The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was put in place to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA guidelines establish requirements for telecommunications relay services.
Goals of the ADA Guidelines
The goal of the act is to remove the barriers encountered by people with disabilities as they go about living their lives. For example, the ADA has set minimum space layout requirements, so people in wheelchairs have an easier time using public transportation.
The same act works to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in hiring practices, as it pertains to job application procedures, hiring, promotions and discharge of employees, job training and any other employment related factors.
In a world becoming increasingly digital, how does a website fit into the ADA?
While websites are not officially a part of the ADA guidelines, they are being considered part of Title III: Public Accommodations. As more people start to rely on websites to gather information, make purchases and engage with their favourite brands, inaccessible websites become an issue.
Just as your brick & mortar location must be accessible to all employees and customers, your website should also be accessible. The best way to ensure web accessibility is by following the WCAG 2.0 guidelines outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Do The ADA Regulations Apply To My Organization?
The ADA guidelines apply to your organization if you are:
• A state or local government agency
• A non-profit service provider that is a place of public accommodation
• A privately operated entity offering certain types of educational courses and examinations
• A privately operated transportation organization or commercial facility
SANPRM: Department of Justice Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
In May of this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) to revise the title II regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for state and local government websites. In the SANPRM the DOJ seeks public input on approximately 100 questions, on a range of complex issues related to technical accessibility requirements, including input on the costs and benefits.
If your industry association has not drafted comments, this extension provides you with the opportunity to do so – there is still time. You may submit comments, identified by RIN 1190-AA65 (or Docket ID No. 128), via the Federal eRulemaking Web site: www.regulations.gov
and follow the Web site’s instructions for submitting comments.
ADA Compliance and the SANPRM
While this development does not directly impact businesses covered by title III, it does suggest a few relevant considerations. The questions posed in the SNPRM indicate that DOJ is considering many of the ADA compliance issues faced by title III businesses.
There has been a recent wave of website accessibility demand letters and lawsuits sent to businesses on behalf of private plaintiffs and advocacy groups. It would be a positive development for any eventual government regulation to address these issues and provide a standard for title II and title III organizations to follow.
Given that the government has just started the discussion for the title II regulations, it may be even longer before we see final regulations for title III entities. The DOJ has long indicated its intent to first work on the title II regulations, and then draw upon them in developing the subsequent title III regulations. While the final title II regulations were expected in 2016, the title III regulations are not expected until 2018.
Therefore, this unexpected development on part of the government could result in even further delays in the issuance of final title III regulations. Since this is an election year, the issuance could be further delayed.
As a result of the delays, businesses have to continue to draw teachings from a variety of indirect/analogous resources when assessing how to best address accessible technology issues with regards to ADA compliance.
ADA Guidelines and the Customer Experience
More and more organizations are starting to see the importance of making their digital properties accessible. Besides being a regulation, ensuring that digital assets meet the requisite standards allows customers with disabilities to engage with their preferred websites.
Studies have shown that 90% of customer experience decision makers say that a good experience is critical to their success.1 Inversely, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel like companies consistently meet their expectations.2 A widening customer experience gap is one that many organization ought to put their resources into closing.
The disability market is one area companies can focus on. When customers with disabilities have a seamless browsing experience, finding information or conducting transactions becomes much more feasible. Organizations that make accessibility a priority have the opportunity to build brand loyalty and repeat business from the largest minority group in the world.
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.
- Forrester Research
- Christine Crandell. Customer Experience: Is It The Chicken or Egg? Published on Forbes January 21, 2013.