The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 to protect against the discrimination of people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. Historically, ADA has dealt with physical structures such as stores, but as technology has progressed some are calling for the ADA to apply to websites as well. Courts have seen a growing body of cases in recent years related to website compliance. However, courts have disagreed on how the ADA controls a website and have developed different interpretations of the law as a result. To combat this issue, the Department of Justice issued guidance on web accessibility this past year. The ADA regulations differ depending on what state your business operates. In California, for instance, a website needs to comply with ADA requirements if there is a sufficient nexus with the physical location. In New York, a website is independent of the physical space in terms of whether it must comply.
The best recommendation for a business, especially one that has a corresponding physical store, is to comply with the WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 AA “gold standard”. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the best standard to use to establish whether a website is ADA-compliant. You may have noticed a growing number of websites that have a small blue icon in the bottom corner with the image of a person. That icon opens a program that can manipulate a website and offers various accessibility functions for individuals who have mobility limitations, dyslexia, and visual impairments.
The WCAG provides in-depth guidance for the requirements to achieve an AA “gold-standard” rating. These include providing subtitles on videos, providing text alternatives on photos, and generating an Accessibility Statement to describe the efforts your organization takes to ensure accessibility.
Having an ADA-compliant and following WGAC guidelines should provide all your customers with an equal shopping experience.