Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. Both large and small businesses and corporations, are affected by the ADA. Title III of the ADA is best known for its applicability to things such as lack of wheelchair access, recognition of service animals, effective communication for hard-of- hearing individuals, such as braille, and accommodations for the vision impaired. However, with the rise of the digital age and the reliance on online technologies, Title III’s focus has turned to websites.
Title III claims are on the rise, and in 2015, the DOJ received 6,391 accessibility complaints—a 40% increase over the prior year. Moreover, website compliance litigation filed by plaintiffs’ firms and advocacy groups have similarly seen a significant rise over the past year, and especially in the past several months. Complaint letters identify certain alleged ADA violations based on “access barriers” on the recipients’ websites. The letters also claim that unless the recipient modifies its website to meet the standards in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA), the company will continue to violate Title III. The WCAG 2.0 AA Guidelines have been endorsed by the DOJ.
In 2014, the DOJ adjusted for inflation the monetary penalties for violating rules set forth by the ADA. This adjustment increases the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III from $55,000 to $75,000, and for a subsequent violation the new maximum is $150,000.
To make your website ADA compliant, we will create a roadmap to be able to effectively communicate how these changes will positively affect the user experience. Some of the most common issues and ways they can be fixed include:
- Images: The images on your site must have alternative text associated with them so that if they do not render on a device or the user is unable to see the image, the image can still be explained. The alternative text will clearly describe what that element is. Without alternative text associated with the image, some screen readers will not understand what information is being presented.
- Color and Contrasts: If important elements on your site, such as buttons, do not have enough contrast, then it is hard for users to discern what the button is and where it will take you.
- Online Forms: If for example your checkout form on an ecommerce site does not have proper labels, it makes it difficult if not impossible for certain ADA devices to interpret their function.
Compliance standards must be followed and will evolve just as your website does, and there are guidelines all website contributors must know and implement in order to stay within ADA guidelines. ADA compliance gives your online platform 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. This in turn helps the site reach a wider audience and reduces the likelihood of future ADA litigation.