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American Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits rising against website accessibility

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The amount of lawsuits being brought against an Internet website for the lack of accommodations for the disabled is growing. It has now been termed Cyber Accessibility Claims in the courts, and the cost of litigation has been grossly under appreciated.

The Target Corporation paid out 6 million dollars for a lack of website accessibility in a class action lawsuit representing the visually impaired. There isn’t a clear law for internet website accessibility due to the fact that the technology continues to grow at a rate that the law cannot keep up with year after year. However, even without clear website law, there is still ADA compliance that needs to be met or your website could be at risk for a lawsuit.

Many people who need help with computer accessibility use assistive devices on their computers to accommodate their disability. These devices do such things as turn line text into braille, automatic screen readers, text enlargement software, and voice control. Other helpful tools available include software that automatically adjust font size, color schemes and contrast settings.

Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA

Although there is an updated Title III ADA law passed in 2010, the government website gives a great website accessibility help under Title II ADA. If you are compliant under Title II, it appears you are also compliant for your website under Title III.

Graphic Elements

This is a picture of the WP edit a photo menu and where to add the alternate text for a photoThe problem with many websites is the use of graphic elements. A visually impaired person cannot tell a photo from a map or a piece of artwork without the help of a text describing the visual element. Many times the text appears inside the photo or the lack of text altogether to describe the photo makes it inaccessible for the visually impaired. All these assistive devices to help the visually impaired are unable to read the text inside the photo and thus the page or post becomes inaccessible to the disabled.

The website needs to have text which than can be translated into braille, voice, or larger text to make it fully web accommodating. The problem with graphic elements is the very reason why Target Corporation ended up with a 6 million dollar lawsuit on their website. To stay in compliance, each image needs a simple text equivalent to describe each visual element in HTML code. The text of an image needs to be equivalent to what a seeing person would visually input from an image and translate automatically in the brain.

PDF vs RTF

Another common problem is Portable Document Format (PDF). These are unreadable to the visually impaired. When PDF files are given, an alternative text needs to be available for the visually impaired such as HTML or Rich Text Format (RTF).

Web Design

Another problem with websites is web design. To make the site aesthetically pleasing, the visually impaired cannot distinguish text colors from background colors. The solution to the problem is to allow the font size and color to be changed. The browser should be able to manipulate the font and color as to make it visually readable.

Video

Videos post another problem for both the visually impaired and the hearing impaired. The visually impaired need audio to accompany the video describing images and scene changes. Whereas the hearing impaired need text to accompany the video to make up for the lack of audio accessibility.

Other Considerations

As discussed in the Americans with Disability Act Compliance, there are several listed ideas to help keep your site in compliance and more readily accessible including WCAG and NFB guidelines.

There are other things to consider when developing a website that is accessible to all. Avoiding distracting items on the screen like flashing or blinking lights is important. You should also provide appropriate HTML tags so that those with disabilities can access on-line forms. Also, you should use titles and text structures so that complex pages can be navigated.

Accessibility Plan

If your website is currently inaccessible, provide a page that states your plan of action to make the site ADA accessible. Make it clear what your plan is to make your site an accessible site. If you are following a timeline for accessibility, prioritize your pages to accommodate from most popular to least popular. Make sure phone numbers and emails are available for disabled to request appropriate accessible information.

If there are multiple authors on your site, make sure they are all trained in ADA requirements. Also, it would be a good idea to request people who are visually and hearing impaired to access your site and give you their honest feedback on the website accessibility.

Final Thoughts

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There are easy ways to avoid an ADA lawsuit hitting your website. Each website is just as vulnerable as the next and ADA laws require reasonable accommodations. It is much cheaper to comply from the beginning than to deal with the financial strain of litigation. Do your website a favor, and start accommodating today.

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