
Courts have found that places of public accommodation are not limited to physical places. In one case, Target was ordered to make their web-site accessible because it was determined that their website and physical stores were heavily integrated. Under this interpretation the scope of the coverage of the website under Title III could be quite broad.
Importantly, Title III website accessibility may not apply to business-to-business websites. Additionally for companies that require applicants to apply for employment through a website, an ADA Title I issue may arise in regard to ADA website accessibility and accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) encourages brands to not only conform with WCAG standards, but also to demonstrate that they’ve tested their digital channels to ensure they are fully accessible to users with disabilities.
The major categories of disabilities
Visual – Blindness, low vision, color-blindness
Hearing – Deafness and hard-of-hearing
Motor – Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
Cognitive – Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information
Website Accessibility Standards
The Website Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide an international set of guidelines and are developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the governing body of the web.
- Perceivable: Available to the senses either through the browser or through assistive technologies
- Operable: Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
- Understandable: Content is clear and limits confusion.
- Robust: A wide range of technologies can access the content.
In addition to compliance there is also a strong business case for accessibility.
“Accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO). In order to be willing to make the initial investment, many organizations need to understand the social, technical, and financial benefits of Website accessibility, and the expected returns.”
In general accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach. Read on if you want to learn more about developing a Web Accessibility Business Case.
What should you do?
The most important thing is for you to understand the specific accessibility issues your site is causing. If the notice mentions specific things, great fix those first. Regardless you should be running your site through one of many accessibility checks like Wave or AC Checker.
Once you understand the scope of changes needed, you’re in a better place to decide if you’re looking at a significant rebuild or manageable tweaks to the existing site. Good news, it is usually the latter option!
If you do opt for a full rebuild and have engineers on your team, great! We’ve compiled this Google Doc to make sure new sites are accessible at launch.
If you don’t have an engineering team, or you just need to make minor changes, reach out! We’re happy to answer basic questions, and if needed step in and update the site ourselves.