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The landscape of disabled access litigation related to online services has significantly changed and expanded over the past decade. Initially, the internet was an area of little concern as courts uniformly held that the ADA applied to "brick and mortar" facilities, not to cyberspace. This has changed and online accessibility is presently, and will continue to be, an area of significant investigation and litigation.
According to the DOJ, “Being unable to access websites puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s society.” With these words in mind, the DOJ has rapidly adopted the role of web accessibility enforcer. A failure to make digital content, including websites, accessible to all individuals regardless of their emotional, physical, or mental disabilities, can result in hefty fines and class action lawsuits. In short, the DOJ is dedicated to making sure that individuals with disabilities have the same equal access to the benefits that are available online. Creating equal access is only possible if organizations a) understand the requirements of web accessibility, b) know that web accessibility is an obligation under the ADA, and c) make web accessibility a priority. The value that awaits when organizations adhere to digital accessibility laws can be measured in more than dollars and cents.
For people who are blind, have vision loss, or are deaf-blind, this includes providing a qualified reader; information in large print, Braille, or electronically for use with a computer screen-reading program; or an audio recording of printed information. A “qualified” reader means someone who is able to read effectively, accurately, and impartially, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
The pressure is mounting to implement technology that more directly connects with residents, but balancing the shift to enable all citizens – including the approximately 19 percent with disabilities – can seem insurmountable. Beyond ensuring your organization is doing right your community, being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 508 standards is daunting – especially with the threat of a fine or lawsuit for non-compliance.
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.
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.
Covered entities are required to provide aids and services unless doing so would result in an “undue burden,” which is defined as significant difficulty or expense. If a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, the entity must provide another effective aid or service, if possible, that would not result in an undue burden. Determining what constitutes an undue burden will vary from entity to entity and sometimes from one year to the next. The impact of changing economic conditions on the resources available to an entity may also be taken into consideration in making this determination.
(2) In situations not involving an imminent threat, an adult accompanying someone who uses sign language may be relied upon to interpret or facilitate communication when a) the individual requests this, b) the accompanying adult agrees, and c) reliance on the accompanying adult is appropriate under the circumstances. This exception does not apply to minor children.
An accessible and ADA compliant website has the potential to increase your sales by over 20%. The market segment of persons with a disability is very loyal to businesses and websites that make legitimate efforts to increase their quality of life. Your businesses social media presence can also be improved as visitors share their favorable interactions with your businesses. Offering your business a significant and fiercely loyal revenue stream.