The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) will have an effect on your business.
Ignorance may be bliss in some aspects, but as the wheels of legislation and scrutiny continuously roll forward, all businesses who decide to use ignorance as an excuse when the proverbial inevitably hits the fan, may find it almost impossible to recover.
It has impacted businesses big and small, with financial losses starting from $35 thousand to $6 million.
And while legal cases have kept increasing in the USA (2, 285 cases in 2018; Over 11,000 in 2019; expected to come close to 20,000 in 2020), litigation has begun to raise an interested eyebrow at other countries throughout the First World like Canada, UK, Australia and the like.
Similar to other countries, Australia has the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) which safeguards the rights of the disabled, including the visually impaired.
There is no denying: It’s coming to a business like yours soon.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. In 2008, the legislation was modified.
Included in those modifications was Title III, applying the requirements to all “places of public accommodation”, a term defined as a private entity whose operations affect commerce and other specifics.
Given that websites are woven into commerce, it became legislatively obvious that ADA compliance requirements DO encompass digital content.
What does this mean for my business website?
Failing to accommodate these compliance laws has led to serious penalties for business in the past and as already mentioned, lawsuits are forecast to increase in 2020 and beyond.
Because website ADA compliance took such a long time to get addressed in any significant way (with many businesses not making it a priority), the lack of accommodations on the part of business websites has led to serious financial and survival repercussions for a growing number of businesses that failed to take notice of the writing on the wall.
Individuals with disabilities must be able to experience equal access to website content, like anyone else.
This requires an ADA compliant website to:
Target lost its’ ADA battle to the tune of $6 million (US)
Pizza Giant Dominos lost in court. The ADA ruling was upheld against them.
Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment faces paying out millions for breaches of ADA law.
Online Streaming service Hulu reached a settlement agreement for an undisclosed figure.
Multiple restaurants, bars, clubs and other venues have become the target of ADA Lawyer specialists.
So it is no insignificant and pesky regulation you can afford to ignore.
While doing the right thing by all customers is the noble and philosophical stance, the above examples show there is a current wave of litigation that threatens the unwary. And it is only beginning to find its’ swing.
While ADA compliance was originally legislated in the USA, it applies in equal force wherever there are visually impaired people.
“Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally”– Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
Worldwide Website access should be available to all people regardless of their abilities or disabilities and the ADA compliance law ensures it.
Every business that uses a website as part of it’s trade and commerce is held responsible for the equal rights of disabled patrons, including those who are visually impaired.
In fact, a large segment of the market exists here, with 2.2 Billion visually impaired people worldwide: One person in every four.
And an aging worldwide population with challenged vision is only set to increase.
The major piece of policy supporting Australian web accessibility is the National Transition Strategy, or NTS.
This Australian policy states that WCAG applies to all online government information and services, including all internet, intranet and extranet sites. Furthermore, “Agencies that do not implement WCAG 2.0 for their intranet must accept they may be at greater risk of complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 and other anti-discrimination Acts.”
And while it may be convenient to assume the policy only applies to government, in actuality, the requirement applies “to any individual or organisation developing a website or other web resource in Australia or placing or maintaining a web resource on an Australian server”.
Note the example of legal action taken under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for web accessibility discrimination, which occurred in the 2000 case, Bruce Lindsay Maguire v Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.
In its review of their website’s accessibility based on WCAG standards, the Commissioner found that Maguire had indeed been treated less favourably by the SOCOG and they were ordered to make significant changes to meet the WCAG criteria.
Failure to do so would allow Bruce Maguire the option to pursue compensation.
Given the trend in the USA, it follows that cases like this will become increasingly prevalent in Australia unless business, great and small, comply with WCAG standards.
The most high-profile court action in Australia was the legal case against grocery giant Coles in 2015, brought against them under the provisions of the DDA. The supermarket chain settled out of court, promising to rectify its site and undertake a series of accessibility fixes suggested by the legally blind woman who brought the action. It is believed that an undisclosed sum was also paid.
Astute businesses see the need to be proactive.
While the DDA are in position to wave (and use) a large stick, the right thing to do is to improve customer experience, regardless of the customers ability or lack of it. If that becomes the primary focus, then it goes without saying that the WCAG/ DDA regulations will be met and costly enforcements and penalties, avoided.
The Australian National Transition Strategy (NTS) is built upon the global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
This defines the applications necessary.
We have the tools to ensure any website meets these global standards.
Businesses considering a new website build with us will automatically have WCAG 2.0 application as part and parcel of their new build.
Businesses looking to have this feature applied to their existing website will be happy with the result and the price.
Feel free to email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to initiate discussion.
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