Imagine receiving a letter from a plaintiff’s attorney, suing your company for discrimination against disabled people, because users with disabilities can't access your website! Over 55 million people in the US are living with some form of visual or physical disability. As technology continues to grow, this means that 1⁄5 of the U.S. population will be using technology via their phones and computers differently than most. But how do we ensure people with disabilities have fair access to technology?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, provides protection for disabled people when it comes to access of public accommodations, which are businesses generally open to the public, such as restaurants, movie theatres, and retail establishments. Title III of the ADA requires establishments to have accessible bathrooms, parking spots, and ramps so disabled individuals can access those facilities. As our society shifts into the digital world, the ADA has begun to provide protection for disabled individuals use of technological mediums such as applications, websites, online forms, and many others. Disabled individuals use websites for shopping, learning, finding locations, downloading coupons and much more.
Now, the U.S state and federal court systems are providing legal protection for disabled individuals digital accessibility rights. So, the trend we are seeing being played out in the courtrooms across the country, is judges are finding websites “places of public accommodation” as well. If your website is “public accommodation” then in order to be in compliance with the ADA, your website and its content must be accessible to all disabled persons. If a website is not designed or coded correctly, it can be extremely difficult for a person with a disability to access information on that website. If a website is not easily accessible to disabled individuals, that website is discriminating against them.
Plaintiff’s and their hungry attorneys are increasingly suing businesses for accessibility rights and discrimination against disabled people. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 225% increase in lawsuits filed in federal courts alone. Online businesses that have a location, provide services, and sell products are the most vulnerable but this is affecting all industries. To date, there are no regulations that specifically address how one ensures their website is accessible. However, courts and case law have determined that in order to be accessible, websites must be compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 or WCAG 2.0.
To find out how vulnerable & accessible your website is, you need an audit performed. A detailed accessibility audit is an evaluation based on specific technical requirements that determine how accessible your website is to disabled users. The audit can include using human testing with assistive technologies, like screen readers and screen magnifiers, as well as looking at the code behind your websites and its structure. We have teamed up with the top programmers, developers, and lawyers to provide the most effective, efficient, and detailed audit out in the marketplace.
After identifying accessibility issues on a website through an audit, remediation is the next step to ensuring accessibility. Using compliance evaluation services with assistive technologies, issues like the color contrast and reading PDF documents, are fixed based on your needs. Not only will many of these fixes make your website more accessible but it usually helps you rise higher on search engines.
In today’s world, achieving Web Accessibility is usually a process of evaluation and repair. Hiring an Accessibility Consultant to evaluate a website that has already been designed will generally require changes to the entire website, and in some cases, an entire re-design. With a balanced approach of your needs and the costs associated with your accessibility requirements, we have the expertise & legal team ready to advise you as well as the technical team ready to make the necessary changes.
By taking measures TODAY, we will not only make your business's website more accessible but will also increase your websites search engine visibility across the boards. Not only could a plaintiff's attorney allege that you are discriminating against disabled individuals but your business could also be losing out on almost 20% of potential customers in the marketplace! These customers might end up with your competition simply because they couldn't access your website. Each day that goes by, without you taking proactive action, makes your website more susceptible to litigation and results in potential customers not being able to reach you. Providing access to all and not discriminating against the minority of internet users is simply the right thing to do.
We are on your side and want to protect your business as well as provide greater access for disabled individuals. Give us a call, or fill out the contact form, to learn how you can be Atlas Accessible.