ADA Compliance – 
Digital Accessibility

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all other places open to the general public, including digital assets such

Web Accessibility Laws & Regulation

While web accessibility laws and regulations may not be at the forefront of your mind, it is important to know that there are some very real risks associated with noncompliance. The web has given people with disabilities more access than ever before, and if you choose to ignore web accessibility laws then you risk having a lawsuit filed against you for discrimination. This page will cover what web accessibility laws entail, why they matter so much, and how Convo Technologies can help businesses, organizations, and government agencies comply with web accessibility requirements, without any hassle.

Litigation breakdown

U.S. laws make it very difficult for businesses and organizations to defend against disability-related non-discriminatory lawsuits.

Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prior warning or dialogue with the non-compliant business is not required.

Moreover, actual harm or demonstration of inaccessibility to a disabled person is not a prerequisite to filing a suit. As most websites are not compliant, and only a click away from anyone in the world, the Internet has virtually turned into the Wild West of litigation.

And if that wasn’t enough, ADA legislation permits plaintiffs who win in court to recover their attorney’s fees while nullifying this right from prevailing defendants. This only increases the incentive to file lawsuits and pushes businesses toward early settlements outside the court to mitigate financial damages.

Being unaware of the law, displaying good faith, or even fixing the accessibility issue under contention is not sufficient to defend against an ADA violation.

Target paid $6 million in 2008 to settle a class-action suit against its commercial website, and an additional $4 million to its own legal defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.

Small and midsize businesses are not likely to face these kinds of figures, but even several thousand can have a detrimental effect on the business’s future.

Government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as recipient organizations and institutions of federal funds such as universities and colleges, associations, and voluntary organizations, are required to comply with Web accessibility standards.

Uptick in Web accessibility lawsuits

How likely are you to get hit by a disability-related claim?

In 2020, ADA federal lawsuits passed the 11,000 marks nationwide. That’s more than 30 cases per day. And pre-litigation demand letters, resulting in private settlements, are estimated to be much higher.

After hovering under the radar for the most part of the last two decades, Web accessibility-related lawsuits exploded since 2017—following the Department of Justice’s labeling of websites as places of “public accommodations,” requiring ADA compliance—bringing the inaccessible virtual world into the forefront of the legal system.

Who is liable?

In spite of regulation ambiguity, the simple answer is: everyone.

Most websites are not fully compliant, putting them at major legal risk. Furthermore, achieving full compliance can be a tedious task, modifying website codes while costing a fortune (up to tens of thousands of dollars).

The good news, however, is that Convo Technologies with partnership with Equal Web provides easy, automatic, and cost-effective solutions to all business sizes, with its state-of-the-art technology, compliance experts, and various plans tailored for each need.

Web accessibility compliance

Let us make it rather simple for you. There are many compliance requirements that stem from different laws and regulations, but they all boil down to conformance against WCAG standards.

Today, WCAG 2.0 Level AA will meet most regulatory non-discriminatory compliance standards. But statutory rule makers are bound to update compliance demands sometime in the future—as passed legislation has demonstrated—which is why we transforms your digital assets to the most up to date WCAG 2.1 Level AA criteria, facilitating a seamless operation inclusive for all, opening the Internet to those who were left behind.

It’s not just about not getting sued; it’s about welcoming the people you care about.

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What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, aiming to facilitate equality in all areas of public life.

This includes the Internet, as enterprises with websites are compelled to “open their doors” to the large portion of impaired persons.

The code of regulations was enacted into U.S. law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush.

The ADA was the direct result of years of effort of the disability civil rights community. Its legal framework can be traced back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination of disabled recipients of federal funds.

It also builds on the 1964 Civil Rights Bill to widen non-discriminatory laws and compensate impaired individuals who face inaccessible goods, services, employment opportunities, or public accommodations and activities.

What does it mean to have your website accessible?

Just like existing laws require handicapped parking lots adjacent to stores, rails to access government buildings or driveways leading into businesses like banks, gas stations, etc., so are accessible websites for the disabled required.

Online accessibility mostly caters to the visually or auditory impaired, but there are other needs that require accommodation as well.

Currently, there is a stream of regulations or testable standards that require compliance of websites: ADA, WCAG, Section 508, AODA, EN 301549, EAA, IS 5568, and more.

As long as your website is not fully compliant, your business faces litigation risks.

What do you need to know about ADA compliance?

While the language of the law specifies physical spaces, as it was penned before the Internet even existed (the first website went up in 1991), it clearly invokes principles of accessibility, not narrow guidelines.

Therefore, digital accessibility-related lawsuits have been surging in recent years, alongside claims settled privately.

Federal courts have demonstrated a favorable position toward the inclusive interpretation of the ADA (more on that anon), putting businesses and organizations with web assets at risk of liability.

