What do Dominos, Target, and Weightwatchers have in common?
These organizations are among a fast growing group caught in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) non-compliance lawsuits involving their websites’ failure to meet standards of accessibility. According to Seyfarth, 2018 saw a record 2,258 ADA lawsuit cases filed in federal court, nearly triple 2017’s number and 2019 saw a similar increase.
Companies are not the only targets of ADA lawsuits, however – Harvard University and MIT’s legal losses in their attempts to seek dismissal of pending ADA cases – illustrate the increased liability non-profits face if they do not comply with ADA legislation.
The digital era has transformed how businesses and non-profits interact with society, and how we interact with each other. In response, the DOJ (Department of Justice) has taken the view that the internet is a place of public accommodation, which by Titles II and III of the ADA, must be offered in an equally accessible manner to the public. In determining ADA compliance for digital offerings (including websites), the DOJ has accepted WCAG 2.1 compliance (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) as a de facto standard and equitable remedy in the event of a suit.
Beyond the potential legal issues faced by non-ADA compliant websites, other important issues arise for non-profits due to ADA.
Equity and inclusiveness are paramount: in 2018, the CDC reports an estimated 35% of the United States population as having an ADA related disability (visual, audio, motor, or cognitive). Beyond the age 55, almost 53% of Americans report a disability.
Importantly, this demographic makes up in excess of 50% of individual donations to non-profits. Needless to say, a donation page with an unreadable font size, uncontrasted color combinations, or appropriate audible or motor assists is a certain recipe for reduced contributions.
Challenges to website accessibility vary greatly depending on the disability. What’s encouraging is the range of assistive devices available to bridge the technology gap. Those with visual impairments utilize their screen readers to synthesize text to speech. People with hearing difficulties may depend on the availability of closed captions on videos. Motor assists such as mouth sticks and head wands allow people with motor disabilities to control the input of a screen or keyboard. The innovations in adaptive technology allows those with disabilities to navigate computers through a wide variety of assistive technologies.
The good news is that there is an array of solutions available for non-profits.
Over the coming weeks, we will be completing an in-depth ADA survey, comprised of 238,000 US non-profit websites, to help the sector gain critical insight regarding where it is and where it needs to be regarding compliance.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning how “ADA friendly” your website is, and discuss strategies for making your site ADA compliant, the team at Silkstart can help. Contact us to learn more about our services.