Companies waiting for the Department of Justice to publish official regulations on Title III web accessibility since 2010 will have to wait a while longer. The DOJ will not publish the regulations until 2018. Here's what you need to get ready.
The promised regulations will provide formal guidelines that dictate what makes a website compliant with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act which require that places of public accommodation and commercial enterprise must be accessible to the disabled.
The DOJ’s delay leaves companies vulnerable to litigation, with a growing number of lawsuits being filed against companies by plaintiffs alleging that their websites fail to fulfill Title III’s accessibility requirements. Without official regulations to abide by or reference, companies have little defense against such allegations.
Courts disagree as to whether websites qualify as “places of public accommodation.” Some rule that they are, some rule that they aren’t. The most popular interpretation upholds that a website is covered by the ADA if it is linked to a brick-and-mortar store, while e-commerce operations not associated with any one physical space (such as eBay.com) are not subject to the accessibility requirements of Title III.
However, some courts interpret Title III more broadly to apply to all websites that sell goods or services online, even if they have no connection to physical retail stores. Online retailers are the most common target for litigation enforcing ADA.
If your website lacks basic accessibility features, you could be vulnerable to litigation or may encounter other forms of loss—such as loss of business from disabled consumers unable to interact with your site. While the official regulations are delayed until 2018, it’s good practice to start making accessibility accommodations in your web design now.
Imagewërks has worked with a number of senior living clients over the years, so we have made a habit of keeping the essential elements of web accessibility in mind when we approach a new web design.
The most basic design elements of an accessible website include:
- Textual alternatives for visual content
- Easy-to-read text
- Clear differentiation between foreground and background
- Content presented in a variety of ways
- Closed captioning where appropriate
- Clear navigation and search functions
- Compatibility with assistive technologies
- All functionality possible via keyboard (sans cursor)
- No site elements pose risk for seizure
- Site content is not time-based
You would be well-advised to start weighing the cost/benefit of implementing accessible design elements into your website now, especially if your target audience includes segments likely to be older or visually impaired. There are helpful resources available to check your site for basic compliance like this HHS Accessibility Checklist, and the SortSite Accessibility Checker.
Is your website ready for some accessibility updates?
Our Free Digital Marketing Assessment will identify what you can do today to stay ahead of new regulations.