Bottom line: ADA compliance requires public and private enterprises to remediate their websites so that the significant population of disabled persons can gain access to products and services just like everybody else.

Why is ADA Title III relevant to you?

Title III of the ADA deals with non-discriminatory rules applied to the private sector and non-profit organizations.

It stipulates physical “places of public accommodations and commercial facilities.” However, the revised Title III Regulation of January 17, 2017, has made it crystal clear that the law applies to the Web as well.

Title III notes: “the Department [of Justice] has taken the position that title III covers access to Web sites of public accommodations.”

Furthermore: “The Department has issued guidance on the ADA as applied to the Web sites of public entities, which includes the availability of standards for Web site accessibility.”

Indeed, the DOJ has left this area somewhat equivocal— “The Department did not issue proposed regulations… and thus is unable to issue specific regulatory language on Web site accessibility at this time”—but recent developments suggest that companies should engage in preliminary protection against lawsuits and strive for full ADA compliance.

ADA history: Websites integrated with brick-and-mortar stores

Suit claims filed in federal courts have grown exponentially since 2018, with 10,982 ADA Title III cases filed in 2020. The trend only continued to grow in early 2021 (according to a Seyfarth report).

The precedent for web accessibility-related claims was set in 2006 with National Federation of Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946 (N.D. Cal. 2006).

The plaintiff sued national retail chain Target for not providing accessibility on its website to the blind.

The case tested Title III of the ADA, as Target argued that it applies to physical spaces only.

But the Superior Court of California disagreed. It held that there was a sufficient “nexus” (a connection linking two or more things) between Target’s physical and online services. The court concluded that many of the website benefits were services “heavily integrated with the brick-and-mortar stores” and therefore should be accessible as required by Title III.

Target and the National Federation of the Blind struck a civil action settlement in August 2008. In the years to follow, this ruling expanded in its interpretations as more companies learned that while the ADA does not stipulate specific web accessibility standards, courts have ruled that the responsibility rests on them to provide access to the disabled, frequently referring to the independent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the conforming standard of ADA compliance.

Web Accessibility Tax Benefits

Can small businesses receive tax benefits for making their websites accessible to people with disabilities? The simple answer is, yes!

But if it’s taxed, it’s complicated; so, let us simplify the maze of tax complexity for you.

To incentivize businesses to comply with ADA requirements, the U.S. government decided to help businesses that attain accessibility requirements, including for their websites.

Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for small businesses while Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax deduction for all businesses.

The difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction is that a tax credit is subtracted from what you owe in taxes (after calculating your taxes), while a tax deduction is subtracted from your total income before calculating your taxes. In other words, a tax deduction is applied to your taxable income.

Tax credits

This tax credit was created in 1990 specifically to aid small businesses to cover ADA-related “eligible access expenditures.”

According to the ADA Title III fact sheet, “A business that for the previous tax year had either revenue of $1,000,000 or less or 30 or fewer full-time workers may take advantage of this credit.” This credit can be claimed against any effort to provide access to individuals with impairments, including expenses on website accessibility.

Now here is where it gets tricky. This credit can cover 50 percent of the eligible access expenditures in a year up to $10,250, with the first $250 excluded from credit (maximum credit of $5,000).

How does this exactly work?

Let’s say a business spent $7,000 on accessibility for its website. The first $250 isn’t credited, so 50 percent of $6,750 would be $3,375 in tax credit.

Let’s demonstrate with another example. A business invested $20,000 in accessibility services on its website. This business can only use up to $10,250 of its expenditures for the tax credit, leaving it with $5,000 in credit (after subtracting the first $250). NOTE: While this tax credit cannot be used in other tax credits when filing your tax return, it’s not limited to a one-time credit.  As long your website meets accessibility standards you can use this credit each year.

Tax deductions

The tax deduction is available to all businesses with a maximum deduction of $15,000 per year. However, it does not apply to website accessibility expenditures but rather to architectural alterations.

It is best advised to infer both tax credit and deduction benefits from a tax professional before laying out your business plan. In addition, some accessibility tax benefits may exist at the state level, so we encourage you to further inquire into that according to your location.

Claim your tax credit

To claim a tax credit for accessibility enhancements for your website, use IRS Form 8826. Please note that Convo Technologies is not a tax consultancy firm as this informative page should not replace your responsibility to consult an accountant or tax professional. We do not take any responsibility for misrepresented or misunderstood information, or changes to information amended by the law.

Web Accessibility

WCAG 2.0/2/1 AA Compliance

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Section 508 Compliance

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ADA Title III Compliance

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AODA Compliance

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EN 301 549 Compliance

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IS 5568 Compliance