...the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of "public accommodation" by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation. Public accommodations include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays.
Legal precedent is changing, and ADA compliance related lawsuits are becoming more successful, and the courts are seeing more of them as a result. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to private sector businesses. Lately, those protections are more frequently expanding into digital territory as web and mobile applications become more necessary in our day-to-day lives.
In recent cases, the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly sided with plaintiffs arguing that a private company’s website needs to be accessible, despite any other mitigating factors. One thing is for certain, however: The number of federal lawsuits alleging violations of the ADA is currently accelerating at a rapid pace. Between January and August 2017, there were 432 ADA lawsuits filed in federal court—more than the total number of ADA lawsuits in 2015 and 2016 combined.
You can test specific themes for compliance with these guidelines using a tool such as the WAVE Web Accessibility tool.  For sites that require 100% compliance, we recommend testing your theme of choice using the demo page for the theme, for example Twenty Fourteen. We also recommend using Header Text (displaying the Site Title), rather than a Header Image, as some WordPress.com themes will not provide AltText and therefore generate an error in the accessibility tool when a Header Image is set.
When you insert an image into a post or page, consider providing a rich description for the caption that will improve the reading experience for everyone, but especially folks who can’t see the image. Be creative. Instead of “My son on his swing,” try “My son is playing on his favorite swing. His face is filled with pure joy on a beautiful Spring day. Perfection.” The goal here is to convey the feeling of the image.
Courts have taken essentially the following position on the issue of whether websites are places of public accommodation: Website accessibility fulfills the spirit of the ADA by lowering the barriers for people with disabilities to participate in business and commerce. As such, commercial websites need to comply with ADA regulations. Judges have reached this conclusion in several high-profile cases, such as the National Federation of the Blind’s lawsuit against the Scribd digital library. As a result of this case, Scribd agreed to redesign its website to work with screen reader software by the end of 2017.
This particular lawsuit amounted to nothing more than a shakedown for cash, as the current laws would make it difficult to win the suit in court (more about this later) but it prompted me to dive deeper into the issue of ADA compliance. Through my research, I discovered there are some new laws on the horizon that could make ADA compliance mandatory, which means web designers and digital marketers need to know how to prepare.

State and local governments: in determining whether a particular aid or service would result in undue financial and administrative burdens, a title II entity should take into consideration the cost of the particular aid or service in light of all resources available to fund the program, service, or activity and the effect on other expenses or operations. The decision that a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden must be made by a high level official, no lower than a Department head, and must include a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion.
Why was Amazon sued to begin with? Believe it or not, it was the Kindle converter for documents. Amazon has developed its own converter (MobiPocket) to digitize all the documents, books, and magazines that are shown on Kindle. But the problem is that Amazon’s converter was making it difficult for people with disabilities to access any items other than super basic documents.
Navigable: Content that’s repeated on multiple pages can be easily skipped. All pages have informative titles, headings, and labels that describe the page’s content and hierarchy. Navigating the page must take place sequentially, in a meaningful order that preserves relationships on the page. All link text is descriptive in order to make clear where the link will take users. If users are navigating via a keyboard, the current focus of the keyboard is always highlighted and visible.
Both sites include hidden same-page links at the top of the page for skipping to particular content. The CDC site includes five of these links, roughly corresponding with each of the landmark regions. These links become visible when keyboard users tab into the page. These links may ultimately be unnecessary if browsers support navigation by headings or landmarks. Screen readers already provide this support, but until browsers do so natively, non-mousers with eyesight can benefit from skip links like the ones on these government sites.
Quantum Dynamix recently completed VisionCorps’ brand new website – built to set the standard for visually-impaired, ADA compliant web design and functionality. Discover what features we incorporated and how users who are blind are adjusting to the new website. This is a case study for ADA online compliance that you can utilize for your own website.

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Accessibility on the web can mean a lot of things. But in general it means making websites as inclusive to as many users as possible. Accessibility is important for a diverse group of users including mobile users, people who rely on assistive technology to navigate the web, and even search engine robots. We handle accessibility of WordPress.com in two simple ways.


