Website accessibility: A wheelchair ramp for your website
You’ve probably heard of people who file lawsuits when they find an organization that doesn’t provide wheelchair access. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, lack of wheelchair access is a clear case of discrimination. For many years, individuals have been pairing with attorneys specifically for the purpose of finding wheelchair access violations and filing lawsuits. These suits almost always end in a financial settlement because the cost of arbitrating is astronomical and because they are unable to dispute the violation.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has expanded its legislation requiring all websites be accessible to people with disabilities. The easiest way to understand website accessibility is to imagine how blind people interact with the internet. Special software reads website content and the user navigates through it using their keyboard. When a website is not accessible, the screen reader cannot interpret the content and the user cannot navigate with their keyboard.
In December, one of our local Montana clients was sued in New York state federal court for discrimination because their website was not accessible. When I researched the plaintiff and attorney, I found that they are filing dozens of lawsuits against random websites around the country. It appears to be a clear case of what the industry calls “digital ambulance chasing”. Unfortunately, the goal of these lawsuits is not to bring websites into compliance but rather to get paid.
For this reason, we are strongly recommending that your website become compliant with industry-wide accessibility standards.
We’ve been bringing websites into compliance by adding an accessibility widget that continuously scans content and augments code to make and keep it accessible.
The widget has an annual fee that varies depending upon the size of your website – more specifically, the number of pages Google has indexed.
You can see the widget in-action right here on our own website – note the blue person-icon in the lower right hand corner.
The widget also gives you an accessibility statement and an accessibility audit showing your compliance.
Without a compliant website, you are at risk of a discrimination lawsuit.
More information about the ADA’s legislation is available here: https://www.ada.gov/resources/web-guidance/
There is a tax credit that helps offset the accessibility expenses you incur each year and it does apply to web accessibility
Website accessibility questions and answers
Why isn’t website accessibility a one time fee?
Great question. I’d much rather pay for something once and not have to deal with it ever again. The problem is that websites are constantly being updated. That may mean that blog posts are added, images are changed, staff are added and removed etc. It is possible to make a website accessible without adding an accessibility widget but the problem with a one-time accessibility overhaul is that the website will may fall out of compliance as soon as a change is made.
The accessibility widget continuously scans your website’s content and adds accessibility features on the fly. For that reason, it comes with an annual fee.
Do I qualify for the website accessibility tax credit?
The ADA tax credit benefit is available to businesses that generated $1,000,000 or less during the year prior to filing or businesses that employ 30 or fewer full-time employees.
The tax credit, listed under Section 44 of the IRS Code, covers 50% of the eligible access expenditures made during the previous tax year, with a maximum expenditure limit of $10,250. There is no credit for the first $250 of the expenditures, and so, it is subtracted accordingly. Therefore, the highest amount of credit a business can receive is $5,000.
My organization has less than 15 employees, so this doesn’t apply to me, right?
This is true for Title I which refers to employment discrimination but not true for Title III which pertains to disability and places of public accommodation (like websites). See an explanation here https://krisrivenburgh.medium.com/15-employees-for-ada-website-compliance-myth-30ee983e7b75
Does the accessibility widget protect me from legal action?
Nothing can fully protect you from legal action. Remember that anyone can sue you at any time for any reason. That’s the world we live in. Our accessibility widget provides you with an accessibility statement that outlines the browser and assistive technology compatibility of your website. It certifies that your website is compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines – which makes you compliant with all international accessibility standards!
In addition, monthly compliance audit reports further prove that your website is fully accessible and compliant.
At this point, you should have enough to stop any lawsuit in its tracks.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney and cannot offer legal advice. I recommend you consult with an attorney about this important issue.