A business, school or government website is considered to be a “public accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act and must be designed for use by persons with disabilities. The World Wide Web Group (W3G), an industry association, developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) for website design and function to make websites accessible. The Department of Justice has been enforcing the WCAG standards while it develops formal ADA compliance regulations. Some plaintiffs’ law firms have initiated claims and lawsuits against companies whose websites do not comply with these standards.
Who is vulnerable to enforcement by the DOJ or claims from plaintiffs’ attorneys?
- Businesses that advertise or sell products through their website. These actions make the website a “public accommodation.”
- Employers, particularly those who advertise employment positions on their website or who allow employment applications to be submitted on-line.
- Public entities such as municipal governments and school districts, who use their website to publicize activities, events, calendars, ordinances, rules or regulations, or who allow on-line registration.
The Guidelines are too detailed to summarize here, but here are three examples: a website must be “machine-readable” for persons with vision impairments, contain transcribed videos and sound for the hearing impaired, and be tagged with machine readable instructions for fillable forms. The cost of ADA compliance varies with the complexity of the website. But, the good news is that according to some web designers with experience in making websites compliant, many ADA compliance issues can be resolved relatively inexpensively.
Businesses, schools or local governments interested in making their websites compliant should start by obtaining an audit of their website from a third party company that is experienced with the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. Once the issues with the website are identified, your website designers should be trained in the Guidelines to ensure their website designs and updates are compliant. Claims or lawsuits should be referred to an attorney with experience with these issues.