Are you thinking it might be time your digital properties comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Have you been considering hiring an ADA consulting firm?
Maybe you’ve heard about the fines and penalties incurred by businesses that fail to comply with – or even become informed about – the rights of people with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to shop, travel, work and play.
Or maybe you’ve noticed there are now about 54 million Americans with disabilities, making them a sizable market, one that cannot be ignored.
Maybe you’ve learned that, globally, people with disabilities control more than eight trillion dollars in disposable income,1 and you’d like to attract some of that spending to your organization!
Kudos to you if you’re making a new commitment to the ADA guidelines and compliance. But unless you happen to be unusually qualified in accessibility standards and remediation, you can’t do this without expertise. Thus your first step is to find the right ADA compliance consultant.
What is the ADA and Why Must You Comply With It?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to support the civil rights of people with disabilities in the United States. Under the ADA, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone with a disability. This applies to any public or private organization serving the public. The ADA requires these organizations to ensure that their facilities, systems, communications and technologies are accessible to all people, regardless of ability.
People with disabilities are a growing group.
Think about the impact of today’s state-of-the-art lifesaving technologies and medical breakthroughs, which allow people with disabilities to thrive. Also consider our aging population. These factors are contributing to a larger population of people with disabilities than ever before. So, we can only expect more individuals to be aware of their accessibility rights as time goes on.
Furthermore, organizations that have failed to comply with Title III of the ADA have increasingly been hit with financial penalties. In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act made it easier for people with disabilities to prove a business was not complying with the ADA.
The ADA is not limited to wheelchair ramps and automatic door openers, despite what many people may think. ADA requirements cover more than an organization’s physical premises.
As digital technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, companies are obliged to ensure that it, too, does not exclude people with disabilities.
For instance, websites are required to comply with the ADA – even as that website is redesigned and updated to include mobile responsiveness, real-time interaction, web based forms, modal windows, and video or audio features.
Similarly, a mobile app or an electronic document must not present barriers to users with disabilities.
What is an ADA Consultant?
Generally, it’s someone who is able to evaluate your services, premises or properties to determine whether or not they comply with the accessibility requirements of the ADA. They may also assist you in remediation (in other words, the fix) as well as ongoing maintenance moving forward.
Unlike other professionals like pharmacists or dentists, there are no degrees or registries that entitle a person to call themselves an ADA consultant contractor. And while some organizations do offer training – some of it quite good – there’s no nationally recognized ADA consultant certification course or licensing.
That may make it more difficult to identify qualified ADA compliance experts with the necessary knowledge and skill to help you.
Tips for Choosing an ADA Compliance Consultant
What services can you expect from an ADA compliance consultant?
It’s unlikely you’ll find someone who is capable in every single area of accessibility (think: jack of all trades, master of none!).
If your own focus right now is on ensuring that your digital properties are accessible, then the consultant you hire should be specialized in this area.
They should have an extensive understanding and familiarity with multiple web accessibility standards and guidelines, as well as how to meet them. They should be able to prove their expertise with credentials like training, and references from happy customers.
A firm’s ADA consulting services likely include a thorough audit and evaluation, including hands-on human testing with several assistive technologies, plus proper remediation – wherever they find mistakes, they can make it right.
Importantly, many ADA compliance consultants also offer an ongoing monitoring service, so that your digital content and products continue to follow the law as your technology – or the technical requirements – evolve. Otherwise, it’s possible for a perfectly accessible website in 2017 to fall out of compliance in 2019.
The Cost of an ADA Compliance Consultant
The cost of ADA consulting fees will be at least a few thousand dollars and up, but it will vary depending on the scope and content of your digital properties, and whether it’s a one-time service or ongoing monitoring.
The cost shouldn’t be unreasonably high, but do expect to pay fees that reflect the expertise and time an ADA consulting firm is providing to your business.
You want to make sure you’re getting value for your money, not paying unqualified ADA compliance experts to lull you into a false sense of security… failing your customers with disabilities, and potentially leading to costly penalties.
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.
- Rich Donovan. Sustainable Value Creation Through Disability. The Return on Disability® Company, April 3, 2013