The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was instituted in 1990. This was long before the Internet was a thing. Public locations were required to provide “full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, privileges, advantages or accommodations” for people with disabilities. The law was amended in 2010 to include electronic technology and information technology. ADA compliant laws now affected websites.
Since then, the Internet has grown into the behemoth we know today. As a result, many high-profile companies have been taken to court due to their online presence not being accessible. Websites and mobile apps are now considered public accommodation.
I’m sure you’re questioning if you should worry about lawsuits. Unfortunately there really isn’t a clear answer through the government or legal precedent. Furthermore, the guidelines are under continuous review and are constantly changing.
Per Interactive Accessibility, ADA compliance applies to:
- Americans with disabilities and their friends, families, and caregivers
- Private employers with 15 or more employees
- Businesses operating for the benefit of the public
- All state and local government agencies
Certainly I am not a lawyer, but I can give you some common sense advice: err on the side of caution.
“One of the biggest mistakes that website owners make is in assuming they can wait until they get sued to deal with accessibility. That’s like waiting until you crash before you decide to get the brakes fixed on your car.” – Karl Groves, Tech Accessibility Consultant
ADA Compliance Emails
You may have received a scary email from an “ADA Compliance” company. Please know that there are NO government-endorsed tools to check ADA compliance. Also, not all “ADA Checkers” are created equal. Without government oversight, these checkers provide inconsistent data and are rife with errors.
What Can You Do?
Most importantly, make sure your web developer knows about ADA compliance. If they don’t think it’s an issue, or seem to not know about it I’d advise you to seek guidance elsewhere. With that said, professional developers like Stanton Street rely on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C is an international community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. The W3C has provided development agencies with technical standards. These standards are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG also has various versions of criteria to follow. We are currently at version 2.0, also referred to as WCAG 2.01.
Within WCAG 2.0, there are three levels of compliance:
- Level A (minimum) – the most basic web accessibility features
- Level AA (mid-range) – deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users
- Level AAA (highest) – the highest level of web accessibility
Since 2016 we’ve been programming our custom websites to meet WCAG 2.01/Level A. Furthermore, our community and financial websites have been built to meet WCAG 2.01/Level AA requirements.
In conclusion, find a website or app developer that makes ADA compliance a priority. They can work with you to attain the levels necessary for compliance. If you’re not sure if your site or mobile application is ADA compliant or have questions about WCAG, shoot us a message or call us at (915) 351-8440.
Naomi Dhillon is a Marketing Technologist at Stanton Street, a web design and development company in El Paso, TX.
Naomi attended New Mexico State University graduating with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in English. She also has an A.S. in graphic design.