Keep Your Website Accessible and Inclusive with ADA Best Practices.
Our SEO Company is currently the only Internet Marking company that is a member of the W3C. Our CEO Garry Grant is presently on the WCAG working group and several others. SEO Inc is now working with the W3C to create the new guidelines for WCAG 2.2.
If you have an ADA compliance issue, have had a demand letter, or have been served with a potential lawsuit, we are here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our company here. You can also use the following email for a quick response .
In 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first signed into law, there wasn’t much concern about the digital world – since the World Wide Web was still in its relative infancy. Beyond the ADA, you may hear talk of 508 compliance – which I’ve written about before. It refers to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires equal access to federally-funded programs and activities.
Section 508 addresses digital access to those resources. As of January 2018, federal agencies and contractors must meet updated standards to catch up with the evolving digital world. Under the revised rules, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, as set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is considered the industry standard on accessibility for all public-facing (and some non-public facing, official agency business content.
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Search engines have two primary goals when determining which pages should appear in the search engines: relevancy and accessibility. The first is providing web pages in which the content is likely to support and be relevant to the search query. The second is that the pages must be accessible to whoever finds them.
Pages that require a password to view the content don’t tend to get ranked. So having a web page available to everyone makes sense. Still, Google, Bing, and the other top search engines also try to ensure that the ranking pages can be read in any browser, including unique browsers for the vision impaired. It is also critically important that pages load quickly, so page speed is becoming increasingly important.
SEO and Web accessibility are not just for disabled people. Websites that don’t pay attention to this critical issue will likely see less traffic and shorter website visits. In addition, implementing web accessibility standards helps search engine rankings and improves usability even for non-disabled users. A 2004 Forrester Research report also stated.
“57 percent of current working-age computer users may benefit from accessible technology because of mild to severe vision, hearing, dexterity, speech and cognitive difficulties and impairments.” “As the U.S. population continues to age, the number of people who experience these impairments will increase, and more people will likely turn to accessible technology to mitigate the effects of their changing physical abilities.”
Many SEO companies ignore web accessibility simply because it takes extra effort, and they can’t build the value for putting in that effort. Others don’t even know they can follow some basic web accessibility guidelines and make incremental improvements.
When your company becomes an SEO Inc. client, you can be assured that your website accessibility will be improved as part of our SEO services. Will your website be 100% compliant with every web accessibility standard? No, but our SEO methodology includes essential and “practical” website accessibility standards, which will result in a more accessible website and is yet another element that will help improve your search engine rankings.
With the latest screen reading and adaptive software, your site will be accessible to users using this new technology. Some of the items that we implement during the SEO process include:
Did you know that 25% of the adults in the U.S., and 40% over age 65, have a disability? 2015 National Federation for the Blind data shows that more than 7 million adults are affected by some form of vision impairment such as blindness, low vision, and colorblindness. In addition, more than 15% of adults in America report hearing difficulties, and two to three children out of every 1,000 are born with a detectable hearing loss in one or both ears.
In addition, 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum, and 15 to 20% of people are affected by a language-based learning disability, like dyslexia. And this doesn’t necessarily consider those with disabilities that affect motor function, making things like moving and clicking a mouse or typing on a keyboard difficult to impossible.
By not having a fully accessible website, you risk alienating any number of audience members who fall into those categories. For example, my daughter is blind, and her web experience suffers greatly. My desire for her to have a similar experience in all things in life, the digital realm included, has made me an outspoken accessibility advocate. As a result, I am part of the committee that develops the WCAG in use today.
ADA compliance lawsuits are on the rise. According to a report by The Seyfarth ADA Title III News and Insights Blog, a legal blog that’s been tracking ADA website compliance lawsuits for a few years, shows that between January 2015 and August 2017, there have been at least 751 suits filed – with 432 of them coming in 2017.
There’s no way to be sure all web accessibility lawsuits have been recorded, so the numbers are likely higher, and we can expect them to continue to climb. These figures don’t consider demand letters settled without lawsuits or cases filed with state courts.
Nearly 5,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal court in the first half of 2018, and the number continued to climb, reaching a 30% increase from 2017. In addition, over 10,000 suites are estimated for the year 2022.
The main reason is a lack of legal consensus on which websites fall under the Department of Justice and ADA jurisdiction. Sites are generally considered in this category if they are considered a “place of public accommodation,” which extends a physical location. But, different courts have differing interpretations of the law and what validates claims of victims of discrimination.
As a website owner, your choice generally comes down to spending the money to ensure your website is compliant and taking the chance that you will not be sued in court. If you are sued by someone with a disability, paying for legal representation may only be a portion of your legal fees.
Depending on the case outcome, you may also have to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and still have to spend money bringing your site to compliance. This could be enough to force closure for small businesses, so it makes more sense to invest in getting your website compliant with the ADA and section 508 using WCAG.
The Winn-Dixie Case
The Winn-Dixie case was the first ADA website compliance lawsuit to go to trial. The plaintiff said 90% of the grocery chain’s website wasn’t accessible with JAWS, a software that reads text on the screen for the visually impaired. Lawyers argued that it couldn’t be forced to comply with the ADA because it wasn’t a place of publication accommodation. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff because the content on the website was tied to the store’s physical location.
The Blick Art Materials Case
A few months later, a legally blind man sued Blick Materials LLC for failing to make their art supplies website accessible to visually impaired people. Though the site isn’t attached to a physical store, the court also ruled in favor of the plaintiff here, designating the website as a place of public accommodation, forcing the company to make their site compliant.
Both Winn-Dixie and Blick Arts lost their cases, but for different reasons, which is why the legalities surrounding the issues are so gray.
The Avanti Hotel
The Avanti Hotel website is under fire for claims that people who have trouble seeing or hearing cannot use the site. The Avanti Hotel is one of many businesses that have been caught up in the recent wave of ADA websites. Unfortunately, the case has yet to be resolved.
Other organizations with ADA website accessibility suits brought against them include Domino’s Pizza, Inc., Harvard, and MIT Universities.
Brand reputation is everything these days – and with social media making it easier for people to share positive and negative experiences with their friends and family, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of any negative press.
If you are party to an ADA compliance lawsuit, you may have to invest even more money into a public relations firm to do damage control. 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting your website, and 67.7% of purchasing decisions are affected by online reviews.
If you’re not sure about your website’s current accessibility, there are several tools you can use to check it. And if you need to know what to do to ensure your site is compliant, you can read this blog post where I lay it all out for you. Finally, and most importantly, if you need assistance with any of this, you can reach out to the team here at SEO Inc. for a free consultation.