Most people think of wheelchair ramps or handicapped parking spaces when they think of the Americans With Disabilities Act. But new laws are broadening the scope of accessibility to include websites. Your website could look good and be functional with lots of great information. But if a disabled person can’t use it you could receive a letter from lawyers threatening to sue under the ADA.

Federal ADA laws already require that websites related to federal, state, or local governments or those that receive federal funding must be digitally compliant for people with disabilities. The Americans With Disabilities act requires business and stores that are “places of public accommodation” to be physically accessible for people with disabilities through such modifications as wheelchair ramps or handicapped parking spaces. At issue is the definition of a website as “a place of public accommodation.”

The law can interpret private businesses as “places of public accommodation” simply by virtue of the fact that they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Courts have interpreted this language to mean that the ADA law applies to all commercial websites. Some courts have interpreted this language to mean that a website must be accessible if it has a connection to a physical location, such as the online arm of a brick-and-mortar retail store.

There’s no consensus on what the law actually means right now. But every indication is that they are going to interpret the ADA to apply to commercial websites. This has online business owners worried. The example of the website Scribd and its “NetFlix for books” program wasn’t accessible to screen readers, which meant that the service was inaccessible to blind readers, is a warning sign for business owners.

Scribd’s argument was that Scribd isn’t a physical place and it’s therefore not regulated by the ADA. the judge refused Scribd’s attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed, and they ended up settling. Scribd was required to modify its titles (Section 4) to be accessible by screen readers. They were also required to modify and maintain its website as accessible (section 5).

We’re urging business owners to take steps to make their website accessible. We’re urging people to take steps no matter what type of business they have, but especially one that is accessible to anyone over the internet, as most ecommerce and service-based websites are. This isn’t about a fear of a lawsuit, although that is what’s on people’s minds. It’s about ensuring that your site meets the legal requirements of accessibility.

A plugin like ADA Plugin is a business’s first step to protecting themselves. A lawsuit that forces you to come into compliance won’t have as much “teeth” if you’re already taking steps to make your website accessible. The ADA Plugin runs on a site’s back-end to detect and warn your of compliance issues. It takes a look at each element on your site and compares it to WCAG 2.1.

If your site has issues, a warning pops up when the scan is run, so that you can see what the issue is, what guidelines it is referring to, and suggestions on how to fix it. IF you resolve the issue, the scan remembers and won’t show that warning next time. The plugin is a great way to ensure that your site is moving toward compliance and keep it compliant once you get there.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In 2016, more than 250 lawsuits were filed against companies that had websites that were not accessible to people with vision or hearing issues. Many of these lawsuits were filed against medical and retail companies as well as banks.

Credit unions are now looking at what they need to do to be ADA compliant. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requires businesses to make accommodations so that people with disabilities have the same access to the same services that are available and accessible to the general public. Typically what happens is that a business will receive a “demand letter,” which then gives them the opportunity to negotiate a settlement as well as demands that they improve the level of services they are offering to people with disabilities.

These demand letters are costly to respond to. It is far better to seek digital compliance for credit unions and avoid a demand letter in the first place. Because the website standards specifically for credit unions have not yet been set, most new websites are not being built to ADA standards.

It is possible though, if you choose to work with a vendor that is knowledgeable about the subject, to retrofit a credit union website for digital compliance. Choices such as spacing, font size and color contrast can be retrofitted to allow for digital compliance for credit unions.

A tool such a the ADA Plugin helps compliance managers for credit unions quickly and easily tell what they need to improve to meet the standards set forth for website accessibility through the Rehabilitation Act.

Working to bring the facets of digital compliance for credit unions to life now makes sense…as our populations age, they will be dealing with arthritis, lower levels of vision and hearing, reduced mobility and medical conditions that make it harder to use a computer. Making a website easy to use for this population ensures that you can more easily meet digital compliance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]