Galia Aharoni Schmidt, Esq.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been around for decades, and was drafted with the goal of ensuring accommodations for people with disabilities. The ADA covers many situations, but there has been much debate about whether it applies to business websites.
ADA Title III prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in “places of public accommodation,” including places like restaurants, bars, or doctor’s offices. It requires these physical locations to be accessible to all, mandating things like ramps, elevators, wide doorways or aisles, appropriate parking, and allowance of service animals.
The ADA was drafted before its authors knew how important the internet would be to daily life and business. Because of that, the ADA makes no mention of whether websites are considered “public accommodations” like these walk-in establishments, and whether online accommodations are therefore required.
Here are four reasons you should make your website ADA compliant:
1. It might be required by law.
Currently, the federal government (in charge of the ADA) has never made an official statement about whether the ADA applies to websites. However, many lawyers and legislators think it does or will soon, and so far it’s the courts who have been in the position of making that decision. Courts have been all over the map, some deciding it doesn’t apply, some deciding that it does but only in certain circumstances, and others deciding that websites are places of public accommodation and so accommodations are required.
Without legal clarity, your business website is floating in a sea of legal confusion. Better to assume it applies, even if it doesn’t.
2. It will help you avoid lawsuits and legal threats.
Even though the law is unclear — or perhaps precisely because the law is unclear — many aggressive law firms are threatening businesses with lawsuits if their website isn’t compliant. In most of these cases, a law firm will send a demand letter or file a lawsuit against a small business claiming the website fails to provide required ADA accommodations. Going to court is often far too expensive for these small businesses, so the vast majority of these threats end up with the business paying a settlement.
These tactics are a serious and legitimate threat to small businesses right now. If your website is ADA compliant, there is no legal claim to make against you. It’s worth being proactive to prevent being put in this situation.
3. It’s a win/win.
ADA compliant websites include features that make them more accessible to a wider group, which means they can reach even more people and make a greater impact. It’s good for them, which means it’s also good for you.
4. It’s the right thing to do!
Even if the ADA doesn’t require your website to provide accommodations, it’s also just the right thing to do! Accommodations are an easy way to make the world an easier place to navigate for those with disabilities. Simple things like color enhancement, good labeling, bigger text, or text spacing can be the difference between a usable internet or a frustrating inability to find what someone needs. It’s a small thing for you that can make a big difference for someone else.
You can find the entire Monthly CEO Advisory for March by Clicking Here. If you’d like to learn more about reasonable accommodations, privacy policies, or other ways to protect your small business, ABL can help. Book an appointment with us by Clicking Here.