Many ordinary citizens have at least a passing familiarity with The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.
It is most associated with laws requiring government offices and “places of public accommodation” to provide wheelchair access to buildings and restrooms, supplemental braille text on signage for the blind, etc.
In recent years, the Internet has become an integral part of nearly everyone’s daily lives. So much so that the courts have begun to weigh in or whether the ADA should apply to websites.
The results have been mixed.
Robles v. Domino’s LLC An early shot across the bow was the case Robles v. Domino’s LLC. Guillermo Robles—who is visually impaired—brought suit against Domino’s in 2016 claiming the Domino’s website not only prevented him from ordering a customized pizza, but also made online coupons inaccessible. Mr. Robles sought an order requiring compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), an international voluntary standard for making online content accessible.
On January 15, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the website and mobile app of Domino’s Pizza must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make these online services fully accessible to the visually impaired.
Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores On April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit issued its ruling in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, saying that websites are not covered as places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“Title III” or “ADA”). In doing so, the Court reversed the district court’s earlier decision finding that defendant, Winn-Dixie Stores, violated Title III by failing to maintain a website that is accessible to individuals, who are blind or have low vision.
As this illustrates, the legal landscape is uncertain. Some courts and states have embraced the idea that the ADA applies to websites while others have rejected the notion.
In the meantime, the best way to currently avoid website accessibility lawsuits like Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores and Robles v. Domino’s is to achieve substantial compliance with (WCAG 2.1) Levels A and AA.
How does the WCAG affect the broader ADA compliance laws?
The WCAG is an initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), the main international standards organization for the Internet. Significantly, it isn’t a set of laws that can be enforced, but many governments have adopted it as the standard for their accessibility laws.
In the United States businesses that have been sued over their website not being accessible under the ADA, as in Robles v. Domino’s LLC, the courts have required those websites to reach WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance.
As a business owner, what are my options?
At Michael Mackenzie Communications (MMC), we build all our client websites on the WordPress platform.
As an organization, WordPress is committed to being as inclusive and accessible as possible right out of the box.
However, a WordPress website is much more than just WordPress. There is a global ecosystem of tens of thousands of themes and plugins that power the advanced functionality WordPress can deliver. But not all theme and plugin developers are as committed to accessibility as WordPress.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help website owners improve their compliance with WCAG 2.1. There are some that claim to be able to make your website fully compliant with ADA and WCAG 2.1, but they come with a price tag. There are also other FREE tools that can mitigate many of the more basic issues.
These tools aim to make your website more accessible to users with disabilities such as:
- Seizure Disorders – Epilepsy
- Visually Impaired Users
- Blind Users
- Cognitive Disability
- ADHD Issues
- Diminished Motor Capabilities
The most comprehensive tools we’ve found are:
UserWay – https://userway.org/
- UserWay boasts that it is “The World’s Leading Automated Website Accessibility Solution for ADA & WCAG Compliance” trusted by over 1,171,990 websites.
- Claims to be able to make your website fully compliant.
- Pricing starts at $49/month.
accessiBe – https://accessibe.com/
- accessiBe bills itself as “The #1 Automated Web Accessibility Solution for ADA & WCAG Compliance” protecting over 100,000 websites worldwide.
- Claims to be able to make your website fully compliant.
- Pricing starts at at $49/month.
WP Accessibility Helper (WAH) Pro – https://accessibility-helper.co.il/pro/
- WAH describes itself as “Accessibility made easy!” with over 30,000 happy customers.
- It does not claim to be able to make your website fully compliant.
- Pricing starts at $199/year.
For those on a budget we suggest trying these FREE tools:
WP Accessibility Helper (WAH) – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-accessibility-helper/
5-Star rating with 20,000 active installations
- Font resizer
- Custom colors for contrast mode
- Underline all links
- Attachments control center with ability add/edit images titles and alt tags
- Invert colors & images mode
One Click Accessibility – https://wordpress.org/plugins/pojo-accessibility/
4.5-Star rating with 50,000 active installations
- High Contrast
- Links Underline
- Readable Font
- Add outline focus for focusable elements
- Remove the target attribute from links
Why do website owners need to make their website more accessible?
If you’re weighing the cost benefits of investing in accessibility features for your website consider these tangible benefits:
Avoid costly lawsuits
Mitigate the risk of lawsuits by complying with accessibility legislation.
Boost brand reputation
Showing that accessibility is important to you will enhance the perception of your brand.
Expand market reach
The spending power of people with disabilities is more than $6 trillion.
This post is courtesy of MMC Web Manager Kerry Wolfe