The Importance of Designing Your Eye Care Website To Be Compliant With the American Disabilities Act
By Josh G. Curtis, Esq. September 12, 2022
American Disabilities Act lawsuits happen daily- it's not something to take lightly! Do you know if your website is at risk? And if it is, do you know what you need to change?
This article contains relevant information about the American Disabilities Act (or the ADA) and how it applies to your eye care website.
Importance of Being Compliant With the ADA
According to a report from Accessibility, 2,058 accessibility lawsuits occurred in 2020. Many companies had significant legal exposure that could have cost billions due to inaccessible websites. There's the chance that your eye care website could also receive a lawsuit- it wouldn’t be cheap as it could cost your business about $25,000.
You must design your website with ADA rules in mind. We want people with disabilities to have equal access to the internet. Plus, your regular visitors will surely appreciate the changes, no matter how small.
Using the ADA and WCAG guidelines as the base for your website design comes with plenty of benefits, and you could find yourself in legal trouble if you ignore them!
Who Needs To Be Compliant?
Do you have to really make your website ADA and WCAG compliant? In short, yes. Since you run an eye care website, and particularly because you have a physical business space, you must follow the ADA’s guidelines. (Note conflicting case law about web only business vs. businesses with a physical space) You want any visitor to your site to have equal access to the information you post.
If you aren’t, that’s when you need to worry about lawsuits. Your site could deny those with disabilities equal access to eye health information, which is when you could receive website accessibility demand letters. There are many states with their own accessibility laws on the books. For example, California has even more stringent accessibility rules that need to be followed. And there’s a whole group of people called “ADA testers” that are accessibility advocates. They go out of their way to look for non-compliant websites. They sue on principle.
Most websites need to follow the ADA standard. According to the ADA, these types of websites must follow their rules, or they could face consequences:
● Business websites
● Websites funded by governments
So, if your web pages link to an eye care business, the courts and Department of Justice expect your site to follow the ADA. It’s often better to assume you must comply, so you aren’t hit with a Plaintiff demand or get wrapped up in costly litigation. Plaintiffs are able to recover legal fees! It’s better if you’ve shown an ongoing good faith effort to make your website more accessible. (PDFs, too, but that’s a different topic for another article!)
What Can These Guidelines Do for Your Site?
Aside from avoiding lawsuits, there are other ways following these regulations can benefit your eye care website.
Using alt text, closed captions, and or video transcripts on your website can drastically increase your website's usability, accessibility, and provide an SEO pop.
These elements help those with disabilities navigate your website and access the content. Being ADA compliant will boost your website's SEO rankings, especially when your competitors’ websites aren't easily accessible. If you can follow ADA standards, your website will appeal to a broader range of people- giving it more organic traffic and appeal.
When Can ADA Guidelines Impact Your Website?
Eye care websites will have more visually impaired users than your average website, so you must make it easy to access all of your content. Many people with visual disabilities use screen readers, a tool that allows them to interact with the internet through audio cues. Your website will need to allow those assistive technologies to function properly.
Misusing alt text can be very confusing to those using Screen Readers and other similar tools- making it impossible for them to understand your web page content. The ADA guidelines also want you to improve accessibility in other ways. For instance, adding subtitles in videos or providing visitors with a transcript of audio content.
If the internet goes down for a few minutes, typical users go into a panic and the modern workplace practically shuts down. Can you imagine if that were your online experience all the time?
How Do You Increase Accessibility?
It’s easier to design your website from scratch with accessibility in mind. However, that’s not always feasible, practical, or financially sensible. You can update your existing website for ADA and WCAG compliance. Getting through the updating process can take weeks. You’ll need to hire a web developer that has expertise in accessibility. Not all developers can or want to tackle these design challenges.
Below are some design ideas that will illustrate the types of website modifications that will help your website achieve ADA & accessibility compliance. This is not an exhaustive list.
Alternate Text on Images
First, you'll want to include alt text on all your images. Alt text can make your content accessible to those with visual disabilities.
Essentially, alt text describes the image out loud to website visitors using screen readers. If you want to comply with ADA guidelines, your alt text should be short and to the point!
Here are a few examples of good alt text:
● Man playing fetch with small dog
● Woman playing basketball with prescription sports glasses
● Child wearing glasses looking at laptop
Text and Site Design
Visual contrast in your website design makes it easier for people to see. You want to include a high contrast between the foreground and background, especially with any text on the page. Most people struggle to read text that doesn’t pop out enough.
Due to the high contrast, black text on a white background is accessible to many, so it’s always a safe option when unsure.
You should also ensure that users can change the font on the page. Being able to enlarge the text or change it to a different typeface helps those with Dyslexia and other reading disabilities.
Next, you must include keyboard navigation on your website. You can quickly test this by pushing the "tab" key on your keyboard. If you can reach all of the content by using "tab" and "enter," your site already includes a good amount of keyboard navigation.
If not, then you or your developer will need to correct that issue.
You'll need to make your video media accessible by adding audio descriptions and closed captions. Transcripts for audio-only content are essential as well.
Once you think you've finished working on your website, make sure to use an ADA compliance checklist.
We highly recommend that your practice invests in an ADA Compliant widget for your website. It’s a plugin that will work with your existing code base–whether you’re running Wordpress, HTML, or custom PHP. The right widget will address thirty or more accessibility requirements outlined by the ADA. It will make for happier users and customers. It might not completely eliminate all legal exposure, but the widget is a step in the right direction for ADA compliance.
Why Should Your Website Be Designed for ADA Compliance?
As an eye care website, you want to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to access your content. As an eyecare professional, you have treated visually impaired and blind patients. You understand how disability impacts the patient’s entire biopsychosocial well-being.
Is it difficult to update a website to comply with ADA and WCAG? Is this going to be a costly fix?
It’s really not that bad. Ballpark – $1000-$5000. There are many competent professionals that can help your website achieve ADA and WCAG compliance. You can use a free ADA website scanner. They are available online. You can install an accessibility widget today that will help with compliance. There are monthly subscriptions that monitor your site and notify you when any website change you make knocks you out of compliance.
Bottom-line, the financial and reputational risks are real. Amazon, Netflix, Dominoes, and even Beyonce have been involved in ADA compliance litigation. And these lawsuits are affecting more and more small businesses.
How can you be asked to do more? Don’t you already have a ton on your plate? ADA compliance is not going away. It’s time to take this issue seriously. You have to build design & accessibility into your operational plan. Ultimately, the way to become accessible is to follow the WCAG guidelines at level AA, and it‘s important to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone.