The large number of people who have disabilities, coupled with the challenges that they face, is one of the reasons that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990.² As its name suggests, the ADA is designed to protect individuals with disabilities in the United States. The ADA essentially makes it illegal for any government entity or business to provide goods and services to the general public without ensuring that the entities are accessible by people with disabilities. In today’s digitally driven world, many businesses fail to follow web accessibility best practices. In fact, this is why the Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) was created by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). To ensure that they are implementing digital accessibility best practices, organizations are encouraged to use the WCAG 2.1 technical requirements.³

Another federal agency, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB), also known as the Access Board, issues guidelines to ensure that buildings, facilities and transit vehicles are accessible to people with disabilities. The Guidelines & Standards issued under the ADA and other laws establish design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities. These standards apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities.
“The idea of equal access, equal opportunity has sort of evolved in its application from brick and mortar to eCommerce. At first, many companies were worried about the desktop experience. Now, the concern extends to both smart phones and devices.  Wherever a consumer accesses your content – whether it be directly through the web or an app – you need to be concerned about accessibility.”
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.

For people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or are deaf-blind, this includes providing a qualified notetaker; a qualified sign language interpreter, oral interpreter, cued-speech interpreter, or tactile interpreter; real-time captioning; written materials; or a printed script of a stock speech (such as given on a museum or historic house tour). A “qualified” interpreter means someone who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively (i.e., understanding what the person with the disability is saying) and expressively (i.e., having the skill needed to convey information back to that person) using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

In short, the ADA is meant to protect disabled individuals as they go about their daily lives. These regulations ensure that people with disabilities are not denied entry into the above places or denied services by a company due to their disability. It is important to note that these regulations are now applicable to services that are provided online or through other digital formats. For example, if a company accepts job applications online, then it must ensure that a person with a disability can also apply for the job online. In other words, it is illegal to have barriers on the website that would keep the disabled individual from successfully completing their application. Fortunately, the ADA guidelines help to remove barriers and ensure that the Internet remains a space that people of all backgrounds and disabilities can use.


When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed in 1990, the internet had yet to take off. However, the ADA has realized the importance of including online spaces within its parameters. If your business is considered a ‘place of public accommodation,’ then your website must be ADA compliant. Multiple rulings from judges have set legal precedent that websites must be accessible and are at risk of heavy fines and penalties when they are found not compliant. Winn-Dixie is the latest business to learn this the hard way.
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Luckily, the international nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) brings together smart people who develop open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. They produce recommendations for making websites fair and equally accessible for the highest number of people possible. Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 offer clear guidance for web developers to achieve ADA compliance.
Web developers need to keep this in mind when creating websites. The best screen readers use naturalized voices and alter tone and inflection based on HTML tags, so choose layout elements carefully. It is also important to keep in mind that navigation is significantly slower when using a screen reader than it is for sighted people. Sighted people don't have to wait for the reader to get to the link we want- we spot links quickly and are able to navigate to our sought items, often without having to do any reading at all. Minimizing graphics also helps shorten reading times and speed navigation for disabled users.

Is your website accessible to ALL users? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability. Legal precedent has now evolved to include new forms of technology and communication under the act – like websites. ADA compliance for websites will be federally regulated come 2018! Find out more about the new ruling and what you could be doing to prep your website for these accessibility requirements.
Reha opened the session by asking everyone to imagine they’re on a train platform, heading home from work, thinking about the great day they had and the presentation they knocked out of the park. They’re toying with their coffee cup, waiting for the train, when all of a sudden, a man walks up, puts a $5 bill in the cup, says “God bless,” and walks away.
Reha asked Vu if companies are obligated to comply? Vu said that unlike the physical access world, where any new building has to be compliant no matter what, there’s no such thing in the web world. The Justice Dept. hasn’t said that that’s the default, but they have said that the current regulatory regime requires it anyway. Equal access has been around since 1990.
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