The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into US law by President George H. W. Bush (41) in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

If your website is open to the general public, this law applies to it – with meaningful potential legal (and financial) ramifications if you do not comply.

Title III of the ADA directs businesses to:

“…make ‘reasonable modifications’ to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. It also requires that they take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.  This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Relative to business websites, let’s explore:

  1. What might constitute ADA compliant “reasonable modifications” for a business website?
  2. Which businesses should be concerned?
  3. What are the potential consequences of not complying?

What are the potential consequences of not complying?

First, you could be forced to fund compliance. This can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending upon:

  • The complexity of your website.
  • Whether or not your website is on a platform (e.g., WordPress or Shopify) that already supports at some level the “reasonable modifications” required to be ADA compliant.
  • The extent to which you lean upon external vendors to address ADA compliance with your website.

There are obviously also potential legal liabilities. One of our clients was ordered to pay $50,000 related to a website ADA compliance lawsuit. In 2018, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in the US, up 181% since 2017, with most based in New York & Florida.

Which businesses should be concerned?

All businesses should be concerned with making their websites accessible to users with disabilities. But, there are specific characteristics that define businesses that could be legally required to comply with the ADA:

  1. Employing 15 or more full-time employees each working day, and
  2. Operating at least 20 or more calendar weeks in the year, and
  3. Is not:

What might constitute ADA compliant “reasonable modifications” for a business website?

The essence of the requirement is to put yourself in the shoes of a person with vision, hearing, and/or speech disabilities. You should make reasonable modifications to your website to accommodate such users, including but not limited to:

  • Coding content, including descriptions for images & video, so it can be read by screen-reader software for the blind, and offers adequate context for the deaf.
    • Don’t forget to address form submission error handling messaging.
  • Add a screen-reader software detectable declaration for the website’s language.
  • Code navigation options so they can used by those who navigate without a mouse.

Sources for details on “reasonable modifications” that might be considered to make a website ADA compliant follow:

ADA website compliance