Accessibility Standards: Is Your Site Compliant?

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Recently, businesses and organizations in the Phoenix area were subjected to a series of frivolous lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These were frivolous in the sense that it someone simply drove around measuring signs or browsed the Internet looking for any minor item they could. No formal complaints were ever filed and no one was given the opportunity to remedy the situation, they were just given a dollar figure to settle with and they'd be left alone. Unfortunately, many businesses paid up. Thankfully, the Arizona Legislature stepped in and put a stop to this.

The New Law

In response to concerns from business owners, a bill was introduced in the Legislature which provided organizations targeted by such complaints (valid or otherwise) the opportunity to respond by specifying a notification and cure period. This allowed organizations to correct any infraction within a certain timeframe. If a permit was required, then it allowed the organization to remedy the situation within a period of time after a permit was acquired.

What does this have to do with Web sites?

The ADA is a very broad piece of federal legislation which covers organizations' physical premises as well as their digital presence. It uses Section 508 as accessibility guidelines for access to public information and agencies. Section 508 is a law which governs information and communication technology accessibility standards, including Web sites. It is this law which provides guidance on how to allow someone who is visually impaired to navigate your Web site using a screen reader.

Arizona's new law, however, has determined that, for the purposes of accessibility, a Web site is not considered an extension of a physical premise and therefore is not subject to ADA compliance regulation.

Say what?

For Arizona businesses, they can need not worry about Section 508 guidelines as it pertains to the ADA compliance and their Web site (and can't be targeted by a law firm based on their Web site's accessibility) because the new law provides Arizona businesses with a "free pass" from compliance. For businesses outside of Arizona or that are working with government entities at the federal level, that may not be enough. That being said, Arizona businesses may not need to follow these guidelines, but if you're planning to do business with any state government (besides Arizona) or with federal agencies/organizations, you should work to bring your Web site compliant with these guidelines since the federal courts have previously ruled that the ADA covers Web sites. Besides, you never know who might be looking for your products or services.

Not sure if your ecommerce site is Section 508 compliant? Contact us and we'll help you determine the best course of action. For more information about what led up to the new law being passed, take a look at this ABC15 investigative story. And for more information about the new law, you can take a look at this story on AZCentral.com.

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