Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (often referred to as ADA) is the most comprehensive law ever passed protecting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Not only does it prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities, but it gives people with disabilities the opportunity to gain access to goods and services that many people take for granted. In addition, the ADA guidelines establish requirements for telecommunications relay services. Although many people know about the existence of this law, they don’t know how it affects the digital world.

Goals of the ADA guidelines

The goal of the act is to remove the barriers encountered by people with disabilities as they go about living their lives. For example, the ADA has set minimum space layout requirements, so people in wheelchairs have an easier time using public transportation.

The same act works to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in hiring practices, as it pertains to job application procedures, hiring, promotions and discharge of employees, job training and any other employment-related factors.

In a world becoming increasingly digital, how does a website fit into the ADA?

While websites are not officially outlined as a part of the ADA guidelines, they are considered part of Title III: Public Accommodations. As more people start to rely on websites to gather information, make purchases, and engage with their favorite brands, inaccessible websites become an issue.

ADA guidelines and compliance is a very important topic for website owners. Just as any brick & mortar location must be accessible to all employees and customers, your website should also be accessible. The best way to ensure web accessibility is by following the latest WCAG guidelines outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Do the ADA regulations apply to my organization?

The ADA guidelines apply to your organization if you are:

  • A state or local government agency
  • A non-profit service provider that is a place of public accommodation
  • A privately operated entity offering certain types of educational courses and examinations
  • A privately operated transportation organization or commercial facility

Find out

Title II & Title III

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) revised the ADA Title II and Title III regulations in 2011 and 2012. A full accounting of these changes is available on the ADA.gov website.

Put simply, Title II was designed to prevent discrimination or service denial for all state or local agencies or entities whether or not they are funded by the federal government. Title III involves private business e-commerce and web accessibility for all people, regardless of disability. Because technology has changed so much since the ADA was first established, these titles were updated for the benefit of everyone.

ADA compliance and the SANPRM

While this development does not directly impact businesses covered by Title III, it does suggest a few relevant considerations. The questions posed in the Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) of 2016 indicates that the DOJ is considering many of the ADA compliance issues faced by Title III businesses.

There has been a recent wave of website accessibility demand letters and lawsuits sent to businesses on behalf of private plaintiffs and advocacy groups. It would be a positive development for any eventual government regulation to address these issues and provide a standard for Title II and Title III organizations to follow.

Given that the government has recently started discussions for the Title II regulations, it may be even longer before we see final regulations for Title III entities. The DOJ has long indicated its intent to first work on the Title II regulations, and then draw upon them in developing the subsequent Title III regulations. As of early 2019, the final regulations have not been updated and accepted.

As a result of the delays, businesses have to continue to draw teachings from a variety of indirect/analogous resources when assessing how to best address accessible technology issues with regards to ADA compliance.

ADA guidelines and the customer experience

More and more organizations are starting to see the importance of these ADA guidelines and compliance regarding them. Besides being a regulation, ensuring that digital assets meet the requisite standards allows customers with disabilities to engage with their preferred websites.

Studies have shown that 90% of customer experience decision-makers say that a good experience is critical to their success. Inversely, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel companies consistently meet their expectations.  It only makes sense that 87% of organizations agree that traditional experiences no longer satisfy customers, according to a 2018 Accenture report.

The disability market is one area of non-traditional experiences that companies can focus on. When customers with disabilities have a seamless browsing experience, finding information or conducting transactions becomes much more feasible. Organizations that make accessibility a priority have the opportunity to build brand loyalty and repeat business from the largest minority group in the world.

An innovative solution

Level Access has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and to assist organizations with all aspects of ADA guidelines and compliance.

This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more by requesting a personalized demo and discover how we can simplify ADA guidelines and compliance for your business.