3 Minute Read

In the world of websites, the idea of ADA compliance comes up a lot. The Americans with Disabilities Act exists to protect the rights of people with disabilities. While there is a wide range of differing ideas on how that does (or does not) apply to websites, businesses that want to stay out of court and provide equal-opportunity experiences should get on board with any and every regulation. The first question that comes up as you dive into this topic is whether ADA compliance for websites is mandatory.

Is ADA Compliance Mandatory for Websites?

The answer to whether ADA compliance is mandatory for websites is really gleaned from the outcome of court cases. The Americans with Disabilities Act has two statements that can be interpreted as applicable to websites:

  1. Title II: State and Local Governments, which prohibits discrimination in services, programs, or activities provided by state and local governments. If yours is a government website, this is germaine. 
  2. Title III: Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities, which prohibits discrimination for activities in places of public accommodation, which are divided into 12 categories. There are court cases that have landed on either side of defining websites as places of public accommodation that would be subject to the ADA guidelines.

Court cases around ADA and website accessibility usually seek to determine nexus, which is just a legal term that essentially means “equivocation.” Most experts would urge businesses to assess their need for website compliance this way:

If the ADA applies to your business, it should also apply to your website.


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Mandatory ADA Website Compliance

To sum up: the ADA has standards for accessibility that may or may not apply to your website. That said, ADA compliance is mandatory for any business that falls under the regulations. The blanket recommendation to the online community is this:

Make your website and web content as accessible as possible.

Note, there are no standards in the ADA that outline how organizations can make their websites accessible. Because of that, industry leaders formed the Web Accessibility Initiative, or WAI.

ADA Website Compliance: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The WAI mission is to provide “strategies, standards, [and] resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.” The way they do this is through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines go through updates every year or so, but essentially provide the building blocks for creating an accessible website.

We’ve written at length about the standards in the WCAG, and you can read more here:

Build an ADA Compliant Website

While every eCommerce business owner needs to understand what WCAG standards are, developing accessible websites is a specialized practice that may require an eCommerce agency. Smart Solutions provides this service to our clients because we understand that a lot is to lose, but also a lot to win. 

People With Disabilities: an Important Demographic

Aside from running the major risk of a lawsuit if you don’t have a compliant website, people with disabilities represent an important demographic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability:

  • 13.7% have a mobility disability
  • 10.8% have a cognitive disability
  • 6.8% have issues with independent living
  • 5.9% have deafness or a hearing disability
  • 4.6% have blindness or a visual impairment
  • 3.7% have physical disabilities

The American Institutes for Research conducted a survey in 2018 on the Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults with Disabilities and found the following:

  • The after-tax disposable income for this demographic is $490 billion
  • Discretionary income for this demographic is $21 billion
  • Discretionary income varies by disability type, and by region

People with disabilities are not a solitary market, but are connected to a wider body of family and friends who see great value in goods and services that accommodate people with disabilities.

The Power of an Accessible eCommerce Site

As the eCommerce industry grows, it takes increasing effort to stay competitive. Website accessibility is a must, both to be a first choice and to appeal to as wide a slice of the population as possible. Improving website accessibility makes it easier for search engines to read and interpret your website, thus often resulting in better search rankings. In fact, Google continues to prioritize accessibility and user experience in its algorithm updates. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility estimates that billions of dollars are lost every year by eCommerce platforms that don’t make their websites accessible and ADA compliant.

Smart Solutions: Your Partner for Website Accessibility

If you dig into the WCAG standards, you’re going to need to come up for air a few times. And take a break. And dive back. Point being: these standards are immensely specific, and often require development work to get in line. 

At Smart Solutions, we’ve made website accessibility a high priority, becoming experts because we realize it’s what our eCommerce clients need. Don’t dive in alone: we can be your lifeline to implement website accessibility measures, ensuring you get where you need to be, and remain ADA compliant. Contact us to learn more.

Sign up for our FREE webinar to learn more about website compliance:

On-Demand Webinar: Learn How to Create an Accessible eCommerce Website