Legal Developments in Website Accessibility (As Promised)

Legal Developments in Web…

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (commonly referred to as “ADA”) was enacted to assure that private businesses with 15 or more employees provide equal access to places of “public accommodation” for both disabled and non-disabled patrons alike. However, because the ADA was enacted prior to the emergence of any significant web-based commerce, its language does not clearly explain whether commercial websites, in addition to the traditional brick and mortar storefronts, are considered places of “public accommodation” subject to ADA regulations. Courts in several states (though not in Michigan) have construed the ADA to require equal access to commercial websites, and there are increasing indicators that we will see website accessibility mandates nationwide.

If you are considering the development or upgrade of your commercial website, consider the use of tools which remove barriers to internet commerce for people who suffer from hearing or visual impairments, limited fine motor control, or cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia. Tools such as text-to-speech software are ideal, but even things like including large or enlargeable text and images allow disabled users to read and understand website content more efficiently. Some other helpful web design techniques to consider include the following:

  • Underlined, colored, or otherwise differentiated links, which allow the color blind reader to notice them more easily;
  • Large clickable links and areas, which help users who cannot control a mouse with precision to navigate the site;
  • Content which is written in plain language and illustrated with instructional diagrams and animations, which allows users with dyslexia and learning difficulties to better understand the content;
  • Coded pages, which allow users to navigate by means of the keyboard alone and help users who cannot use a mouse or a standard keyboard;
  • Closed captioning or sign language videos, which allow deaf and hard-of-hearing users to understand video content;
  • The avoidance of flashing effects, which benefits users prone to seizures caused by these effects.

If you would like more information regarding website accessibility, Pennsylvania State University has a comprehensive checklist devoted to such matters.

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