Sharing the split screen with me is a document with the heading ADA Website Compliance. And this is still a topic that many people do not fully understand. And in part, it’s because this is an inexact term.
So ADA website compliance originates from ADA compliance. And ADA is the acronym for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a law, a civil law that requires accessibility generally. It was signed into law in 1990, which means it didn’t contemplate modern digital technology such as websites and mobile apps.
Now the Department of Justice is the regulatory and enforcement agency behind Title II and Title III of the ADA. Most people watching this video will be concerned with Title III because Title III applies to private entities with public accommodations. So the unofficial stance of the DOJ is that the ADA does apply to websites. They have stated this multiple times in multiple ways.
However, the DOJ has not issued official regulation which sets out exactly how to make a website ADA compliant. Because of this uncertainty, but yet the stance of the DOJ that the ADA does apply to websites, litigation has ensued. Litigation has increased for several years. Now it has plateaued where there are several thousand, multiple thousands of complaints filed each year. We don’t even know the extent of how many demand letters are sent out.
Litigation includes demand letters, it includes complaints, and litigation is expensive to defend. Because of that, most of these complaints filed end in a settlement.
So how do you make your website ADA compliant? I’ve taken the Department of Justice’s private enforcement actions. These private enforcement actions are basically where the DOJ takes action against a private entity because they think that entity is not ADA compliant. Several private enforcement actions have concerned the websites and mobile apps of private entities.
If you look at those private enforcement actions, the DOJ specifies exactly what the entity needs to do to become, in their view, ADA compliant. I pull best practices for ADA compliance from these private enforcement actions. The best practices for becoming ADA compliant are making your website or asset fully WCAG conformant and publishing a conspicuous accessibility statement.
But in terms of preventing lawsuits, the best course of action is to find and fix the issues that plaintiff’s lawyers are looking for. When you look at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are the technical standards that are best practices for ADA compliance, there are numerous different considerations that we can make and incorporate to make our websites accessible. However, not all of those considerations are what plaintiff’s law firms are looking for.
Plaintiff’s law firms are typically looking for very specific accessibility issues that they claim in litigation. I have an entire mini-series where I go over the claims made by the most active plaintiff’s law firms in the space. I examine and name what exactly they are looking for. These issues are what website owners need to prioritize when attempting to make their websites “ADA compliant.”
What the term ADA website compliance really means for most is making their websites accessible enough so they do not get sued. I recommend full WCAG conformance, but how you get there affects your risk of litigation. If we resolve some accessibility issues but leave others until later, we risk a lawsuit.
The problem is the sellers and vendors in this space don’t fully understand what they’re selling or what their clients need. Their customers need immediate relief from litigation to focus on accessibility. But what’s being offered and what customers need aren’t aligned.
This misalignment led me to create the ADA Compliance Course. The lessons focus on the most commonly claimed issues in litigation by active plaintiff’s law firms. I’ve ordered the lessons in the order I’d resolve each issue to reduce the risk of litigation. This approach genuinely improves website accessibility and reduces risk.
The course won’t make your website fully WCAG conformant, but it will virtually eliminate your risk of litigation if you account for all its lessons. The essence of ADA website compliance for most is making their website accessible to avoid litigation.
Resolve the accessibility issues most claimed in litigation, then make your site fully WCAG conformant. Publish a helpful accessibility statement, and focus on resolving the most commonly claimed issues in litigation.