The internet has dramatically changed the transactions between businesses and consumers. Today more information, activities, and services are available to consumers online. This has resulted in many websites being deemed a place of public accommodation, requiring ADA compliance for those with disabilities.
What is ADA?
ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is a civil rights law that provides protection to individuals with disabilities, similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. (ADATA.org, 2017)
Why is ADA extending to Websites?
The upcoming changes to website regulations will lift barriers for those who are blind, color blind, hearing impaired, and have difficulty grasping a computer mouse. Many facets of the revised industry standards will be designed with assistive technology in mind, which includes separate computer programs and devices, like screen readers, text enlargement programs and voice control software.
Just like a building, websites that are not ADA compliant create unnecessary barriers for use. Once your website is ADA compliant, it will allow individuals who cannot see, hear, or use a standard mouse complete access to the information and services your bank provides through its online channel.
Why is being ADA compliant important to your bank?
The obvious reason for updating your website is to avoid being hit with a costly lawsuit for non-compliance. Lawsuits can be filed in one of two ways: by the disabled party protected under ADA alleging that they were denied full and equal access to the goods and services at your place of public accommodation; or by the Department of Justice (DOJ) after performing an audit of your bank’s website.
In 2016, ADA Title III lawsuits increased by 37% to 6,601 cases. This number is projected to steadily increase in 2017, and in 2018, when the amendments to ADA regulations are put into place. (Seyfarth Shaw, 2017) These alarming statistics provide hard evidence that individuals and the DOJ are serious about the regulations and are seeking punitive actions for those who fail to comply.
The Upside: growing your business through compliance
Improvements to Search Engine Optimization
Complying with the new standards not only helps the disabled to read and understand the content on your website, but also helps the site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Many of the changes are enhancing the HTML coding, which allows search engine spiders to index the site in a more in-depth manner, increasing your page’s rank amongst competitors.
Example: Title tags on lists.
Expanding Your Customer Base
If your website is not currently ADA compliant, you are unknowingly turning away potential customers before they even had the chance to learn about your bank and its offerings. To put it in perspective, roughly 19 percent of Americans are disabled. By adapting your website so they can access it, you could be increasing your customer base by 19 percent. (census.gov, 2017)
What you need to do before 2018
To alleviate any legal risks and to ensure your website is ADA compliant, get access to the backend of your website now. Once you have access, conduct audits to review the four main areas affected: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. (w3.org, 2016)
– Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Having a descriptive text alternative for a photo.
- Providing captions for audio.
- Include a text queue for information convey by color.
– User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Making all functionality accessible from a keyboard.
- When an authenticated session expires, allow users to continue the activity without loss of data after re-authenticating.
- Adding descriptive titles to all web pages.
– The operation and information on the user interface must be clearly stated.
- Having links be visually distinct, or different from surrounding text.
- If an error occurs, text is provided to explain why.
- Providing instructions when content requires user input.
- Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
- Making tags and code that all browsers can understand.
- Using HTML form controls and links.
- Providing labels for interactive items in PDF.
As you complete the audit you may notice some of the updates are relatively simple, and you may be able to complete them within your bank’s CMS. Others are more difficult and time consuming, requiring website development skills. Contact your bank’s website developer or a firm with website development capabilities to start making the necessary changes to your site that cannot be completed internally.
Although the upcoming compliance regulations may not seem as daunting as you previously thought, they are very timely. This is why taking action now is crucial – 2018 may seem far away, but it will be here before you know it. Avoid a costly fine or lawsuit for non-compliance; start your auditing your website today. Being ADA compliant is far from a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing process. Set up protocols for continual audits and monitoring as your site grows and develops.