Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. According to the United Spinal Association, one of the contributing drivers of the landmark law, the ADA gives people with disabilities the chance “to participate more fully in their communities, compete more effectively for jobs, travel more easily in their hometowns and across the nation, and gain more complete access to the goods and services that most Americans take for granted.”

So, what does the ADA mean for your website?

Just over a year ago, the official standard of website accessibility (WCAG) was declared by a court order. The standard mandates that all “places of public accommodation” are required to remove any “access barriers” that keep visitors with disabilities to access their business services.

Some organizations are making the investment into retrofitting existing sites to meet the new requirements. Many others have instead taken the opportunity to refresh their online presence with new websites. Whatever you decide, it’s vital that you understand the implications of not complying with the ADA.

 

Potential Lawsuits

The most significant risk of not having an ADA compliant website is a potential lawsuit. People with disabilities may claim inadequate access to your web content. There is precedence here, and the financial reach of these suits (both legal fees and settlements) can be damaging.

 

Missed Opportunity

Being ADA compliant opens your proverbial website doors to over 35 million more visitors (according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s measure of Americans with disabilities). To give you an idea, the combined population of North & South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee is just over 36 million. That’s a significant missed opportunity.

 

Improved Search Visibility

One of the main elements of website accessibility is screen readers. Screen readers crawl your site much like those of search engines. Improving your site’s clarity to screen readers will, in turn, improve the site’s SEO visibility. The reward? More site visits!

There IS a safe harbor clause which allows existing content – if NOT changed since 1/18/18 – to remain as-is. However, if you’re not updating your website regularly you may be missing the point. After all, fresh content is essential to cementing a presence in search engine rankings. The bottom line? Your site needs to be ADA compliant.

If you’re unsure if your site is compliant or want to find out where to get started, contact us to help you get started!