by Sophia Meral Chapar, Solia Special Projects Manager

There’s been a critical new development in the law that affects anyone who has a website and who is also a public accommodation such as a restaurant, shop or law firm. Websites of businesses that are also open to the public are subject to laws that require accessibility for people with disabilities.

Years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act passed and had the effect of protecting those with disabilities against discrimination in employment and to mandate accessibility for disabled persons. This “accessibility” requirement required steps to ensure access to physical facilities. This was done by requiring buildings that accommodate the public to include wheelchair ramps, use minimum pathway and other considerations in construction to better accommodate the disabled.

However, at the time of the passage of that law, nobody was really thinking about digital access. In recent years, there’s been a change in thinking to extend the principles of accessibility to online access. If one thinks about it, websites are now just as important as physical access to a facility, if not more, to those seeking to use the services of businesses like home Home Depot or Domino’s Pizza.

After lots of initial confusion about the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its accessibility guidelines as they related to online features, the trend of extending the Act’s principles to online access has solidified. This applies to websites. Indeed plaintiffs have been successful in suing owners of websites whose sites are not designed to be accessible to the disabled. As but one example, one may refer to this article concerning a lawsuit brought by a blind plaintiff against Dominos Pizza.

Therefore, any website owner who operates a business open to the public (restaurants, stores) should immediately implement steps to comply with the law. In the context of websites, it appears some uncertainty will exist for some time, but a key step is to implement the standards of the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG), specifically WCAG 2.1 standards.

We cannot stress enough the importance of taking these steps now. If you need help, Solia Media can assist you in implementing WCAG 2.1 standards on your websites.

For example, we are updating our own clients’ older websites to include features that allow disabled users to have content read back to them, permit altered font size with predetermined keystrokes, and include the ability to change the colors in the screen to accommodate users with visual impairments. You can see that at work on our own site. Look to the bottom right of any of Solia Media’s web pages.

Call Solia for help in this area!