Marketing strategies for growth: ADA web compliance and ADA-related lawsuits

By Harry Casimir

In the United States, one in five people have a disability. And yet, only 10% of the internet is web accessible. The American Disabilities Act was developed in 1990 and declares that all places of public accommodation remove any access barriers that would inhibit a person with disabilities from accessing the business’s goods and services – including their websites.

ADA website compliance consists of a set of guidelines websites should meet in order to be accessible to ALL. This means that someone who is visually impaired can access your website using special tools or software. It could also mean that someone who can’t use a standard mouse and keyboard has access to navigate to other pages.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The World Wide Web Consortium (or W3C) developed a list of guidelines for website owners and website developers to work with in order to make websites more accessible. These can include adding things like alt tags to images so screen readers can read them, making color contrasts behave a certain way so that those who are color blind or partially color blind can see them, and more.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are released in phases and are likely going to continue doing so as time goes on. For example, the current accepted version (by the courts) is WCAG 2.0. And on top of version 2.0, there are levels of accessibility:

  • A = below acceptable
  • AA = standard (where you want to be)
  • AAA = exceptional

WCAG 2.1 is also currently out, but the accepted version at this time is WCAG 2.0 AA.

Most government organizations’ websites are extremely familiar with this practice as they are required by law to make their websites ADA compliant. But what about your boating business website? Absolutely no one is immune from being a victim in an ADA lawsuit. This could potentially cost your boating business up to $150,000 – YIKES!

Increase Your Audience

Today’s marine marketplace is increasingly digital, and the web is one of the top places that people begin searching for products or services. If your website is not accessible for users with disabilities, you may be missing out on a large audience segment. Studies from the disability-rights group ASPE (Association Of People Supporting Employment First) shows that customers with disabilities, their families, and friends account for a $3 trillion market segment you could be excluding.

Remove Legal implications

Lawsuits around ADA compliance have been coming up more and more frequently. Most courts have ruled in favor to consider the term “public space” referred to in the American Disabilities Act to include websites. If your website does not comply with the latest standards and someone with a disability feels you have not made your services accessible to them, a complaint can be issued against you and you could be penalized up to $150,000.

Improve SEO

Another positive aspect to ADA compliance is that many accessibility standards are also in line with best practices for SEO. Things like having alt text for images, meta tagging, and video transcripts will help to improve your overall rankings in search engines.

Benefit Your Community At the end of the day, communities’ benefit when all people can participate. Prior to the American Disabilities Act, people with disabilities often faced barriers that made it difficult to function in many aspects of life. We truly believe that by following these standards and being open to people of all levels of ability, your business is enriching its community and improving the lives of your customers and employees.

One comment

  1. It is irresponsible to claim that “…and you could be penalized up to $150,000.” – especially, without a source.

    There are no damages or awards (compensatory, statutory or punitive) in an ADA Title III (Federal Court) website accessibility case – only injunction (has to make accessible) and occasionally attorney fees. Law firms who issue demand letters on behalf of serial plaintiffs prior to filing a suit try to scare businesses into a settlement agreement, and those average $10,000 depending on the industry and state. However, settling a demand letter benefits no one other than the plaintiff and their attorney. Websites still need to be accessible, so spend the energy there.

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