ADA Website Accessibility Compliance
The focus of “ADA compliant” websites has become a hot topic of discussion lately. You’ve likely heard of the issue by now, but perhaps you’re not entirely sure what it means for your practice. Is it really true that a few simple mistakes can land you in legal hot water? In this short guide, we’ll explain the basics of how the ADA pertains to websites so that you can take the appropriate steps to provide the best care to your patients, and to protect your practice from unnecessary litigation.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide, nor is it meant to provide legal advice. If you find yourself facing an ADA-related claim, you should consult an attorney. Nevertheless, by the time you’ve finished reading this, we hope to reduce some of the fear and misinformation swirling around the issue. First, let’s cover the basics.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law passed in 1990 that aims to protect the rights of disabled people to ensure they are not discriminated against due to their disability. This is the same law that requires real-world public locations (referred to by the ADA as “places of public accommodation”) to be accessible to disabled patrons by offering accommodations such as wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking. The law is well-intentioned, and largely effective at improving the lives of disabled people. Unfortunately, however, the law did not account for the growing dependence of the internet, and did not provide specific language to cover any differences or similarities between physical locations and a website.
What Does It Mean to Be ADA Compliant?
If you take only one thing away from this guide, it should be this: as of today, there is no legal definition for an “ADA compliant” website. The current ADA regulations, which are enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ), do not specifically mention websites and their accessibility requirements. The DOJ has stated that official regulations for website accessibility will not be released until at least the spring of 2018. Until that point, all we have to work with are suggested guidelines, not hard-and-fast requirements.
Although there is no specific language (as of the date of this publication) within the ADA regarding website requirements, there are arguments that can be made that the language of the law insinuates websites as a place of public accommodation. Because of this lack of specificity, different state courts have different views.
Immediate Steps to Take
If you are a current client of iMatrix, ChiroMatrix, or VetMatrix, then your website meets the current suggested ADA accessibility guidelines. In addition, we keep all of our clients’ websites updated to meet these guidelines without any action required by you.
If your website is not provided by iMatrix, ChiroMatrix, or VetMatrix, you should take a moment to familiarize yourself with the basics of website accessibility. The DOJ has suggested the WCAG 2.0’s ‘Level AA Success Criteria’ as the best accessibility standards to follow. Again, these are suggested guidelines; they are not currently laws. Nevertheless, this checklist is a good place to start. If you can check every box of the Level AA Success Criteria, you are in the best position to defend your website from any “non-compliant” complaints you may receive.
Next, it’s a good idea to run your current website through an automatic evaluation tool that will help to reveal some of the most common potential accessibility problems.
Even if you have checked your website against the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines and run the automatic evaluation tool, if you or your office staff add or modify content on your website, regardless of whether it is written or visual, it is difficult to guarantee that these changes fall within the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines. If you do make changes to your website, it is best to use a website marketing company that meets the suggested ADA website accessibility guidelines and have their customer service team make the changes for you.
For chiropractic, eye care, and veterinary practices that do not currently have their websites with us, we will provide a complimentary ADA accessibility review to help gauge where your website stands in relation to the currently suggested ADA accessibility guidelines. To get this free evaluation, call 800.808.9215 to schedule an appointment.