The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a historic moment in American history for a substantial share of the population in 1990. People with disabilities represent approximately 12.8 percent of the US Population as of 2016 according to the Disability Compendium 2017 annual report.¹ According to the CDC, more than 50 million people across the country live with a disability.²
ADA requirements outline that people with disabilities in the United States are guaranteed legal protection against discrimination as they go about their daily lives. Organizations are obliged to follow the law, and ADA compliance is an important consideration when buildings are designed or when programs such as educational opportunities or correctional services are set up.
What is ADA Accessibility?
Technology has transformed daily life since 1990, so ADA standards and ADA guidelines have changed over time to keep up. In 1990, the ADA compliance definition may have included putting wheelchair ramps in front of stores, having accessible bathrooms, providing college brochures in alternate formats, offering sign language interpreters at conferences, and installing elevators in office buildings. However, the Internet wasn’t in mainstream use at the time. In fact, the first web browser didn’t exist until 19903.The U.S. Census Bureau didn’t even start tracking household use of the Internet until 1997, when it was documented at a mere 18 percent.
Today, it’s almost impossible to go through your daily life without interacting with the Internet in some way. The ADA paved the way for Section 508, which extends the law to information technology. Being ADA compliant, and by association following Section 508 compliance, is essential for your web accessibility. It’s critical to ask yourself: is your website on track to follow the ADA guidelines, or are you opening yourself up for customer complaints, a demand letter, or a web accessibility lawsuit?
Complaints Cost More Following ADA Regulations
ADA website compliance complaints can end up costing an organization much more in penalties and legal fees than it costs to implement. Not to mention, an organization will lose out on customer opportunities over website accessibility. According to Customer Champions, when complaints aren’t dealt with to a customer’s satisfaction, that customer will willfully refrain from giving a company their business for 10-to-20 years4. The loss to your organization can only get worse if these people happen to tell their friends about their negative customer experience or post comments about it on social media.
Complaints can also cost a company substantial resources. Employees must engage in responding to the complaints, and take steps to remedy them in a manner that’s acceptable to the customer. It’s even possible for a complaint to escalate to litigation or a class-action lawsuit.
However, following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 guidelines equates to serving your customers well from the start. When you’ve run your website through an ADA compliance checklist or completed 508 compliance testing, you’re on your way to treating every potential customer equitably by giving them the same opportunity to access your content, services, and programs. Particularly in the case of ADA compliance, it means you’re not discriminating against those who have disabilities: you’re fulfilling your obligations under the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act may be a U.S. law, but it’s worth noting that in Canada it also pays to care about whether your digital experience is accessible. In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities.
ADA Requirements Apply to Technology
While there are no specific ADA requirements written into the legislation about digital barriers, digital products and services must meet the needs of people with disabilities. Plaintiffs have won discrimination cases on the basis of disability because of digital barriers.
While it can feel daunting for your organization to comply with the ADA and Section 508, there are many resources which can streamline and simplify the process. The U.S. Department of Justice provides an ADA compliance checklist in addition to an ADA guidelines toolkit. Organizations can also work with partners with digital accessibility expertise, use an accessibility checker, or even leverage an accessibility management platform for assistance. WCAG 2.1 guidelines are a universally accepted set of standards that help ensure your organization is up to code. Additionally, there are IRS tax credits and deductions for businesses that invest in accessibility5. Your business also extends its reach to a wider customer base when it includes people with disabilities and their respective networks of family and friends.
Isn’t that enough to convince you to strive for ADA compliance, rather than complaints?
ADA Compliance Checklist
The WCAG 2.1 technical guidelines are a best practice for ADA compliance in web accessibility. The guidelines can help direct your organization to test with accessibility software, utilize alternative text, add accessible PDF information, implement a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), and create an accessibility statement. There are three levels of accessibility conformance in the guidelines, rating from level A to AAA. The organization encourages organizations to achieve a level AA status. Accessibility audits and accessibility training can help your business go above and beyond expectations by earning an AAA rating.
Our resource guide offers a deeper dive into the web content accessibility guidelines and how they benefit your organization. Our resource guide features:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
- Details on why your organization should implement the guidelines and ADA compliance
- An interactive WCAG 2.1 checklist.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report Disability. Compendium, 2017
- CDC: 53 million adults in the US live with a disability. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The WorldWideWeb Browser. WC3
- Cost of customer complaints. Customer Champions
- Tax Incentives For Businesses. US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division