If your small business doesn’t have a website, does it even exist? Blunt? Sure. Accurate? Absolutely. According to a survey, nearly half of U.S. adults said they have Googled someone before doing business with them.

If someone Googles your business, what will they find? Aside from reviews (which are a whole beast of their own), it’s crucial that you have a solid website.

Here are just a few key things every small business website needs:

  • Pertinent company information
  • Contact details
  • Testimonials
  • Social media links
  • Forms
  • Obvious call-to-action
  • Compliance

Compliance – that often overlooked, yet extremely important element is what we’re talking about here. Did you know? Your website is required by law to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, which means it has to be accessible. Essential Accessibility explains that means it must be free from barriers that would make it difficult for individuals with disabilities to use your site.

Lawsuits regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and website accessibility specifically are on the rise. There were at least 1,053 federal website access lawsuits during a six month period last year.

Small business owners – this serves as a good reminder to look into your website and ensure you’re on the right side of the law with this.

What is ADA?

First things first, let’s clarify the details of ADA. 

The ADA (including the ADA Amendments ACT OF 2008 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and the laws of most states prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals based on:

  • Current disability.
  • Past disability.
  • Perceived (regarded as) disability.
  • Or, associated with disability.

Here’s how the ADA defines the term disability:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual.
  • A record of such impairment.
  • Being regarded of such an impairment.

The ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of disability in the following scenarios:

  • Job application processes
  • Hiring/firing
  • Advancement
  • Compensation
  • Job training
  • Other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment

The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

According to the EEOC, a qualified employee (or job applicant) with a disability is someone who with or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential functions of the job.

Reasonable accommodation includes, but is not limited to:

  • Making existing facilities that are used by employees readily available and usable by people with disabilities.
  • Job restructuring, modification of work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position.
  • Obtaining or modifying equipment or devises, adjusting examinations, training materials or policies, and providing readers or interpreters.

You can learn more about the basics of this complex law by clicking here.

ADA and website usage.

After reading all of the above, I bet making sure your website is ADA compliant wasn’t the first step you thought of. But it’s an important one.

What is website accessibility?

According to W3.org, web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies should be designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. It goes on to explain more specifically that people should be able to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the web.

Recognizing online barriers.

According to ADA.gov, many people with disabilities use assistive technology that enables them to use computers. This could involve screen readers, text enlargement software, or voice-enabling programs. A poorly designed website can create unnecessary barriers for those with disabilities.

Example and solution.

Blind people, or those with low vision, might have trouble seeing an image on your webpage. But, if that image also has a text equivalent (like a simple HTML code for the image), screen readers or Braille technology can enable the user to understand what the image is.

ADA.gov also offers the following considerations for developing your website:

  • Include a skip navigation link at the top of the page that would allow screen readers to ignore the navigation links and go directly to webpage content.
  • Minimize any blinking, flashing, or distracting features. If they must be used, ensure the distractions can be paused or stopped.
  • Design any online forms to include descriptive HTML tags.
  • Include visual notification and transcripts if sounds automatically play.
  • Provide a second, static copy of pages that auto-refresh or require a timed-response.
  • Use titles and other heading structures to help users navigate complex pages.

If you’d like to learn more information like the tips listed above, you’ll want to visit this ADA Best Practices Tool Kit.

Of course, this information is solely meant to educate, not give legal advice. Connect with a trusted advisor before making any changes to your website.

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Learn more here or fill out the form below.

Disclaimer: Please note that this Q&A is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.