Don’t get sued. Make sure your construction website is ADA compliant

Is your construction website ADA compliant? Not sure? Here are some steps to take to ensure your website is easily accessible for everyone.

Sam Garrett / Buildertrend

Perhaps one of the greatest areas of liability for a contractor isn’t on the job site. Instead, it’s typically the very first interaction a customer (and many others) may have with the contractor’s business: the website.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation. Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” Places of public accommodation must be accessible to all people, particularly those with ADA-covered disabilities.

But is a website considered a place of public accommodation?

The ADA does not specifically identify websites as places of public accommodation, and as such the courts are split on whether the ADA is limited solely to physical places. In states such as Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, courts have held that a website can be considered a place of public accommodation. All websites in these jurisdictions must be ADA-accessible.

On the other hand, states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and California have held the opposite. Places of public accommodation must be physical places, but goods and services, which includes websites, may fall within the ADA if they have a substantial tie or connection to a physical place.

How do courts judge ADA compliance?

Regardless of which jurisdiction a contractor’s business may reside in, it’s an excellent practice to ensure your website is ADA compliant to avoid potential litigation. Analysis by courts and the U.S. Justice Department about website compliance with Title III relies on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA Conformance – a series of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.

What can I do to ensure my business website complies?

Builders should first assess whether they meet the WCAG 2.0 requirements for Level A conformance and then examine their conformance with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements.

While not an exhaustive list, here are six simple and practical steps contractors can take toward achieving more ADA compliant and accessible websites:

  1. Use captions for all audio/video content. Provide on-screen captions for all pre-recorded audio/videos and post-streaming transcripts for all live audio/video content.
  2. Provide text alternatives (or alt-tags) for all non-text content. Include alternatives to ensure your website will be accessible to individuals using screen readers, which are used to describe elements on a website to users.
  3. Use contrasting colors in at least a 4.5:1 ratio. Colors should contrast in at least the WCAG recommended 4.5:1 ratio or greater (ratio of 7:1 is ideal) to make sure your text and graphics are legible to people who are colorblind.
  4. Ensure the website can be navigated by using a keyboard. To make your website accessible to individuals with motor disabilities who cannot use a mouse, ensure your website is navigable simply using the tab and arrow keys.
  5. Audit your site using online web accessibility tools. There are many online tools available to assess your website’s ADA compliance, such as Google Chrome’s WAVE Tool.
  6. Review WCAG 2.0’s requirements. While this is not an exhaustive list, you should review WCAG’s guidelines that provide recommendations and examples on best practices for making your website accessible to all users.

Putting these tips into practice will expand your construction website’s audience and could help you stay out of court too!

To ensure your website complies with Title III of the ADA, be sure to contact your attorney*.

*The materials available in this blog are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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