One in four (26%) adults have some type of disability and overall, around 61 million people of all ages in the U.S. (18.5%) have a disability.
Evidence shows that many US websites are inaccessible for people with disabilities. For instance, The WebAIM Million study of one million homepages found that 97.8% of homepages failed to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are the globally accepted guidelines to follow for web accessibility.
This is surprising when you consider that working-age adults with disabilities represent a large and relatively untapped market for businesses in the U.S. The total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is about $490 billion, according to a report published by The American Institutes for Research (AIR) in 2018 (‘A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities’).
The very public Dominos ADA lawsuit in where Dominos lost their case against Guillermo Robles, the blind man who sued the pizza chain after he was unable to order food on Domino’s website, was very much the catalyst for businesses to stand up and take web accessibility seriously. Providing everyone has the right to equal treatment and shouldn’t experience discrimination because they have a disability, including online experiences to complete everyday tasks.
lawsuits hit record numbers in 2019, with 11,053 suits filed in federal court.
What is the ADA law surrounding website accessibility
Web accessibility in the U.S. is governed by various state and federal laws including The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Failure to comply with the ADA and other laws can lead to costly lawsuits, financial penalties, and damage to your brand reputation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires some businesses to make accommodations for people with disabilities, including making websites accessible. But, it is worth noting that when ADA came into force in 1990 the internet was itself relatively new and unknown. Therefore it does not give clear regulations defining web accessibility.
Businesses that fall under ADA Title 1 or ADA Title 3 must have a website that gives ‘reasonable accessibility’ to people with disabilities. Under Title, I of the ADA, any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for 20 or more weeks every year is governed by the law.
Under Title III, businesses that are classed as ‘public accommodation’, like hotels, banks, and public transport providers, are also required to make both physical and digital accommodations.
Businesses that fall under ADA Title 1 or ADA Title 3 must have a website that gives ‘reasonable accessibility’ to people with disabilities.
Although there are no clear guiding rules on website accessibility covered by the ADA, businesses that are covered by it must still offer an accessible website that accommodates people with disabilities. In order to achieve this businesses need to be aware of some key case law plus the regulations that apply to federal agencies’ websites.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
To follow ADA law and make your website and other digital content accessible it’s essential to understand the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. The guidelines are produced by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, and define how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
The guidelines and success criteria are organized around four principles, which set the foundation for anyone to access and use web content. They are: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
The 13 guidelines provide the basic goals that designers and content creators should work toward to make content more accessible to users with different disabilities. For each guideline, testable success criteria are provided to allow WCAG 2.1 to be used where requirements and conformance testing are necessary such as in design specification and regulations.
Taking the right steps to avoid ADA lawsuits
To take full advantage of WCAG standards and go beyond compliancy many companies provide assistive technology to make their websites totally inclusive to be used by everyone.
Recite Me’s innovative assistive technology makes websites accessible and inclusive through a unique range of features including, text to speech functionality, fully customizable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features.
Through these features it allows web visitors to customize digital content so that they can consume it in ways that work for them. And it helps websites follow the principles of the WCAG in a number of different ways, such as those listed below.
The Recite Me assistive toolbar provides features that allow content to be perceived through sound or enhanced visual means. For example, Recite Me can change website text or documents like PDFs into an alternative format by allowing the user to convert them into an audio file, which the user can opt to have read aloud.
The Recite Me styling features allow people to change the way the content is displayed. Users are able to customize the websites color scheme as well as the texts font style, size, color and spacing.
Recite Me assistive technology supports users with their location on page via screen reader navigation. The screen reader also supports content reading time by being able to control text speech speeds.
The Recite Me assistive toolbar is delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service). Once installed onto your website you will receive regular updates and always have the latest version.