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Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

Most Amazon Prime members make an online purchase once per week, and plaintiff lawyers are delivering ADA-compliance lawsuits even faster. The Supreme Court is showing no remorse for companies whose websites are not ADA-compliant. If you get served, your only option is to pay up. Here are 6 steps some of our clients have taken to successfully operate an ADA-compliant website and avoid costly damages.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All content and information available are for informational purposes only.

 

Step 1: Understand the Seriousness of ADA-Compliance

Gavel Statue on top of water in front building

The American Disabilities Act requires all places of public accommodation to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. It’s no surprise that in the year 2019, the world wide web is now considered a place of public accommodation (See: Title III).

In 2016, Domino’s Pizza Inc. was hit with an ADA- compliance lawsuit that claimed the website doesn’t ensure the blind and visually impaired can order food through the website or mobile app. As of October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court is refusing to review Domino’s appeal on the basis that ADA is a strict liability law, meaning there are no excuses for non-compliance violations.

Plaintiff lawyers are working overtime to serve up lawsuits for non-compliant companies. No matter how many unique visitors your website attracts, if it’s inaccessible for web users with mental or physical disabilities, your business is a target for legal action

Reports reveal that there is one web-related ADA lawsuit every working hour. This means 8 a day, 40 a week, and more than 2,000 a year. In 2018, more than 7,500 ADA suits were arraigned in federal court. Now that you understand it’s not a question of if, but when you’ll be targeted, let’s dive into the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

“While plaintiff lawyers handing out ADA-compliant lawsuits may seem predatory it is necessary and an important part of our justice system. Our government alone would not have the resources to enforce important regulations. So, these lawsuits are here to stay. Companies must know that there are consequences for non-compliance. As a business stakeholder, we have the challenge of balancing compliance, cost, and customer experience.

— Adam Morris, CEO, Redstage.

Step 2: Review Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

blur book with open page an glasses and magnifying glass on top

6.2 billion shoppers are expected to shop online this Cyber week alone, leaving eCommerce businesses vulnerable to potential lawsuits. To help you prepare, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explains how users with disabilities can access sites. While you’re in the process of strategically planning your holiday content, be sure to double-check all points of access to your store. You need to ensure your site is “perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.” For a full explanation of these terms, see the link to WCAG above.

Taking proper measures to get an ADA-compliant website will save companies time and money. This step is always forgotten, overlooked, and never budgeted for. Many helpful tools can let you know if your site passes ADA requirements and extensions that come with approved codes.

— Jignesh Joshi, Sr. Project Manager, Redstage

Step 3: Add Alternative Means of Access

Disabled woman faced with inaccessble stairs to office or college building.

Ensuring your content is ‘perceivable’ may not be the toughest task you’ll face on your ADA-compliance journey. In fact, it may even be the opposite. According to the WCAG, all images including charts and infographics must include alt-text. Since SEO and content marketing are already part of your eCommerce strategy, you’ve likely already added alt-text to all of your imagery. To make sure, take some time to go through your archive and add relevant alt-text wherever it’s missing. This process may be tedious, but site readers (software) must be able to successfully read and describe your images to the blind and visually impaired.

54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. Naturally, videos have become a common practice for brands. All published video and audio files must also be accessible to those with disabilities. This can be achieved by including closed captions and text transcripts.

Closed captions should be accurate and in sync with video while text transcripts should accurately convey what’s in the video file. If you’re producing audio content like podcasts, you may want to pay close attention.

The WCAG updates are continuous and it can be easy to overlook minor details like fonts, for example. Make sure your fonts are clearly readable and properly displayed on a high contrast background. To play it safe, keep the standard light background and dark font. These minor changes can be a huge help for your users to easily navigate your site.

Step 4: Provide Easy Navigation for your Users

Ancient Antique Map to Represent Navigation

Luckily for our readers, we’ve been sharing tips on how to provide a fast and frictionless user experience for customers all year. If you’ve been following along, you should already be one step ahead, since user operation for ADA-compliance and frictionless experiences go hand-in-hand. When focusing on navigation, the first step is to ensure your website’s entire navigation can be fully operated via keyboard, without a mouse or touchscreen.

Users should have the ability to pause, slow down automatic movements, interact with images, and play videos through the keyboard. One tip is to stay away from auto-play to give your visitors enough time to read and process content.

Secondly, if your website doesn’t have a search function that can help your customers find products and information at ease, it’s required under the Web Accessibility Standards to have one.

Lastly, do not forget to include a site map. Remember, a positive user experience requires users to have the ability to operate your website that is understandable and feels natural. Again, you probably have one already because site maps improve your SEO.

Step 5: Website Features Should Be Understandable

Man on Laptop Looking at website with sneakers

When producing content, remember: all of your visitors must be able to read and understand it. Providing a default language function can not only keep you out of a lawsuit, but it can positively affect your conversion rate. We all know the uncomfortable feeling of standing in the middle of a conversation without understanding what is being discussed. To ensure your users and their reading assistance technology can properly function, refrain from the use of jargon, idioms, and abbreviations without properly introducing or explaining them.

