The Back Story:
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has been a law for decades, in fact, it turns 30 this year. An overview of the ADA Compliance states; all content of a website should be accessible to anyone, regardless if they are blind, deaf, or require assistance from voice, screen readers, or other technologies. This civil rights law applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, as well as places of public accommodation. In essence, ADA compliance means making your service or product accessible to people with disabilities.
Although guidelines have been published by the Department of Justice, there are no “rules” when it comes to what an ADA compliant website looks like – just guidelines and regulations. The most common set of these guidelines is defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) which is soon expected to be updated to version 2.1 with some new additions.
Why Should You Care?
Well, a non-compliant website makes you potentially liable for fines of thousands of dollars if not more, In fact, ADA website lawsuits are on the rise.
In 2019, there were approx. 2,285 ADA website lawsuits against companies like Sephora, Helzberg Diamonds, The Home Depot, and Chick-fil-A in the United States, an increase of 181% over the past year.
Danger of ADA Non-Compliance:
The biggest danger for businesses with non-compliant websites comes from hundreds of lawyers who are on the lookout for websites that aren’t ADA compliant to sue them. Many of these lawyers will file a case on behalf of someone with a disability and then seek compensation in the form of attorney fees and compliance since private businesses cannot be sued for damages on these grounds.
Common ADA Compliance Errors:
1. Alt Tags / Amazon
According to plaintiff Cedric Bishop, the lack of descriptive alt text for images and other elements on Amazon’s website made it impossible for people using screen readers to choose and buy products since back then, Amazon did not provide text versions of images and used images without text as web navigation elements.
Alt tags are often the culprit behind most ADA compliance lawsuits but we chose the ADA lawsuit against Amazon from 2018 because Amazon is arguably the biggest online store on the planet and this was one of the biggest cases of alt tag blunders.
2. Closed Captioning / Netflix / Amazon / Hulu
Closed captions are crucial in enjoying video content for anyone with impaired hearing and three big names have been sued at different times for the same reason.
In 2011, the National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit against Netflix claiming that the website is discriminating against 1 million people by not providing closed captions on all of its video content. Netflix argued that ADA shouldn’t apply to websites but the court ruled in favor of NAD.
A few years later, in 2015, a lawsuit was filed against Amazon on the same grounds as Netflix. However, Amazon Prime already had closed captions so the lawsuit instead targeted Amazon’s archive of Instant Video, which at the time had 190,000 movies and TV shows. Amazon settled and worked to provide closed captions on all of its content.
The same lawyer who led the legal team against Netflix in 2011 teamed up with NAD to file another lawsuit, this time against Hulu for not having closed captions. Hulu settled with NAD and agreed to update all of its content with closed captions by September 2017.
3. Site Links / Nike
In 2017, two of Nike’s websites were taken to court for not being accessible by disabled users, particularly by blind users. The lawsuit included a number of inaccessible elements and mistakes on Nike.com and Converse.com like empty links that contain no text, redundant links that connect to the same pages as adjacent links, and linked images that have no alt-text.
4. Keyboard Access / Sephora
The ADA compliance lawsuit against Sephora was another case in New York against a big name brand in 2018. The plaintiff, a blind woman, argued that Sephora’s website failed to meet accessibility standards required by federal and state disability laws. According to the plaintiff, the website had no alt-text, keyboard-only use, and accessible forms with checkboxes and drop-down menus.
5. Accessible Forms – Chick-Fil-A
The website of fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A was also one of the companies held responsible for discriminating against disabled people by not having an accessible website. Chick-Fil-A’s website too had a number of issues in its design. Issues like lack of alt-text on images, inaccessible forms, the lack of adequate prompting and labeling; the denial of keyboard access; and the requirement that transactions be performed solely with a mouse.
6. External Documents / Amazon
The alt text lawsuit wasn’t’ Amazon’s first encounter with ADA compliance. Back in 2016, Amazon faced another lawsuit, this time filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) that argued that Amazon’s Kindle converter (MobiConvertor) did not work well with external documents except the most basic documents and made it impossible for visually impaired individuals to read documents on the device.
The company took action to improve its convertor and worked with NFB to develop better technology for visually impaired individuals.
You might be thinking that all of this is overwhelming, and these lawsuits are out of control – but it’s important to remember that tens of thousands, if not millions of people are being restricted from accessing your website if it’s not ADA compliant. Cosmick Technologies will make every aspect of your website compliant, so you can focus on running your business.