Unless you’re a legal expert, it’s not always clear which laws may or may not apply to your business and website. One such law that has become a hot topic of conversation is ADA Compliance. Does it really apply to your business or organization’s website?
In short, yes. A website that offers goods, services, or information intended to be used by the general public is considered “a place of public accommodation” under Title III of ADA and legally required to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Read on for a more in-depth explanation of ADA Compliance as well as the responsibilities and risks business owners face with their website.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination of individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life and places open to the general public. It applies to the government, schools, and businesses as well as anyone who offers goods or services to the public.
You are most likely familiar with the ADA in its physical sense as you encounter accommodations like wheelchair ramps, which make physical spaces accessible to people with disabilities. However, the ADA has come to apply to our digital spaces, so people with disabilities have equal access to the goods, services, technology, and information found online.
When the ADA was first passed in 1990, there were no websites online. However, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has since stated that the ADA was always meant to keep up with rapidly changing technology. Since 1996, the DOJ has consistently taken the position that the ADA applies to web content and that websites are considered places of public accommodation. In 2010, the DOJ further solidified this position when it released the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
ADA Compliance vs. Section 508 Compliance
ADA Compliance is not the same thing as 508 Compliance, even though they both involve accessibility.
ADA Compliance is sometimes confused with Section 508 Compliance of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a federal law and strictly applies to federal agencies and federal departments. ADA Compliance is a civil rights law that applies to places of public accommodation, specifically to businesses, nonprofits, local governments, and state governments. In short, if your business or organization caters to the general public, then your website must be ADA Compliant.
The part of ADA that affects how businesses serve the general public, both online and in-person, is under Title III. It is what would be cited if an individual wished to file a civil lawsuit against a business that is physically or digitally inaccessible. Title III of ADA prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against people with disabilities. As a result, businesses of all types (online & in-person) have to make it possible for customers with disabilities to access their services.
Who Needs to be ADA Compliant?
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by businesses open to the public. The U.S. Department of Justice has consistently take the position that the ADA’s requirements apply to all goods, services, privileges, and activities offered by public accommodations.
As a result, if your website offers goods, services, or information intended for the general public, it is legally required to become ADA compliant and offer reasonable accessibility.
Who is Responsible for ADA Compliance?
Every website owner (i.e. the business owner) is solely responsible for developing a website that offers “reasonable accessibility.” Regardless of who builds and develops the website, it is the website owner that is responsible for implementing the accessibility standards and personally liable for noncompliance. In most cases of noncompliance, it is completely unintentional. Even though website owners aren’t intentionally ignoring these standards, they will be held completely liable
What is the Risk of Non-Compliance?
If your website is not ADA-Compliant, then your business faces financial and reputational risks. Under U.S. law, citizens can file civil lawsuits and sue businesses with inaccessible websites. Losing an ADA-related lawsuit can result in:
- Legal fees
- Large settlements
- Hefty fines for violation
- Public relations problems
- Damage to brand reputation
Being unaware of the law isn’t a defense against digital inaccessibility and business owners will be held just as liable. First-time violations can result in fines to the government from $55,000-$75,000 and then a $150,000 fine for every repeat violation. In short, if your website is not ADA Compliant, you can end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in paying fines and settling civil lawsuits.
Click here to read about the rapid rise in website accessibility lawsuits.
Become ADA Compliant Today
What does an ADA-complaint website look like exactly? Well, there are no clear regulations. Websites must make an effort to offer “reasonable accessibility” to people with disabilities. It is at the discretion of the business owner how they would like to make their website compliant.
Sun Sign Designs offers the digital accessibility solution needed for your website to meet ADA Compliance. There’s no need to overhaul your website and rewrite code—we will seamlessly integrate our AI-powered accessibility widget onto your website, so your business can remain accessible to all individuals. We offer an easy, secure compliance solution that doesn’t require reworking your entire site.