(NEW YORK) - Did you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may apply to your website?
In January, a New York City jeweler was included in a class action lawsuit alleging the jeweler’s website was in violation of the ADA for a sight-impaired user. Joe Dowd, president of Berkley Asset Protection, explained this jeweler isn’t alone. “There’s been a surge in ADA lawsuits involving the websites of companies in the markets we serve - jewelry businesses and fine art galleries - as well as clothing and apparel stores, telecommunications companies, colleges, restaurants, hotels, consumer goods and e-commerce stores.”
The ADA does not specifically address websites, however, some courts have ruled in favor of plaintiffs who sue based on website inaccessibility. And, many states have adopted their own accessibility laws.
According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, websites should be made accessible for individuals with blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
Here are a few examples of features that can be employed in an effort to make a website more accessible:
- Site content should be coded to permit a visually impaired person to use “screen-reading” software to convert text on a website to audio. Photos, images, videos and other non-text elements must have “alt” tags or text descriptions.
- Interactive functions must be available via keyboard commands for those who can’t use a mouse.
- Make sure the website can be displayed using the color and text settings of each visitor’s browser and operating system. For example, the visitor should be able to resize text up to 200% without losing content or functionality.
- Content should be presented in a text-based format, such as HTML or RTF (Rich Text Format), in addition to PDFs.
- If you use online forms and tables, make those elements accessible by labeling each control (buttons, check boxes, drop-down menus, text fields) with a descriptive HTML tag.
Businesses that sell goods or services through a website or provide information about hours, location, services and opportunities open to the public should ask their web designers about updating the site so individuals with disabilities can meaningfully engage with the content on the site.
Under Title III of the ADA, the plaintiff cannot collect damages, but is entitled to attorneys’ fees (which is how these cases grow quickly), as well as costs and injunctive relief. A business’s general liability insurance policy may have limited coverage to address the defense costs of a claim.
While the U.S. Department of Justice has not provided clear guidance about website compliance requirements, web designers can reference requirements for federal websites: https://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5toolkit.htm.
This information is presented by Berkley Asset Protection as a service to their colleagues in the jewelry and fine art industries. Learn more about Berkley Asset Protection at www.berkleyassetpro.com.