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.
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
When’s the last time you thought about how accessible your website is to users who are blind or visually-impaired? Even though ADA website compliance is the law, many businesses have failed to update their websites to accommodate these users. Most recently, Winn-Dixie is in the news for failing to provide ADA compliant web design. A user who is blind was unable to use their site, filed a lawsuit, and a Miami judge ruled that Winn-Dixie violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your website is not currently accessible to the visually-impaired, it’s time to think about updating your site for compliance and user experience.
The Justice Dept. said it would issue new regulations, so most businesses waited to see what they would say. However, Vu believes it will be a while before the new regulations are released because of what the Justice Dept. said in a recent case. MIT and Harvard were sued over captioning of videos, and the schools wanted the judge to stay the case until the new regulations were released. The Justice Dept. told the judge not to stay the case because the new regulations could take a while to be released.
Additionally, in February 2018, Congress passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill designed to make it harder for disabled Americans to sue businesses for discrimination. Republican lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill argue that the law will help curb “frivolous” lawsuits, while opponents have argued that this law will gut the ADA, essentially giving businesses little reason to follow the ADA guidelines at all.
The guidelines are broken down by four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Under each principle, there are guidelines that provide specific goals a website should work toward. Under each guideline, there are testable success criteria. Those criteria are graded A, AA, or AAA. This grade shows the level of conformity to accessibility, AAA being the highest. The law only requires A and AA guidelines to be met.