The large company Whole Foods has found itself amid a class-action lawsuit as its website did meet ADA compliance standards. Whole Foods is facing thousands of dollars of legal fees, possible settlement, and costs to restructure its website to meet ADA standards, not to forget the public relations problems from this issue. Whether intentional or a slight oversight, not meeting these federal civil rights laws is a big problem for them.

What is ADA?

ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. This civil rights law was enacted in 2010 by the United States Department of Justice. It is a specific set of guidelines that any public organization must follow when developing any website. ADA is similar to 508 compliance, except 508 is only applicable to federal procurements.

Both ADA and 508 compliance regulations also work alongside the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG, however, is more of a set of formal guidelines used to improve accessibility.

Asian woman with blindness disability using computer with refreshable braille display

Who Must Follow ADA Guidelines?

Since the ADA guidelines apply to the entirety of the world wide web, they apply to virtually all businesses or organizations that wish to have a domain or advertise on the web. A few examples of who must adhere to these ADA guidelines are:

  • State and local government organizations
  • Private organizations with 15+ employees
  • Public benefit organizations like public schools, hotels, banks, etc.
  • Businesses that are considered places of accommodation

In short, all websites should make sure they are ADA compliant to avoid the same fate as Whole Foods.

What Happens if you Do Not Follow ADA Guidelines?

In most cases, the lack of ADA compliance is not intentional. However, whether intentional or not, the outcomes could be severe. Large sums of legal fees and decreased popularity among specific sectors of your customer base could make or break you. You can ask Whole Foods what might happen if you do not adhere to all the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design law.

How Does a Website Become ADA Compliant?

To become ADA compliant, a website must get graded by WCAG. The WCAG has a set of guidelines called WCAG 2.0, which will be used to grade your website. The core principles of WCAG 2.0 are listed below:

Website development UI/UX front end designer sketching wireframe
Website development UI/UX front end designer sketching wireframe
  • Be Perceivable – All customers or users should be able to perceive all the information that you have on your website. This includes text, images, videos, etc. Being perceivable means offering alternatives to the forms of content. Text-to-speech, closed-captioning, and audio descriptions are examples of alternative forms of content.
  • Be Operable – Your website should easily be operable by someone with a disability. They should be able to use all the features included on your site. This will need to be written into your HTML by a web developer.
  • Be Understandable – It is not good enough to be able to use the site. Users should be able to understand what they are reading, seeing, or listening to. Instructions can be included with site tools to assist with this guideline.
  • Be Robust – Your website should not take shortcuts when accommodating disabled users. Descriptions, directions, and explanations should not be shortened. All users should have the same experience on your site.

There are three grades your website could receive from WCAG 2.0 to determine ADA compliance:

  • Level A : Your website is only accessible by some users 
  • Level AA : Your website is accessible by almost all users
  • Level AAA : Your website is accessible by all users

While it is usually good enough for your company to receive a level AA grade to be compliant, it is best to shoot for 100% compliant. The goal is not for a company to just pass but to include all customers and provide everyone with the same experience.

While it might be a costly and tedious process, overhauling your website to become ADA compliant will help you reach everyone who wants to use your services or products. It would help if you did not think of this as a burden but as a way for your company to expand its customer base. Also, if you are not compliant, it may come back to bite you in the future.

Ready to Get Started?

At  Maennche Marketing Agency, we fuse years of search engine optimization (SEO) knowledge with the technical precision required to implement strategies and encourage long-term growth. If you need help upgrading your website to become ADA compliant, we would be happy to review your website to determine what steps are required to protect your website from a lawsuit!