By Blaine Thompson on May 15, 2022
Is your business risking many thousands of dollars in fines without you even being aware of it because you don’t have an ADA compliant website?
If your business is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it could be fined up to $75,000 for the first violation and $150,000 for additional violations under federal law. And maybe additional fines under state and local laws.
Businesses that are open to the public but don’t enable suitable “public accommodation” so the disabled can access them make themselves vulnerable to fines and lawsuits.
And we aren’t just talking about installing ramps for wheelchairs and other adjustments at the location of your physical premises. We are talking about your website.
Federal circuit courts differ somewhat in their rulings, and some have not addressed it at all. It is expected, however, that courts will become stricter in this area, because the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued website accessibility guidelines in March 2022.
Here’s why that is significant. Some courts were hesitant to fine businesses because they did not have DOJ guidelines to follow. Now that excuse is out the window.
The First, Seventh and Ninth Circuits have all ruled that “public accommodation” is not limited to physical locations. In other words, the ADA applies to business websites under certain conditions. The parameters of when the ADA will be enforced vary, but they are expected to become broader rather than narrower.
The DOJ website accessibility guidelines say “the Department has consistently taken the position that the ADA’s requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations, including those offered on the web.”
If your website is not currently accessible to the disabled, you will want to consult with your lawyer. Today. If you don’t have an ADA compliant website, you are taking a big risk with your business.
Around 61 million adults in the US have disabilities which include visual, hearing and motor skill disabilities. Many of these people will not be able to navigate your website unless you take steps to make it accessible. Why wouldn’t you want to offer your products and services to more people who want them?
Taking steps to accommodate the disabled says your company cares about its customers. Conversely, if your company is fined for violating the ADA or becomes the target of litigation, your reputation will take a nosedive.
The DOJ has published guidelines, but you will want to look at how people use your website and do what you can to enable those with visual, hearing or motor skills disabilities to take the same journey. The DOJ provides a number of examples, but you need not stop there.
The DOJ Guidelines mention that people use a variety of methods to navigate the Internet. Blind people may use screen readers that read text to them. Deaf people might use captioning. Those with motor skills disabilities may find it hard to use a mouse, but they may be able to use a website set up so they can navigate with a keyboard or with voice recognition software.
They also list examples of website accessibility barriers. Here are specific barriers the DOJ mentions that you will want to address:
There is a wide range of technology today that can help you make your website accessible. Check out this previous blog post offering website accessibility tips as well as the Umbrella Local Website Accessibility Service page.
Umbrella Local knows website accessibility compliance is going to become an increasingly hot issue. That’s why Umbrella Local marketing experts undertake training in helping their clients with ADA Compliant Websites.
It’s to your business’s benefit to make your website ADA-compliant right away in order to avoid fines and litigation but also to better serve your customers. Umbrella Local offers website accessibility services that will enable you to comply with legal standards and better serve your customers. Call us at 1 (872) 242-1231 or complete this web form to contact us.
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