You start your workday just like any other day. Your business opens in a few hours so there is a lot of prep work to do. There is a knock on the door and you open it to see a police officer and he asks if you are the owner of the business. You say yes I am the owner. He hands you a summons to appear in court.
Shocked, you open the summons to find out you are being sued by someone with a disability because they are not able to view your website. Wait a minute, is that even a thing? How is this possible? You have never heard of this and your website designer certainly never mentioned anything about this.
You remember very well before you opened your business all of the modifications that you were required to make so that your business was accessible for people with disabilities. You had to have handicapped parking and your entry and bathroom doors had to be wide enough for a wheelchair as well as necessary railings etc. The Americans with Disabilities Act says that your facility must be “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities” but what you didn’t know is that in the background this law started getting applied to your website.
As of today, it has been calculated that 97% of websites online are NOT ADA compliant. Think about that for a minute and what this means. People with disabilities struggling to get the same access to your content as everyone else has. But because they have to either use screen readers or the keyboard they struggle with the overwhelming majority of the websites.
Things changed back in 2015 when 57 businesses, small and large, got sued because their websites were not compliant. There have been some notable cases involving Dominos Pizza, Talyor Swift, Rihanna and Beyonce but also many small businesses just like yours. And this number has more than doubled each year since with over 12,000 cases in 2019 with some predicting upwards of 100,000 cases in 2020. Why? because attorneys and people with disabilities know you have no defense. None.
So what is it going to cost you? Most businesses are paying $8-10,000 or more which includes fines and attorney fees just to settle out of court, not including the costs to make your website accessible. It won’t do you any good to contest it. Your site is either in compliance or not and even if your site has just one issue you could be liable.
Most settlements will give you up to 2 years to have your website corrected but guess what? There is another problem. This only applies to the person that sued you and not to someone else with a disability. Many businesses are getting sued multiple times after the negative exposure from the first case. Trust me this is happening.
Maybe now you are thinking “what do I have to do to make my website accessible?”. There are 11 main steps that you need to modify on your website and some are pretty easy and most require advanced knowledge of website coding to implement. Gosh, where to start?
Here is one thing to keep in mind as you are looking for solutions. You will come across a magic bullet called a plugin or overlay and they say “put this on your site and in minutes your site will be ADA compliant”. While these do provide some useful tools they do not cover every situation and they will more likely than not get you in trouble. Just ask some of our customers that tried this and got sued.
Each website has to be manually tested for compliance. And not just one time and you are done. This is an ongoing process, a journey and not a destination. Just like the coronavirus has changed our world so has this. This is the new NORMAL.
How do you find out if your website is accessible? Do you remember above when I mentioned that many tests have been done and that it was determined that 97% of websites are not compliant? If you have not specifically dealt with this I can assure you that there is a very slim possibility that your website magically became compliant.
Many companies are charging $1500 to $5,000 or higher just to do a website accessibility audit and not even fix your website. But why would you pay this knowing upfront that your site is not compliant? Why not just spend that money to make it compliant instead? Good idea right?
We have a very affordable solution especially for small businesses that just have a typical 5-10 page website. In fact, our cost is about the same that you might have paid to have your website built originally but our sites are completely ADA compliant and accessible.
Oh great, you say! I already paid to have my website built and now I have to pay to do it all over again. Listen you have a choice. You can roll the dice and hope that you don’t get sued. But this is not going away. Like I said earlier this is the new normal and now that you know about it you will always be thinking in the back of your mind about it so it is time to be proactive.
The good news is that there is a tax credit for this. After the first $250 that you spend on making your website accessible you can get a tax credit for 50% of whatever you spend up to $10,000 a year. So if you were to spend $10,250 you could get a credit of $5000 off your business taxes. Whew! That sure helps. And this is ongoing every year until something changes of course.
There are many reasons to make your website accessible but making sure your website is compliant will go a long way in helping the internet be more user friendly for people with disabilities which is the right thing to do. Think about if your child or grandchildren or your parents had a disability and they struggled with the majority of the websites. Wouldn’t you want them to have equal access?
Currently, there is about 20% of the population or 1 in 5 people with some form of disability such as visual impairments, hearing loss or deafness, motor or mobility issues, and learning disabilities that require special adjustments on your website. This segment of the population has over $645 billion in disposable income.
Now is the time to get out in front of this and be proactive not only to avoid a lawsuit but to do your part in making the internet accessible.