ADA Compliance and the Digital Age

On June 12th, 2017 a Florida judge determined that Winn-Dixie, a southern-based grocery store chain, did not meet the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance for websites. The Florida court concluded that Winn-Dixies’ website was too heavily integrated with the company’s physical store locations, making it subject to the ADA. A decision that required the company to update its site. Judge Robert Scola of Florida writes, “The factual findings demonstrate that Winn-Dixie’s website is inaccessible to visually impaired individuals who must use screen reader software… Therefore, Winn-Dixie has violated the ADA because the inaccessibility of its website has denied the plaintiff the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations that Winn-Dixie offers to its sighted customers.”

Why is ADA compliance important in today’s digital day and age? The general consensus right now is that any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA-compliant web presence. “Public accommodation” could apply to most things depending on who is making the interpretation. Generally, however, this would refer to B2C, retail, or any business the general public should be able to use, understand and access easily.

For companies with more than 15 employees, the ADA mandates that such actions to serve its consumers appropriately via the physical store locations must also be upheld through its digital presence as well. Well, what does that mean exactly? The website must be user-friendly. What can you do to protect your business from being vulnerable to ADA infractions when it involves website compliance? Just follow all 61 guidelines laid out in the WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level.

Sound like an expensive problem? Don’t get too scared! A lot of the guidelines are pretty standard in today’s websites and the ones that may not be can easily be fixed by your web developer in only a few minutes. So, what do you need to do to be compliant?

  • The text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
  • Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes things like skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tab index everywhere.
  • Your site should be navigable with screen reader software. This can be difficult to test and can involve some arduous fixes similar to what is necessary for keyboard navigation.
  • Your site must handle text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout issues. Once again, this may be more difficult to fix in some complex designs.

Staying on top of compliance is crucial to avoid potential lawsuits. There a few ways to verify your compliance with certain software that can be tested for ADA compliance.

  • WAVE is a good start but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues.
  • Lighthouse can help generate a report on potential issues.
  • Manual testing for contrast ratio using this calculator.
  • Manual testing with screen reader software
  • Manual testing with keyboard-only navigation

Tools such as these will catch a lot of simple problems, but manual testing will be required to catch detailed issues if you wish to maintain ADA compliance ongoing.

Perfect Six works with web developers daily to ensure that their clients are always ADA compliant and if not, working towards correcting the issue to get their websites up to date and working efficiently for all consumers. Contact us for any questions your business may have when it comes to being compliant with your digital market presence.

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