What’s ADA and why are we hearing more about it?

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Recently, there have been some serious lawsuits covered in the media regarding site accessibility for people with disabilities. And it’s not just for retailer websites. Early this year, Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, was sued due to their website (Beyonce.com) not providing accommodation for people with disabilities [read more]. Domino’s was sued by a blind man after he was unable to order food on the Domino’s website and mobile app despite using screen-reading software. In early October, the Supreme Court denied a petition from Domino’s to hear whether its website is required to be accessible to people with disabilities. This decision not to grant the case is a loss for Domino’s and a win for disability advocates [read more].

With many other major lawsuits about accessibility going on, we’ve been asked by our retailer clients about ADA and what it means to become compliant (…and not get sued!). The volume of lawsuits and demand letters has increased at an astounding pace—and is only accelerating. So, let’s dive in.

What’s ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps to protect the needs and interests of individuals with disabilities. This legislation ensures that businesses do not discriminate against people with disabilities. There are also global and national guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act, and Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA).

Why should I care?

There are 1.3 billion people with disabilities globally today, and it’s a market that’s growing with the aging population. ADA compliance has many benefits. It gives you a competitive advantage and may lead to more transactions, offers a better overall experience across browsers, provides digestible information for Google and other search engine results, helps your site reach a wider audience and reduces likelihood of ADA litigation.

Where to start?

Since delivering an accessible experience is not a one-and-done situation and requires a solid mission and strategy, we recommend you first audit your site for people with disabilities. This will give you a baseline on what you have and what you might be lacking. If you don’t have one already, post an authentic accessibility statement. Accessibility statements will be like privacy policies within a few years. Everyone will have one and not having one could be a strong detractor to prospective and existing customers.

What should I know?

There are no 100% automatic or instant solutions (e.g., toolbars, widgets, plugins) for website accessibility. It’s key to measure accessibility continuously since only 30% of accessibility can be tested using software. Therefore, an integrated manual and functional testing is necessary for conformance. You don’t have to do it alone; we recommend partnering up with organizations or companies that specialize in ADA compliance. Again, ADA compliance isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing, so always stay up-to-date on compliance standards to better serve your customers.