Your website may already have the main functions that are considered predictable under the WCAG. Your users should be able to come to your website and predict what will happen as they interact. If you’re unsure, we have provided a brief checklist below.

  1. An X in the upper left- or right-hand corner for users to close the window.
  2. All Visible forms have instructions
  3. Navigation is consistent across all pages (Up, down, left, right,)

It may seem like a lot to fine-tune your website. Make sure you keep your developers in the loop as they’re coding and responsible for making sure your website is running smoothly. It takes a lot of work to get fully compliant. Once you’ve achieved compliance, you’ll want to keep it that way.

Step 6: Website Should Be Error-Free

black Screen with Colorful codes

While developers have a lot on their to-do list, the main priority is to make sure your website is robust enough to be considered ADA-compliant. This step may take the most time, but it can save you more than $50,000. Without getting into too much coding jargon, the overall presentation must be error-free and coded with standard HTML tags. We touched on some of these points earlier in the article, so here’s a quick checklist to review with your developers.

  1. Clear Descriptive Text
  2. Nested Headings
  3. Clear Forms
  4. Uniform Labels
  5. Section Labels
  6. Clean Code

Keep in mind that the work you do to make your site accessible benefits ALL users, not just those who may have disabilities. You will see the positive results of providing an accessible, easy-to-use site almost immediately.

—Kevin Rydberg, Managing Accessibility Consultant, Siteimprove

Final Thoughts

Remember,  reaching ADA-compliance is a process with many steps to complete. With an estimated 30% increase in lawsuits this year, there’s no time to waste. Remember, the information provided in this blog does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Our trusted partners at Siteimprove can help you pinpoint accessibility issues that can potentially put your site at risk of an ADA-compliance lawsuit. Consider them your first step to protection before lawyering up. They can get you involved in a program that will help shield you from those who would target your online store. Do not hesitate to get a powerful, free website report and request a Demo here.

If you’re looking for a more robust, comprehensive solution to cover all holiday risks (including security, bug monitoring, and ADA-compliance, check out Redstage’s new security and maintenance bundle here. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions! We’re always happy to help.

ADA Compliance Lawsuits Converge On eCommerce in 2019

ADA Compliance Lawsuits Converge On eCommerce in 2019

It’s 2019. Accessibility and social justice are everything. As a result, ADA compliance lawsuits are being filed in record numbers, and ecommerce companies are a major target. Here’s the info you need to understand the issue and protect your online business.

ADA Compliance Crackdown

Although the U.S. Department of Justice has delayed the release of the latest federal accessibility guidelines, companies are expected to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Resulting from this lack of federal guidance, users with disabilities are lawyering up against even the biggest online behemoths. Among these, Amazon, Apple, and Nike have been called out for failure to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with hundreds of other businesses, driving a torrent of actions.

According the the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, there were ”at least 814 federal web accessibility lawsuits filed in 2017, but an assessment of the issue by ClassAction.org shows the number of lawsuits [filed] in 2018 may far surpass that number.” In fact, in the first two months of 2018, roughly 200 different ADA lawsuits were filed against websites, at which point retail law advisory Goulston & Storris announced there was “No Relief in Sight”. While it remains unclear just how many lawsuits have been brought since last March, it is expected for this surge in suits to continue.

Why Haven’t I Heard About This?

If you haven’t been targeted yet, chances are you know someone who has. If not, the reason you haven’t heard about this is simple: The Wayfair case. The recent explosion of content on the Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair decision incited a media frenzy that circled ecommerce’s corner of the web, from top news agencies to the smallest tech blogs. With the industry distracted by a wide-reaching tax-compliance issue —and retail giants like Nike keeping tight-lipped about their lawsuits— the compliance issue has remained largely under the radar.

In 2018, more than 13,000 suits were filed over online ADA compliance as of October, with ecommerce playing a large role. It’s not the issue alone that’s troubling, it’s the rate at which suits are being brought that’s startling. Last year, 7663 suits were arraigned in federal court, which at the time was a 16% increase over the previous year (see chartL ADA Title III Lawsuits in Federal Court: 2013-2017). With an ever increasing number of lawsuits looming on the horizon, the industry may face a 20% increase over last year for 2019. “I spoke with someone about these suits during Magento Imagine 2018. Just as the conference was ending, they received an email saying their own site had been targeted and served an ADA suit.” Adam Morris, Redstage CEO said. “Ecommerce companies should make accessibility a priority for the year ahead.”

Can My Site Be Next?

