Should my website be ADA compliant like my physical business location?

July 6, 2018

We have all seen or used them, from the ramp to get into a building, to the handicap bathroom in the back of the store. As a business owner, you know things like these are required by law. What you may not realize is that your website should have similar accessible features.

You may be asking yourself, “is this government mandated?”, “Is this something I really need to be worried about?”, or “Are the people that walk through my door really going to care?”. I hope to try to answer these questions below.

Is an ADA accessible website government mandated?

The short answer is yes and no; I wrote a little about this in my previous post: “Warning: What you need to know to avoid ADA and web-accessibility lawsuits”. But for the “too long, didn’t read” (tl;dr:), the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted well before the internet was a thing - the courts are divided if websites are even subject to the ADA or just those associated with brick-and-mortars. Some have interpreted the “public accommodation” in the act’s Title III to cover Internet companies and organizations, whereas others have had the opposite opinion. When the courts have ruled that websites should be web accessible, they have referred to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, pronounced “wee-kag” and often referred to as the WCAG 2.0.

Is this something I really need to be worried about?

When speaking with a client, I like to make sure they are aware of web accessibility and the potential for lawsuits if they aren’t. Just ask Dion Snowshoes, which is a small Vermont firm selling snowshoes and other winter equipment. They were sued by Berman Law Group of Boca Raton, FL. The firm was demanding settlement over claims of discrimination against disabled people. In a Florida Record article, John Breslin states that “Dion said that nobody in Florida tried to access the Dion Snowshoes website over the summer, prior to the company receiving the letter, dated Aug. 26 (2016).” A good analogy might be you can add more insulation to your home, a minimal up front cost could save you money and headaches for years down the road.

Are the people that walk through my door really going to care?

I was listening to a podcast talk on web accessibility, and the person being interviewed mentioned the phrase coined by Cindy Li, “We’re all just temporarily abled.” Meaning that at some point we may all suffer from some form of a disability that could impair our ability. Two more common examples would be the ability to use a mouse or see the text on a screen at a normal size.

 Imagine this scenario for a moment: you fell and broke your dominate hand or wrist. You are now in a cast up to your elbow and you can’t use a mouse. The only way you can navigate a website is to move the mouse to the opposite side or use the tab key on your keyboard.

The American Community Survey (ACS) estimates the overall rate of people with disabilities in the US population in 2015 was 12.6%.” However for those 18-64 it is 10.5%, 65+ 35.4%!

 When I was a teenager, I had an accident where part of my left thumb was severed off. It was reattached but I have no feeling in the reattached part and haven’t since the accident. This makes using my iPhone some what difficult to hit buttons on the left side, especially on the keyboard, and the fingerprint scanner is somewhat of a joke. I tell this little story to say that I don’t identify as disabled but it just proves that more of the population may need accessibility options without identifying or realizing that they do.

Bonus question: what does it cost?

“What does it cost” is a loaded question. The better question is, “can I afford not to think about it.” However, to give you a general idea, the costs are going to be higher with a larger and more complex site. If you are keeping an existing site and retrofitting web accessibility then it may be more cost effective to look at a redo. A firm like Cube Creative Design knows the ins and outs of web accessibility and can help guide you through it.

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