You want to welcome everyone to your business, so spend thousands ensuring your premises are not only ADA compliant but welcoming to people that have disabilities. Imagine your surprise when someone then hits you with an ADA compliance lawsuit.
Making your premises accessible is only part of what you need to do. You also need to ensure your website is not the subject of an ADA website lawsuit.
Disability is not just about mobility
It is easy to think of disability only in terms of mobility once someone is at your premises. Yet, how do they get to visit your premises in the first place? They probably find it or book it via a website, just like everyone else. Or at least they try to.
Can someone who is blind navigate your website?
Yes, blind people do use websites, and someone does not need to be what we should consider fully blind to need help to use one. There is a legal definition of being blind that allows for partial vision. Many people who are blind or who have visual impairments can browse websites with the help of screen readers. If your website poses problems for the use by screen readers, or other issues for other types of people with disabilities attempting to obtain information on your website, you could face a lawsuit. Here are some of the website issues companies have faced lawsuits for in the past:
- Non-scalable text
- Not enough contrast between the text and the background
- Problems entering passwords via a screen reader
- Phone numbers not being clearly marked as a way to contact the company
- Images with informational content, not expressing such content in the alt text related to the image
- Links and images with links that do not have the screen readable reference to what it is linking to
- Fill in the Blank forms that do not explain to a screen reader what goes in the blank
- Video without closed caption for the deaf
These are just a few of the issues that need to be reviewed with both legal counsel as well as web developers. Web developers only know part of what needs to be done. Understanding how someone with a disability experiences your website is challenging if you do not have that same disability yourself. If you have never tried using a screen reader, you will have no idea of how it feels to navigate your site with one.
That said, a letter telling you someone is bringing an ADA lawsuit against your company does not necessarily mean your website is inadequate. While you may have no clue about web programming, the company you hired to build it should do, and they may have put the necessary measures in place.
Not all ADA compliance lawsuits are built on solid foundations. Some people use them to scare business owners into giving them money. Finding out more about the relevant laws can help you work out if you have done anything wrong, and if you have, what your options are.