This has become a hot-button issue due to the impending threat of lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for any website, regardless of the subject matter or size. New web accessibility regulations could affect your business, particularly if you own a brick-and-mortar business that must comply with the existing building standards set by the ADA. You likely already know those regulations backward and forward and have made modifications to ensure compliance. However, now the ADA is starting to impose regulations for websites as part of Title III. The changes may mean your website will be legally required to comply with a set of standards called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), according to HomeCare magazine.
Online marketing is constantly evolving, and even though many of the original principles of accessible web content will remain constant, the specific requirements are necessary in order to evolve with technology. As such, WCAG 2.0 comprises design and development principles that contain criteria that can be tested via automated testing and human evaluation.
Types of Website Accessibility Elements
There are two types of website accessibility elements that will be mandated, starting in 2018, including:
- Visual accessibility: This involves certain areas of your website that are tough for some people to navigate, such as those who are blind, have a light sensitivity or are color blind. Test for visual accessibility includes color contrast inspections and readability evaluations.
- Functional accessibility: This speaks to how easy it is for a visitor to interact with your website. Many people surf the web through keyboard navigation, while others use devices such as screen readers. Testing in this area will involve code inspection on a large scale, analyzing elements such as page headings, tab order, structure and focus events.
The purpose of these new website accessibility standards is to level the playing field to result in positive results for all users, including those who need assistive devices. The main goal here for home care websites who adjust their standards to fit WCAG is to access a broader range of customers, increase performance on search engines and promote a message of equality when it comes to accessing a business.
Accessible websites should have a variety of accessible elements, including providing text alternatives for any non-text content, alternatives for time-based media, and content that is easy to see and hear (i.e., separating foreground from background), according to Employer Law Report.
The ADA was created in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush in an effort to ban employment discrimination against the disabled and eliminate physical barriers to commercial and government buildings. However, over the last 27 years that the bill has been in effect, many feel the law has been somewhat abused with unintended consequences, with waves of litigation being first and foremost. Every year, there are 26,000 new ADA lawsuit claims filed against employers, says the LA Times. Now, the most innovative segment of the domestic economy — e-commerce — is being targeted. And this isn’t sitting well with everyone. Since 2015, more than 240 businesses in the United States have been sued over website accessibility, with similar litigation being brought against universities offering free online courses that are not captioned for deaf users. There are also lawsuits being brought against ride-sharing services due to lack of text-to-speech capability for blind users on smartphone apps.
Making matters worse is the fact that no clear directives have been outlined. Those are expected next year. Until then, many home care websites are in limbo, wondering what exactly constitutes change and why.
Applying Title III to websites poses a bit of a problem for businesses large and small simply because those websites are connected to the global economy. Making them accessible to everyone is difficult and cost prohibitive. On average, the cost to hire a consultant or web designer to re-configure or audit your website comes with an astronomical price tag. Just to review the code and metadata to determine if a screen-reading software can be added will cost upwards of $50,000 by some estimates.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the law now only applies to the vision- and hearing-impaired. However, many are worried that future cases could involve clients with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, cognitive impairments, and paralysis.
Even with all the confusion, unanswered questions and vague timelines for adherence, you may wonder why you as a home care business should consider compliance with the WCAG. Here’s a look at why you should:
- Because the Internet has dramatically changed the way we do business, it behooves business owners to make modifications that allow users to easily access their information seven days a week, 24 hours a day, says the ADA.
- Your website is your primary communication tool and a key part of your infrastructure. Your clients and customers come from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, so it will benefit you to be as accessible to as many people as you can. This sends a message that you truly understand their needs and want to serve them in the most effective ways possible.
- By making modifications now, you will be up to code once the ADA compliance regulations become a requirement. You won’t have to scramble to hire professionals who will already be overworked with other websites. Plus, Google rewards sites with greater accessibility, allowing them to rank higher in SERPs.
- Enjoy stronger design and content for your website as you take your time to carefully and effectively implement changes that are in line with best practices for a more user-friendly platform.
- Bottom line: you could put yourself in a vulnerable position for litigation if you do not comply.
Contact A Servant’s Heart Web Design and Marketing
We can help start the process of ADA compliance — affordably. Contact us at 760-744-8200 for a free consultation!
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