ADA compliance lawsuits converge on ecommerce in 2019, accessibility

While a discriminatory class action suit could spell disaster for any company, the first step is identifying the types of companies that fall into the legal crosshairs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, these company categories are as follows:

  • Businesses engaged in an industry affeciting commerce (Title I)
  • Businesses with 15 or more full-time employees (Title I)
  • Businesses operating for 20 weeks or more every year  (Title I)
  • Businesses categorizes as “Public Accommodations” (Title III) including:
    -Inns, hotels, and motels
    -Restaurants and bars
    -Bakeries and grocery stores
    -Hardware stores or any sales/retail outlet
    -Banks
    -Laundromats and dry cleaners
    -Accountants and lawyers’ offices
    -Health care providers’ offices
    -Public transportation
    -Recreation venues
    -Schools
    -Social service centers
    -Gyms

While the ADA compliance is primarily focused on physical locations, Title III states that barring access to people with disabilities in the private sector is discrimination, which encompasses websites. With 15% of the global population living with some form of disability (41M+ Americans), and online shopping being so prevalent – think Black Friday – companies are losing business due to inaccessible websites and continuing to run the risk of being served an accessibility lawsuit.

How is Redstage Being Proactive?

Redstage recently partnered with Siteimprove, an all-in-one software that provides the insights needed to address issues relating to accessibility, as well as SEO, content quality, brand compliance, data privacy, and more.

“The Siteimprove and Redstage partnership is one we’re extremely excited about given our common goal of positively impacting web accessibility.” Siteimprove Sales Director Ted Goldberg Said. “We’re looking forward to working together to help facilitate increased accessibility for their client’s sites as well their own.”
The Redstage team is excited about this partnership, as Siteimprove’s automated accessibility checks help identify website elements that violate WCAG 2.0 guidelines, while also organizing those issues into a prioritized list. By partnering with Siteimprove, Redstage will be able to mitigate risk for our clients while building a strong, overall accessibility strategy.

Conforming Your Site to ADA Compliance

At Redstage, we’ve already had our fair share of engagements with merchants facing ADA lawsuits. “Our clients are seeing increased pressure from legal trolls targeting them because they are not ADA compliant. The ADA compliance rules are vague at best, so companies with an ecommerce channel should have an informed partner to help them.” Redstage CEO Adam Morris explained. To mitigate this risk, Redstage is working with specialized authorities in the ADA field to give clients and readers a comprehensive ADA compliance report.

“ADA compliance contains many elements of a great UX strategy,” says Adam Piken, Redstage’s Creative Director, “Your site should be user-friendly and intuitive, allowing customers to find buttons, check out, get your phone number, or type a question into your live-chat quickly and easily.” In this way, ADA compliance is reinforcing activities ecommerce companies should already be doing.

Most importantly, ADA compliance takes considerable design alterations in most cases, so the best time to get compliant is during your next redesign or site migration. If you’ve been following along with our Magento 1 End of Life Initiative, we recommend putting ADA compliance at the top of your Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration checklist.

Get Your ADA Compliance Check Now

If you think your site is at risk of being targeted, email us and we’ll get you set up with a team of experts to help identify and eliminate potential access barriers that may impede access and usability for your users, while safeguarding your business from legal action.

SCOTUS: States Can Charge Ecommerce Sales Tax… But There’s More To The Story.

SCOTUS: States Can Charge Ecommerce Sales Tax… But There’s More To The Story.

States Can Force Ecommerce Sales Tax

 

States Can Charge Ecommerce Sales Tax

So, it finally happened. The South Dakota state government can now charge eCommerce sales tax for online businesses.

This morning the US Supreme Court announced the 5-4 ruling, overturning a 1992 decision (Quill Corp v. North Dakota) that barred states from collecting sales tax from businesses with “no physical presence” in their state. The high court ruled against Wayfair, Overstock.com, and Newegg, sending their stock price into a fall (along with that of Amazon, Etsy, Ebay and more). As a result of the ruling, many fear the gates have been opened for all 45 states that collect sales tax to use the Wayfair decision to charge Internet sales tax. When this happens, online shops will likely begin charging customers at the checkout, driving up eCommerce prices for customers.

However… Consumers are already required to report their online purchases and pay the applicable taxes. According to CNN, “Last year, states could have collected as much as $13.4 billion in additional online sales taxes, according to the General Accountability Office. Although buyers are technically supposed to add up their purchases and pay all the applicable taxes along with their regular filing, few do.” As a result, some argue this decision is fair, especially when one considers eCommerce’s massive impact on the U.S. economy.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy.” He also mentioned the need for states to collect the tax as digital retail continues to explode, saying, “The expansion of e-commerce has also increased the revenue shortfall faced by States seeking to collect their sales and use taxes.” With eCommerce poised to make up 17% of US retail sales by 2022, the ruling makes sense now more than ever.

Who Wins?

The likely winners in this scenario will be states who can now collect the online sales tax (many more to come), and Amazon, who has been paying state sales taxes for years. While the decision will hurt smaller, non-monolithic eCommerce businesses, Amazon’s competition will now likely face the same tax requirements, keeping Amazon even still again, ahead of the curve.

For now, in South Dakota, the law will only apply to eCommerce sites with more than $100,000.00 in sales revenue from commerce within the state. The state now stands to gain an additional 50 million dollars in revenue annually from the tax. Lastly, as CNBC reports, “[the] states that are likely to see the biggest percentage increase in revenue are Louisiana, Tennessee, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Alabama, according to the Barclays research.”

Want to learn more about the future of eCommerce? Check out our latest podcast here.