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Really? My Website Needs to Be ADA Compliant?

By Tim Kolacz

As many of you may not know, the Americans With Disabilities Act now includes provisions inside the law that now states that websites need to be accessible to the disabled. So just as in the past, a business has needed to make sure that people can enter their store or their place of business, now the business owner also needs to make sure that their website can be accessed by those people who have some disability which limits their ability to access their website.

By doing this, you can now enter a whole new group of people that could potentially use your product that would not have been able to learn more about your goods and services beforehand. However, as with most things, there is a cost to bear to make this happen as the majority of websites are not compliant with ADA.

When your site is not in compliance and someone determines that you are not in compliance and wants to make sure that you are, the attorney will send out their standard “scare the crap out of you” letter. These are primarily demand letters stating that they want some dollar amount to make the potential for lawsuit go away. Be very careful of these letters. The reason is, you will pay them some money, have your “web guy” go in and review it and then put an ADA Compliant graphic on the site and you think all is well. However, the lawyer then comes back around 6 months from now, your site is still not compliant and then the lawsuit happens. The immediate targets are those in the mortgage and medical fields as these are very high profile sites and can be easily determined who the owners of the sites are and how to contact them.

This is why you need something a bit more robust and get a website that is now “defensible” against these potential problems. By defensible, I mean that you now have a website that has gone through several rounds of compliance review and is now available to the disabled.

The first item on the agenda is to review all of the so-called ADA Compliant scans that you are starting to see on the Internet. By and large, these scans are worthless; hence why most are free. What they do is use an algorithm to look for key markers in your site that pop up and show a non-compliance code to the software. The issue here is that they are only about 30% accurate and generate a lot of false positives. If you know what is wrong, you will know when something is right.

What is really needed instead is to have a 3rd party company come in and do an audit of the website and then have people that can actually change the code of the website that actually drives your site and make sure that that code is correct. They need to go through your website, element by element to determine what can be kept and what should be modified.

The best way to have this happen is to have the people auditing your site to be both blind and sighted; hearing and deaf. This then allows your site to be properly reviewed, checked, and crystal clear to this group and then you can know that your sight will pass compliance. Here’s an example of a blind person navigating a non-ADA compliant site; the narrator is a little wonky, but you should get the idea. 

Great, I’ll do it, but what’s it gonna cost? Well, it could be a lot. However, not as much as a bunch of lawyers creeping around and making your life miserable in the meantime. Engaging the right people now, will avoid the problems that could come down the pike later. Shutting down your website is also an option. But what will that do to your lead generation to the business. If you are e-commerce, you can’t just shut it down as you now have no revenue. Should you shut down the website and have a team build you a new website that is ADA Compliant? You can, as long as you can avoid what I just mentioned above. The process will also take some time, but it can be done efficiently.

Just like most things, if you prepare now, the cost difference is 10:1 in your favor. Do it before the lawyer shows up and really take a bite out of your bottom line.

Tom Reynolds of The Reynolds Marketing Group was interviewed for this article and is helping his clients become ADA Compliant. Tom can be reached at [email protected].

Tim Kolacz

Tim Kolacz is a regular contributor to IE Business Daily and is a Commercial Insurance Broker for HUB International. By the way, he narrowly missed PRing in his last triathlon. [email protected]

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