A flood of lawsuits demand websites accommodate the disabled

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Hundreds of companies are facing federal class actions filed in recent months alleging that their websites don’t comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because people with physical challenges have difficulties using them. Among those being sued are Nike (NKE), Burger King, Hershey (HSY), Lord & Taylor and Pandora (P).

Under Title III of the ADA, it’s illegal to discriminate against disabled persons “in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.” Applying that standard to websites is tricky because the 1990 ADA predated the Internet as a mass medium. U.S. Department of Justice officials announced in 2010 that they would provide guidance regarding the standards that websites would have to meet.

The expected 2016 release of the DOJ rule, however, was delayed by the Obama administration. Further, the Trump administration, which has made reducing government regulations a priority, withdrew the website proposal without explanation in January. Contradictory court rulings clouded the picture even further, according to attorneys.

“Website access lawsuits have been filed against defendants in almost every industry and market,” emailed Kristen Perkins, an attorney with Hinshaw & Culbertson in Florida, which represents businesses targeted in these cases. “While retail establishments have had the most filings, those in the health care industry, education, restaurant and nonprofit sectors, in addition to others, have had to defend these lawsuits.”

More than 800 were filed in 2017, according to Minh Vu, an attorney with the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, which defends companies targeted in ADA litigation. Classaction.org,which tracks class actions, estimates that 256 ADA website-accessibility cases were filed in federal courts between Nov. 28 and Feb. 26, with no sign of a slowdown.

“Businesses have been put in a very difficult place,” Vu said. “You cannot wave a magic wand to make your website accessible. There aren’t a lot of people who know how to do it correctly.”

According to William Goren, an attorney from Decatur, Georgia, who specializes in ADA issues, many designers didn’t consider people with disabilities when they created websites, which makes it more challenging to fix them after they’re online.

Companies often need to add code to pictures on their websites to enable special browsers to describe images for people with impaired vision. They also need to provide text for videos so people with hearing problems can understand them. The cost to address the issues can reach several thousand dollars depending on a site’s complexity and the extent of the issues that need to be addressed.

A bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives would give companies with deficient handicap entrances and other architectural barriers six months to fix their problems before they can be sued. According to Perkins, owners of websites would benefit from similar consideration, but the proposed legislation currently doesn’t offer any.

“This type of pre-suit requirement would be a very helpful way to avoid the unnecessary costs of litigation,” wrote Perkins. “Clients with offending websites generally want to put fixes in place quickly to make their sites accessible to all people, given both the public policy concerns and the obvious business advantages to having your website work for everyone. The defense of these suits only makes curing access barriers to the impaired public more expensive.”

Nike declined to comment. A spokesman for Hershey said the candy company was “committed to making our websites user-friendly,” though he declined to discuss the ADA case. Officials from Burger King, which is part of Restaurant Brands (QSR); Lord & Taylor, which is part of Canada’s Hudson’s Bay; and Pandora didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Working on a website can be difficult. Adding new media and updating pages is chore, even though you know your company website needs to evolve and become more accessible to the many users you are trying to reach. Maybe when you first built it, accessibility wasn’t even really discussed. But now you’ve taken a step back, looked at your customer base with a desire to include everyone and you’ve realized just how important it is to make your site accessible. However, the thought of building a robust site that can do all the things you want it to do is overwhelming.

What is Web Accessibility

A practice of designing and coding the website in order to provide complete compatibility in accessing it by people with disabilities. In addition, it is a way to improve search engine optimization only an ADA Compliant Web Designer will help you to make your website Compliant. Is your website compatible? By going through the checklist below, you can get the answer.

Assessing Current Web Pages and Content

  • The website must include a feature like a navigation link at the top of the page. These links have a bypass mechanism such as a “skip navigation” link. This feature directs screen readers to bypass the row of navigation links and start at the web page content. It is beneficial for people who use screen readers to avoid to listen to all the links each time they jump to a new page.
  • All the links should be understandable when taken out of the context. For example, images without alternative text and links without worded as “click here”.
  • All the graphics, maps, images, and other non-text content must provide text alternatives through the alt attribute, a hidden/visible long description.
  • All the documents posted on the website should available in HTML or another accessible text-based format. It is also applicable to other formats like Portable Document Format (PDF).
  • The online forms on the website should be structured so assistive technology can identify, describe and operate the controls and inputs. By doing this, people with disabilities can review and submit the forms.
  • If the website has online forms, the drop-down list should describe the information instead of displaying a response option. For instance, “Your Age” instead of “18-25”.
  • If the website has data charts and tables, they should be structured so that all data cells are associated with column and row identifiers.
  • All the video files on the website must have audio descriptions (if necessary). This is for the convenience of blind people or for having a visual impairment disability.
  • All the video files on the website must have synchronized captions. People with hearing problems or deaf can access these files conveniently.
  • All the audio files on the website should have synchronized captions to provide access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All web pages should be designed so that they can be viewed using visitors’ web browser and operating system settings for color and font.

About Website Accessibility Policy and Procedures

  • One must have a written policy on website accessibility.
  • The website accessibility policy must be posted on the website at a location where it can be easily found.
  • The procedure should be developed to ensure that content is not added to the website until it has been made accessible.
  • It should be confirmed that the website manager has checked the code and structure of all new web pages before they are posted.
  • While adding the PDFs to the website, these should be accessible. Also, the text-based versions of the documents should be accessible at the same time as PDF versions.
  • Make sure that the in-house and contractor staff has received the information about the website accessibility policy and procedure to confirm the website accessibility.
  • It should be confirmed that in-house and contractor staff has received appropriate training on how to ensure the accessibility of the website.
  • The website should have a specific written plan if it contains inaccessible content. Also, it should include timeframes in place to make all of the existing web content accessible.
  • A complete plan to improve website accessibility should be posted along with invited suggestions for improvement.
  • The homepage should include easily locatable information that includes contact details like telephone number and email address. This is useful for reporting website accessibility problems and requesting accessibility services with information.
  • A website should have procedures in place to assure a quick response to the visitors with disabilities who have difficulty in accessing information or services available on the website.
  • Feedback from people who use a variety of assistive technologies is helpful in ensuring website accessibility. So make sure to ask disability groups representing people to provide feedback on the accessibility of your website.
  • Testing the website using a product available on the internet is helpful, These tools are of free cost and check the accessibility of a website. They may not identify all accessibility issues and flag issues that are not accessibility problems. However, these are, nonetheless, a helpful way to improve website accessibility.

Checklist of Action Items for Improving the Accessibility of a Website

In addition, while considering the above suggestions, the following checklist initially prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal Agencies provides further guidelines on ways to make websites more accessible for persons with disabilities.

This practical advice, as well as another checklist, are available at:

Satisfying all of these items does not necessarily mean that a website complies with ADA, but it will improve the website’s accessibility and decrease the risk of litigation. Again, an Expert or Web Accessibility Consulting & Services provider should be engaged to conduct a comprehensive review of your website.
Nothing brings you closer to reality than actually facing it. This is the premise of my latest attempt to spread awareness about Web Accessibility.
For better understand, here is a link in which a practical example is shown to make the websites’ user experience better by following the guidelines. Also, it tells the issues affecting various users on the internet with solutions.
You can make your website ADA compliant in an easy way by consulting the professionals, who can do this job effortlessly. Also, you can get a quick website audit from To Be ADA Compliant that offers complete web accessibility consulting & services in California, USA.

Resource: https://dev.to/chinchang/an-interactive-and-practical-introduction-to-web-accessibility-22o1