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Does Your Website Comply with Accessibility Laws?

In addition to ensuring their stores meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, retailers should now take steps to ensure their websites meet accessibility guidelines.

In addition to ensuring their stores meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, retailers should now take steps to ensure their websites meet accessibility guidelines.»

Retailers should be familiar with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 to provide people with disabilities sufficient access to public areas. Now retailers should become familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, because Congress and the courts have extended the ADA to address websites and web applications. Courts are now interpreting Title III of the ADA to require places of “public accommodation” like retail stores to ensure that their web presence is also accessible.

The Supreme Court has denied Domino’s appeal of the ground-breaking website accessibility decision entered against it by a court in California. The court in that decision found that the ADA applied to the Domino’s Pizza website and mobile app, because their inaccessibility “impedes access to goods and services of its physical pizza franchises, which are places of public accommodation.”

So what does this mean? If you have a brick and mortar establishment or are already subject to the ADA, your website and other web applications must be accessible. The WCAG appears to be the relevant certification standard.

Awareness of the web accessibility issue has increased with the record numbers of website-access lawsuits that have been filed in recent years. According to website accessibility company UsableNet, last year there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in the nation’s federal courts, an increase of 181 percent from 2017.

ADA web accessibility lawsuits, filed in federal and state courts, have impacted many companies and organizations from restaurants like Domino’s Pizza, to grocery stores like Winn-Dixie, to universities such as Harvard and MIT.

There are voluntary guidelines to follow for developing more accessible websites that have been generally recognized by the courts to indicate ADA compliance. These guidelines, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), are administered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to make websites more accessible for the disabled.

The WCAG 2.0 guidelines and the newly-minted 2.1 updates are a useful starting point for companies with an online presence to make their content more accessible, according to digital publishing company Blue Toad.

These accessibility guidelines address elements such as providing text alternatives to non-text content, including content that can be presented in multiple formats, and providing keyboard navigation in addition to navigation by cursor. When websites are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can more easily use them. Web content can be made more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities and photosensitivity.

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