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ADA Rules Extend to the Digital Realm

ADA Rules Extend to the Digital Realm

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Under the rules outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, certain businesses and other organizations must make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. Established in 1990, the ADA aims to ensure people with disabilities, including those with hearing, vision, and physical impairments, have the same opportunities as anyone else. As the internet has taken on a critical role in the everyday lives of people throughout Illinois and the U.S., the ADA’s accessibility requirements have extended to include websites and mobile apps.

Making Web Content Accessible for All Users

Businesses covered by the ADA must ensure that people who are hearing-impaired, visually impaired, or must otherwise navigate the internet using assistive technology can have meaningful engagement with the content on their websites. While the ADA requires website accessibility, it does not lay out regulatory guidance for how businesses should make their websites ADA-compliant. However, businesses may look to the established accessibility guidelines for government websites for direction on meeting the requirements and protecting themselves from penalties for non-compliance.

Some of the most commonly employed steps toward making web content accessible for all users include identifying the site’s language in the header code to assist those who use text readers. Creating text transcripts for any audio and video content may help hearing-impaired users engage with content otherwise inaccessible to them. Setting up alt tags for images, audio files, and video may allow users with disabilities to hear or read alternative descriptions of content, allowing them to understand what the object is and its purpose on the site. Websites should also provide alternatives and suggestions for input errors, so users who encounter difficulties due to their need to navigate the website differently may access to the content they need.

Which Businesses Must Comply with the ADA Rules?

The ADA applies to businesses that operate for 20 weeks or more each year and have at least 15 full-time workers. Additionally, the law requires businesses categorized as public accommodations, including banks, public transportation, and hotels, to comply.

Consequences of Failure to Comply

Failing to comply with the ADA requirements may open covered businesses up to lawsuits. If found not to have made an effort to make their websites reasonably accessible in court, businesses may be ordered to comply with the requirements, as well as to pay damages and attorney fees, which may add up quickly and affect their bottom lines.

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