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Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III and WCAG Guidelines
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Introduction to the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, is a landmark piece of legislation designed to guarantee that individuals with disabilities receive equal rights in all facets of life.
What is ADA Title III?
ADA Title III explicitly prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public accommodations. This includes ensuring physical access to various facilities such as hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and retail stores.
Digital Accessibility added to Title III
In a significant move in 2018, the Department of Justice clarified that websites fall under the category of "places of public accommodation," thereby requiring them to be accessible to people with disabilities.
"The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations' websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA's requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities."
The DOJ's position was further reinforced in 2022, with updated guidance detailing how businesses can ensure their web assets comply with ADA standards.
Notable Title III Cases Cited by the Department of Justice
Teachers Test Prep agreed to add captions to their online courses for deaf people.
The Department reached an agreement with Teachers Test Prep, Inc., regarding complaints that the test prep company’s online video courses did not provide captions and were inaccessible to people who are deaf.
H&R Block fixes their website so people with disabilities can use it with assistive technology.
The Department reached an agreement with H&R Block to address claims that the company failed to code its website so that individuals with disabilities could use assistive technology such as screen reader software, refreshable Braille displays, keyboard navigation, and captioning.
Peapod makes their online grocery delivery accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The Department reached an agreement with Peapod to address claims that its online grocery delivery services were not accessible to some individuals with disabilities.
WCAG Guidelines for Compliance
All is not lost. WCAG guidelines show you how to make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations.
WCAG guidelines are not law
To align with legal expectations and promote accessibility, U.S. courts recommend that businesses comply with WCAG 2.1 at the AA level.
However, following WCAG guidelines is recognized as the best practice for reducing legal risks and ensuring that your website is navigable and usable by individuals with disabilities.
You can learn more about WCAG levels of conformance here.
You can view the Department of Justice's Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA here.
WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) provides a set of recommendations for making websites and web-based applications accessible to people with disabilities. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Title III requires that all public accommodations and commercial facilities be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
How does Counsel Stack mitigate the risk of a noncompliant website?
Counsel Stack's team conducts a thorough accessibility audit of your website, evaluating the UX (user experience), design, source code, and usability to identify areas that do not meet WCAG and ADA Title III standards.
Why is WCAG conformance and ADA compliance important for my website?
Approximately 16% of the world's population lives with some form of disability. Compliance with WCAG and ADA Title III is not only a legal requirement for many websites but also ensures your site is accessible to a wider audience, including individuals with disabilities.
What are the four principles at the top of WCAG 2 Layers of Guidance?
The four principles are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, forming the foundation for Web accessibility.
What is the significance of success criteria in WCAG 2?
Testable success criteria are defined for each guideline, with three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.
What should authors consider for accessibility in cognitive, language, and learning areas?
Authors are advised to explore the full range of techniques, including advisory techniques, and seek relevant advice to ensure content accessibility to individuals with varying types, degrees, or combinations of disability.
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