Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

This blog article on ADA web compliance was provided by Harry Payton, attorney at law, who periodically contributes articles on key legal issues. Harry A. Payton is one of 88 lawyers in the state of Florida with dual board certification in civil trial and business litigation.
Payton represents domestic and international corporations and high net worth individuals in complex business litigation matters involving commercial real estate, commercial foreclosures and lender liability; litigation involving fine art; corporate, shareholder and partnership disputes; probate, will and trust litigation; intra-family business disputes; and professional malpractice cases for plaintiff and defendant involving attorneys, accountants, architects and engineers.

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Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most businesses are required to make all electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, including their websites.  Otherwise, you may be surprised by a lawsuit from plaintiff’s lawyers who have made a cottage industry out of pursuing non-compliant enterprises.

Accessibility is the key to compliance under the ADA standard that applies to private organizations, with 15 or more employees, or businesses operating for the benefit of the public.  Persons with disabilities must be able to access the content, navigate the website successfully and engage with different elements of the site.

The courts and the Department of Justice frequently reference the 38 requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA success criteria as a standard to gauge whether websites are accessible.  What makes a website ADA compliant is based upon four principles drawn from these guidelines.

First, the website must be perceivable, which means that the information and content is available to everyone, including persons with disabilities.  The website must be operable, which means that the site can be easily navigated by disabled persons.  The website must be understandable by everyone and include clear instructions in plain and simple language.  The website also must be accessible to a wide variety of technologies, such as screen readers and browsers.

Here are some hints for making your site ADA compliant.  Add “alt text” to all meaningful images on your site. All your videos should have closed captioning.  Videos should have audio descriptions of the important, non-audible information.  A text transcript should be added beneath all video-only and audio-only files.  You must give the user the ability to pause, stop or hide pop-ups, scrolling and blinking content.  Most importantly, your website must be accessible without a mouse, by using the arrow or tab button.

Your website must also be intuitive and should provide clear titles for each page.  The user should be able to skip to the heart of your content.  Overall, your website should be predictable and logical.  Label all input fields with enough instructions so that users can readily understand what they are being asked.  Provide multiple ways to navigate through the website.  And when it comes to fonts, the font should properly contrast from the background color and be scalable up to 200% without loss of functionality.

If your website is not already ADA compliant, the time to act is now.  Do not wait until the process server knocks at your door with a legal complaint based on ADA violations.