We all know business owners in America are held to a certain standard when it comes to being accessible for those of us with disabilities. Wheelchair ramps, restroom accommodations, ASL interpreters, etc. have all become commonplace in our lives. This is all thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Coming off the heels of the Civil Rights Act of the 60s, the ADA was instituted to extend protections for workers with disabilities. It’s grown over the years, and one of the ways it’s done so is by dipping a toe into the online world. The relationship between the ADA, your webpage and you can be tricky, however. This can -- at worst -- leave you vulnerable to legal repercussions and -- at best -- alienate you from potential clients. That’s why our team of ADA Compliance experts in Pittsburgh have put together this guide so you’re doing everything you can to make your webpage as good as it can be.
This article will take a look at:
The ADA and the Internet
As we said, the relationship between ADA compliance and the Internet is a complicated one, and Pittsburgh businesses are struggling to find the right balance. That’s because, though the ADA has been amended and updated as recently as 2008, it doesn’t actually explicitly mention webpages as an area of focus for required accommodations. It does, however, explicitly mention any “place of public accommodation”. With online markets generating over $1,000,000 in revenue every 30 seconds, it seems like webpages are becoming more trafficked than actual storefronts. That still doesn’t mean, however, that our laws have any kind of standard for what that means for business owners and site operators.
What’s worse is, even though webpages aren’t mentioned by the ADA, that doesn’t mean you and your business are not vulnerable to lawsuit. The LA Times reported, “Nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal court for alleged website violations in the first six months of 2018.” Without explicit legal codes for such cases, the decisions are largely left up to the courts. Some cases have been ruled in favor of businesses but many more have not. In these cases, it’s better to be ADA compliant than leave your Pittsburgh business vulnerable. But without any standard regulation, how can you know what you need to do to keep your business safe from lawsuit?
What you need to be doing
The best resource available to business owners and site operators right now is the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. That mouthful is the set of recommendations that govern website accessibility in the EU and in many other countries where webpage accommodations are mandatory under the law. WCAG guidelines in the US are just that, guidelines. They aren’t backed by any hard laws, but they mark the industry standard for ADA compliance that every business in Pittsburgh should be striving to meet.
The WCAG is updating this year from 2.0 to 2.1, but the current standard for ADA compliance by Pittsburgh businesses should still be 2.0 Level AA. Further, Level AA refers to one of 3 levels of accessibility. Level A is the base where problems can severely undermine a disabled individual’s ability to navigate a site. Level AA -- where your business wants to be -- refers to issues that help the overall use and experience of disabled individuals using the site. Level AAA is the gold standard for ADA compliance; any Pittsburgh business should aim for Level AAA though it is rather difficult. These are outlined in more detail on the WCAG webpage.
Areas of Focus
A helpful way to get started making your Pittsburgh based webpage ADA compliant is remembering the acronym, P.O.U.R.
Perceivable -- Is my webpage and its contents easily found and processed? Could someone with a visual disability understand this content? One way to help this area of focus is including audio descriptions for video content.
Operable -- Is my webpage easily navigable and used without any complicated mechanics? If you can navigate the site using only your keyboard, you’re off to a good start.
Understandable -- Is the information on my site easily understood even for those without technical knowledge, even for those with learning disabilities? Think in particular about navigation and whether getting from one page to another is as simple as possible. Also consider your error messages. Are they clear? Do they simply explain how to fix the problem?
Robust -- Can my site be easily updated to keep up with future accommodations? You want to make sure you’re keeping up to date. Frequently audit your site for ADA compliance issues and your Pittsburgh based webpage will only become better.
These are all tips for how to get started on making your Pittsburgh based webpage ADA compliant. If you’re feeling unsure or overwhelmed by the process of overhauling your site, let the experts at Savvior help. Our team has been helping businesses succeed in the online market since there’s been an online market. We also know how to keep a site ADA compliant so you can worry about more important things. We’d be happy to sit down and go over your options and how you can make your webpage as successful as possible.