The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including mental and physical disabilities, according to accessiBe. The ADA requires all public accommodations (e.g., restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores) to be accessible to people with disabilities by removing architectural barriers that restrict access or through the use of alternate methods of providing an equal opportunity for enjoyment of goods and services available at such places.
How does this affect my website?
If any portion of your website is accessible to the public, it must be accessible to persons with disabilities so that they can access the goods and services you are offering without barriers. For example, if your restaurant’s website provides information on reserving a table at your restaurant so customers can plan their visit, the website must have the capability to be read by a screen reader. The restaurant’s website should also have text-to-speech capabilities so that those who are sight-impaired can obtain information about your offerings as well as other features on your site.
The ADA applies to websites and online services since it is a public space where goods and services are offered. As such, the ADA should be considered as you plan and design your website and other online interfaces used by customers or clients to participate in your offerings.
When do I need to comply with the law?
If your website is for commercial purposes (i.e., if you offer goods or services for a financial benefit), it is subject to the ADA. In addition, if you own a private residence that is advertised as available to the public (e.g., bed and breakfast), then your website must comply with the law.
What should I do?
If you are starting a new website, consider building in features accessible to people with disabilities. Since different disabilities affect access, it is difficult to determine what type of features you should include in your website. The Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Guide for Small Businesses on the US Department of Justice ADA homepage may be a good place to start.
What are some examples?
The following is a list of features to consider when designing your website:
- how color contrasts are used
- audio, video, and multimedia indicators
- alternate text for pictures such as “alt-text” in HTML
- easy-to-use site navigation (i.e., menus with clear labels)
- structured data with metadata so that search engines can find your website’s content
- alternate text for images (e.g., “alt-text”) in HTML so they are accessible to screen readers
How can I obtain more information?
If you need further assistance, visit the US Department of Justice’s ADA homepage. The DOJ guides the law requirements and technical assistance from experts who can work with you to determine what is required of your website. Other resources include:
- the Center for Civic Design
- WebAIM’s Accessibility in Mind
Final thoughts on ADA compliance
ADA compliance is a complex issue. The DOJ has created a series of webinars to help you understand how to comply with the ADA and your responsibilities as a business owner. One of the most important things that you can do is determine what accessibility features need to be included on your website so that people with various types of disabilities can access them.