ADA Compliance and What You Can Do to Take Action
Written by Katie Kinlaw
Recently we have heard reports about some Punchmark clients that have been threatened with ADA Compliance lawsuits over accessibility issues on their website. To date, all of these threats have been empty attempts to extort money from the store. In order to educate our clients and ease concerns should this happen to you, Punchmark has outlined what you should know as well as some steps you can take to ensure you are 100% protected.
What is ADA Compliance, and what does it mean for you?
ADA stands for the American Disabilities Act, which is a law that ensures equal accessibility for users with disabilities. Websites could be liable to litigation if, for example, a blind or visually impaired user wanted to navigate your site using a screen reader, but could not because your navigation menu code doesn’t follow current accessibility guidelines. Or, for example, a deaf/hard of hearing user wanted to view a video on your website, but could not because you do not have subtitle captions on your video.
Websites get unofficially certified at three levels A, AA, and AAA (the highest level). Authorities recommend that websites meet all AA requirements or better.
Don’t Be Alarmed
Many of the solicitations for money are scams run by a handful of legal groups THREATENING a lawsuit if they do not receive money. However, they do not actually file the lawsuit and are simply trying to shake down ill-informed business owners.
Steps We've Taken
Please note: ALL PUNCHMARK VERSION 6 WEBSITES MEET “AA” ADA COMPLIANCE GUIDELINES. We’ve added all of the recommended accessibility features to ensure your business is protected. In addition, there is an ADA Compliance statement that is on every Punchmark website, found through the Accessibility Statement link in your footer located next to the Punchmark attribution. This statement protects you in a court of law if you should ever have a real lawsuit occur. The law currently states that if the defendant is “making good faith efforts” to ensure these guidelines are all being met, then the case is dismissed.
To understand this ADA Compliance and why it has become an important topic recently, we HIGHLY recommend this article (by an attorney) that explains the entire topic in plain English: The ADA Checklist
“Remember, updating your website to become ADA compliant is a process, not a flip of a switch so the best way to become compliant is to start doing what you can and not get caught in planning and procrastination mode.”
Your website was built using SiteManager, so are protected from the get-go. We’ve created tools that specifically tackle common issues (such as navigation skipping tools, accessible menus, screen-reader element labeling, auto-generated alt-tags, and ADA Compliant disclaimer information in the footer of every website). However, to be perfectly compliant at all times, it still does require some work on your end to maintain that status.
Publishing ADA Compliant Website Content
The most commonly made mistake is forgetting to add “Alt Tags” to images added to the website. These tags are used to help screen-reading software dictate the content to the disabled user. Alt Tags can be added/edited throughout the SiteManager platform. Here is your guide on where and how to do that.
Images on Custom Pages
Log in to your website, go to the page needing the Alt Tags, click on the image and then the Image edit button. In the corresponding pop-up you will see a field labeled Image Description, enter a short sentence describing the image and click OK. This practice ensures you maintain the AA ADA Compliant goal. SiteManager websites will also automatically generate an Alt Tag based on your store name and location if one is not entered, however to comply with the spirit of the rule, we recommend you handwrite Alt Tags for every custom added image on your website.
For product images, you can update the Alt Tag through the SiteManager platform as well. Simply go to Commerce > Jewelry, press edit product, and then click on the image. A field is available for you to update titled “image alt tag”.
Uploading Videos to Youtube and Having Them Captioned
If you create a lot of videos for your website, we recommend that you always upload them to Youtube. Youtube auto-generates captions for every video using machine learning and their captioning system is EXCELLENT. If you upload the video to Youtube it should auto caption it pretty well for you. Here is an example from one of our recent livestream videos:
If you have more questions about making your video’s ADA Compliant please read this very helpful article.
Current Legal Standing
The laws surrounding ADA Compliance online is antiquated and not very clear, making it difficult for the courts. Many frightened companies hastefully settle out of court. Please note: of the successful suits that have been filed, most were Government, Financial, Education and State-related websites providing data that end-users needed to access. Nearly all of these shakedowns are merely threats of litigation and are not actual lawsuits nor do they ever file one. If you do receive a threatening email, or letter, please contact Punchmark immediately so that we can take appropriate steps to assist and control the situation.
Contact Support with questions or concerns regarding your site’s ADA Compliance standing.