Hi Ashley, Thanks for the feedback. However, I respectfully disagree about JAWS. There was a time many years and versions ago when screen readers didn't support id attributes as targets, but that's no longer true. I just tested my site with JAWS 14 in both IE9 and Firefox 17. In both browsers JAWS identifies the link as "Same page link Skip to main content", then if I click on that link using the left mouse button I jump directly to the "main region", and a couple of down arrows later I'm on the main heading. I actually wrote an earlier blog post about this very topic.
My request at this point is if the developers of the plugin could please implement a solution like this so that the plugin can be compliant natively, without me having to jump in and edit the code every time the plugin is updated. It doesn’t need to be this solution exactly, as this is admittedly a bit of a rough fix, but if the buttons could be modified with ADA compliance in mind, it would make things a lot easier for sites that use this and have these requirements to meet.
Businesses and nonprofits: in determining whether a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, a title III entity should take into consideration the nature and cost of the aid or service relative to their size, overall financial resources, and overall expenses. In general, a business or nonprofit with greater resources is expected to do more to ensure effective communication than one with fewer resources. If the entity has a parent company, the administrative and financial relationship, as well as the size, resources, and expenses of the parent company, would also be considered.
If you do get sued, if you immediately remediate your website, you may be able to get the lawsuit dismissed on mootness (there’s no longer anything in dispute, i.e. plaintiffs are arguing your website is inaccessible but you’ve already made it accessible). This definitely does not mean you should wait to fix your website but it does mean you may have an out.
For Avanti Hotel to address the issue and make its website ADA compliant, it will cost around $3,000. However, oftentimes businesses must pay damages to the plaintiff on top of making the fix. In this particular case, the settlement is expected to be between $8,000-13,000. If the owner chooses to fight, damages plus lawyer fees could put him at more than $25,000. This is a heavy burden for a small business.

Case law has been the most helpful in illuminating the implications of the ADA for websites.There have been lawsuits involving companies like Expedia, Hotels.com, Southwest Airlines, and Target as defendants and primarily featuring accessibility organizations as plaintiffs. These cases had mixed results, but each helped clarify the ADA's jurisdiction on the web. 
Another important consideration is that the ADA does not allow businesses to simply provide an alternative such as a phone number. Lastly, include accessibility issues as part of your website and mobile strategy. When new technologies are implemented or pages added, part of the process should include the implications for persons with disabilities. 
The past few years have brought great awareness to the importance of creating an accessible website. While the process of ensuring you’ve covered all your bases takes time, it’s very much worth the extra effort. Using the tools profiled above are a great way to add features (visible or not) that will help every user get the most out of your WordPress site.

@Rick, I didn't specifically look at doctype, but Steve Faulkner did in his original article (see the link at the top of this post). He found that 101 of the 130 pages containing role="main" (78%) used the HTML5 doctype, which of course leaves 22% that didn't. I do recommend using ARIA even if using an earlier doctype. Validation is important, but if validation and accessibility conflict, I think most would agree accessibility should trump validation. Assistive technologies that support ARIA landmarks do so regardless of doctype, and otherwise the presence of these role attributes has no ill effects in any user agent.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed in 1990. Twenty years later, the US Department of Justice released an update called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These standards cover the design of physical spaces and have been interpreted to include web locations as well, so it can be difficult for the would-be accessible website designer to use them.
Penn in particular nearly made the cut because I really like their keyboard accessibility. It amazes me how few sites provide visible indication of keyboard focus, when it's incredibly simple to achieve (just add a style for a:focus in your style sheet). Penn did this, and consequently it's very easy for sighted keyboard users to keep track of their position as they tab through the page. They also included a keyboard-accessible dropdown menu. However, there are some dynamic features on the Penn home page that really need ARIA markup for full accessibility. They also have a few contrast problems, most notably their slideshow navigation, which is red-on-red:
WordPress themes designed with accessibility in mind tend to be easier to use and clearer to navigate than their contemporaries. While you may have specific goals in mind like ADA compliance or WCAG 2.0 standards to pass, rest assured that you won’t have to sacrifice on design quality. You’ll likely find a theme with a higher standard of design by searching for templates with these requirements.

When you insert an image into a post or page, consider providing a rich description for the caption that will improve the reading experience for everyone, but especially folks who can’t see the image. Be creative. Instead of “My son on his swing,” try “My son is playing on his favorite swing. His face is filled with pure joy on a beautiful Spring day. Perfection.” The goal here is to convey the feeling of the image.
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