Today’s post explains how ADA violations can leave your franchise’s financial and reputational assets in ruin, and how ClickTecs can help.
What is ADA Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that was developed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. The law mandates that all “places of public accommodation” – including your business and franchise website – are legally obligated to remove barriers hindering disabled individuals’ access to “goods and services.”
When most people think of “access barriers,” they imagine literal barriers, like when a stair-heavy headquarters lacks any ramps for wheelchair access. And prior to 2010, they were right; the ADA was enacted in the pre-Internet 1990s, long before franchise websites and virtual barriers existed.
But in 2010, everything changed when the US Department of Justice issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicating that they planned to amend ADA language so that franchise websites are considered a “place of public accommodation,” and therefore subject to all the Act’s rules.
Today, website accessibility is non-negotiable. All businesses, corporations, and franchise websites, apps, and electronic media must comply with ADA guidelines, or face serious consequences. In addition to alienating a significant chunk of your audience (approximately 57-million Americans are living with disabilities according to a 2018 census report), failure to comply with ADA can expose your business to serious financial and reputational damages.
Is Your Business at Risk of a “Drive-By Lawsuit”?
“Drive-by lawsuits” are now being pursued by lawyers hoping to line their pockets under the guise of championing accessibility rights. If your website isn’t ADA compliant, your franchise might fall into their crosshairs.
“There is now a whole industry made up of people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary and abusive lawsuits,” said Congressional Representative Ted Poe in a statement to NewsWeek earlier this year.
In an effort to nip these “abusive lawsuits” in the bud, Congress passed the ADA Education and Reform Act in February 2018 with a 225-192 vote.
The bill requires those filing lawsuits to first give the franchise owner 60 days to devise a plan to fix the problem, then another 120 days to implement the changes. Now business owners will actually have time to fix what is allegedly broken, rather than being sued upfront. In this way, the bill both protects accessibility rights and prevents predatory litigation.
But don’t mistake the ADA Education and Reform Act for an excuse to drag your feet.
Indeed, its protections might not be around for long. Disability rights supporters have called the Act “deeply shameful” and criticized the way that it ostensibly shifts the burden of ADA policing to disabled individuals by removing the “proactive incentive” of a noncompliance suit.
Since the Act was passed, members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Bar Association, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the NAACP, and more than 200 other organizations drafted and signed an official letter of opposition calling for the bill to be overturned.
Their voices were heard, and now the bill goes to the Senate, where its fate – and maybe the fate of your non-compliant business – will be decided. A ruling should be reached sometime this year.
But whatever the Senate decides, you’re still responsible for your franchise website’s ADA compliance. And it’s still a time-sensitive issue; if you don’t make time to plan and implement these changes now, you’ll soon be forced to do so on somebody else’s schedule, with a federal injunction hanging over your head.
Avoiding “Drive-By Lawsuits” With Clicktecs’ ADA Compliance Service
Opportunistic attorneys are now targeting franchise owners whose websites are not ADA-compliant. The most common violations include:
- Images lacking inclusive alt text;
- Failure to include audio tracks accompanying video-only content;
- Failure to include captions for any pre-recorded audio;
- Rigid website/content layouts that fail to accommodate different abilities;
- Use of color as the only means of conveying visual information;
- Websites that cannot be navigated through keyboard control alone;
- Lacking option to turn off “time-limits” on any content;
- Using page language that is not determinable by all users, and incompatible with assistive technologies;
- Failure to adhere to the text and image contrast ratio of 4.5:1 (does not apply to large-scale text);
- Lack of sign language interpretations for prerecorded audio content.
But this is only a glimpse of the 300-point checklist that your franchise website needs to adhere to.
Meeting these standards might sound overwhelming, but ClickTecs can help!
We are a digital marketing agency that specializes in ADA compliance. Members of our team are standing by to quickly audit your website, plan tactical fixes, and implement the changes you need to comply with these important accessibility regulations.
Don’t stress – call 905-564-0020 or visit https://clicktecs.com/ to book your free consultation.Back