Website ADA Compliance: Does My Small Business Need To Comply?
I speak often to groups of business owners and managers about Website Compliance, and most often about ADA Compliance for Websites. And while many of the people on my webinars, lectures or guest appearances all agree with the necessity of making life easier for those with disabilities, I get one question almost more than any other, which is Does the ADA Apply to my Small Business Website? I get this question from businesses with 50 employees and millions of dollars of sales down to the sole proprietor making under $100,000 a year.
The ADA — Yet Another Regulation
The Great American Experiment revolves around American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and the ability to build your own small business. But there are so many regulations that it seems that the deck is stacked against business owners — especially small business owners — looking to put a roof over their heads and feed their families…and maybe even live the American Dream.
And now recent developments seem to have made Website ADA Compliance come out of nowhere. It’s yet another regulation that you and your small business need to comply with, and that your small business needs to pay for.
It just seems unfair.
So if you are wondering if your small business needs to comply with Website ADA violations, here is your answer:
Is Your Small Business Facility ADA Compliant?
Both the DOJ and the Supreme Court (and thousands of court cases) have established that the ADA applies to business websites as well as the physical stores and offices where those businesses operate. But many small business owners wonder whether the ADA applies to their Small Business Website.
People asking about ADA Compliance for their Small Business Website often don’t draw a parallel to their own office facility.
Title III of the ADA covers businesses of all sizes, and there is no size limit, either by revenue, number of employees, age, or otherwise that disqualifies a business from needing to comply with the ADA. As a result, if you have an office or facility into which a customer or client can enter and do business with you, then your business must comply with the ADA with respect to certain facilities issues.
And you probably already do comply with the ADA willingly.
You know that you need to have a certain number of Handicapped Parking Spaces in your parking lot. If you have stairs, you know you need an elevator or ramp. Your doorway needs to be wide enough for a wheelchair, your countertops need to be low enough and deep enough to allow someone in a wheelchair to do business, and your bathroom needs to be large enough to allow a wheelchair to turn around inside.
So you know your business must comply with the ADA. And you know that the ADA applies to business websites just as it applies to facilities. As a result, the ADA even applies to your small business website.
More Reasons Small Business Websites Should Comply With The ADA
So legally, you need to comply. But what about other reasons to comply with the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is different from other regulations for lots of reasons, but one of the most important ones is that the ADA itself has a right to private action, while most other regulations do not.
For example, if you don’t comply with every tax law, and perhaps take a few deductions you shouldn’t, then you’ve got one demon to deal with: the IRS. And many business owners justify to themselves about playing the odds about getting caught by that one demon. For your business, you might need to follow certain environmental laws, insurance laws or accreditation requirements in your business, and while you definitely should follow all local, state and federal laws that apply to your business, if you don’t, the risk is a knock on the door and a summons from the government.
But the ADA was specifically written to allow handicapped people who believe they have been harmed to sue the business that has harmed them. So that means you don’t have one demon to worry about: you have potentially millions of handicapped people who could potentially find your website and sue you.
ADA Threats To Small Business
Unfortunately, while the odds are that you’ll be sued by a private individual rather than the government over your website, the odds are greater that you’ll be sued by a “professional plaintiff,” someone who makes a living looking for websites like yours owned by businesses like yours.
These bottom feeders manage to sleep at night by convincing themselves that they’re trying to make the world a better place for handicapped people, but in truth they spend their days looking to extort money from small business owners like you.
They troll the web looking for certain industries (restaurants, retails stores, medical offices, etc), or for businesses in certain geographic areas, or simply by the letter of the alphabet that a website domain name starts with. Whatever their method for finding you, they work hard at it, doing automated and manual tests to determine which websites are compliant and which are not.
Then they sue the small businesses that are most vulnerable…those whose websites are not compliant and who are least likely to put up a strong fight. Their goal is not to actually take you to court, but to settle out of court for many tens of thousands of dollars.
And there’s one other element to the ADA that makes this especially lucrative for these Professional Plaintiffs.
The ADA Mandates that the prevailing party wins attorneys’ fees. In other words, on top of whatever other damages they are going to claim in their Demand Letter, they’re also going to ask you to pay the attorneys fees at potentially $500 or $800 an hour or more…and you can bet that their attorneys have spent many hours thinking about your business.
The Best Reason To Make Your Small Business Website ADA Compliant
So legally, you now know the answer to “Does the ADA Apply to my Small Business Website.” And financially, you know that your small business website should comply with the ADA to help reduce or avoid the threat of a lawsuit. But the best reason of all is the reason that the ADA exists in the first place.
The ADA was designed to help those with disabilities to participate in society more fully. If your website prevents your prospects and clients from buying from you, then your business is working against the goals of the ADA. More importantly, your business is working against the goals of your prospects and clients.
And that’s reason enough for a small business to comply with Website ADA regulations.
Our Website ADA Compliance Service can help you not only serve more people, but to also comply with the law and reduce the risk of legal issues, both from the government and from private individuals and professional plaintiffs. Contact Us online to discuss your website’s potential exposure to a website ADA threat, or call our office at 818-592-6370.