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ADA – American with Disabilities Act and Websites

ADA – American with Disabilities Act and Websites

With a significant rise in website accessibility lawsuits, a number of organizations are trying to endeavor their best to bring websites into compliance with WCAG (Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). This preventative measure helps them meet the criteria of web accessibility regulations, which intensified in recent years.

There is no doubt that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is complicated legislation in terms of understanding its legal implication on web businesses. Many famous brands already faced legal implications under the ADA lawsuit as their website was not accessible to physically impaired people.

Most plaintiffs are people with visual impairment and their claims are based on the fact that websites don’t have subtitles for images.

Although these people can use screen readers that convert website text into audio, if there are no subtitles, they cannot figure out if that picture even exits. This is just a glimpse of issues that people have been reporting since the past few decades. Particularly, the last decade has seen an inevitable rise in mobile applications and websites, questioning the original mission of ADA to make the US society more convenient and accessible to physically impaired people.

That is what makes exploring and getting familiar with ADA compliance with websites substantially important for business owners. Don’t worry if you think you lack the necessary knowledge about ADA compliance and why it is important for your website, as we have you covered here.

What is ADA Compliance?

As mentioned earlier, ADA aims to offer protection against discriminatory behavior based on national origin, sex, race or religion. The act went a step further by mandating businesses to ensure reasonable accommodations to workers with physical impairment or disabilities.

The law demands revolutionary additions to maximize the facilitation provided to physically disabled people at the workplace. Typically that includes wheelchair ramps, comfortable restrooms, and other accessible amenities to facilitate these people.

However, with the advent of global commerce, ADA compliance became a confusing matter for legislators in terms of its application and compliance on websites.

ADA Website Compliance

There is no doubt that ADA website compliance has not only been stirring controversy for legislators but also created a lot of confusion for most people. One of the reasons is its vague description of online compliance. To put it simply, ADA doesn’t have a clear compliance policy for websites despite the fact that it has been amended several times during different web-oriented eras.

Unfortunately, without any explicit policy, ADA website compliance has been challenged in the courts by many people. The purpose was to determine ADA standards that can be applied to websites.

What ADA Requires for Web Accessibility?

Since you know what ADA website compliance involves and where it lacks, it is better to find out what does it require to become relevant for web accessibility.

Title II and Title III are the two main sections of the ADA that question its relevance for web accessibility.

Title II– is an act in the ADA section that prohibits discrimination based on disability by local and state governments.

Title III – is an act in the ADA section that prohibits discrimination based on disability in public places; these include private businesses that deal with the public, such as hotels, movie theaters, doctor offices, restaurants, and museums.

The US justice department emphasizes that ADA doesn’t specifically address web accessibility whereas its language is comprehensive enough to incorporate websites as an integral part of your business operations. In short, the legal consensus affirms that if these sections are applicable to your business, they are also applicable to your website.

ADA Web Accessibility Penalties or Lawsuits

The number of lawsuits filed in recent years against government and businesses has increased, alleging that websites have been in ADA violation. These claims mainly target websites for being inadequately accessible to physically disabled and impaired people. There were not less 814 lawsuits against different organizations from various industries, including restaurants, credit unions, banks and E-commerce websites. Both major corporations and small businesses, like Burger King, Nike, and The Hershey Company had to pay penalties for infringement.

Another pertinent example is the Winn-Dixie Supermarket chain that was allegedly accused of violating ADA regulations. The famous supermarket chain did not make its website accessible to visually impaired users under ADA Title III. Despite having multiple sections, Winn-Dixie’s website was not accessible to the plaintiff who was visually impaired, preventing him from using certain services offered by Winn-Dixie grocery stores.

That means no matter what type of website you have if it is not designed in a way that enables disabled people to access it without any problem, it violets ADA Title III and is at risk of facing a civil penalty from $55,000 to $75,000.

Who Needs To Be Compliant?

Tied to the last paragraph, it raises the question if ADA compliance for online business is mandatory for your website. Despite the fact that there is no explicit and clear description for ADA compliance for a website, it is always a good idea to stay on the safe side.

Many countries have already adopted accessibility laws after seeing the rise in accessibility-related lawsuits in recent years. The success rate of plaintiffs is comparatively higher than defendants, even without clear ADA regulations.

How You Can Make Your Website ADA Complaint?

The best way to make your website ADA compliant is to follow WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines. It incorporates the standard accessibility principle that many countries and the European Union have been practicing since 1999.

WCAG guides you through recommended actions while keeping online accessibility laws ahead and provides a powerful business model granting equal access to everyone. By following WCAG guidelines, you can make your web content accessible to a wide range of physically impaired and disabled people including those with deafness, low vision or blindness, cognitive limitations, speech disability, limited movement, and photosensitivity.

Given below is a brief review of WCAG guidelines:

A website should

  1. Provide alternatives to visual and auditory content

  2. Use style sheets and markups properly

  3. Use clear and natural language

  4. Create comprehensive tables with a graceful transformation

  5. Feature the latest technology

  6. Have direct accessibility of the user interface

  7. Provide a comprehensive navigation mechanism

  8. Use various interim solutions

  9. Have device independence

  10. Have simple and clear web pages

Bottom Line

Overall, there is no denying that ADA laws are still vague in terms of online accessibility. However, as an entrepreneur, it is beneficial to make sure your business practices don’t violate ADA laws and treat all customers in the same way.


Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.


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