Title III also has applications to existing facilities. One of the definitions of "discrimination" under Title III of the ADA is a "failure to remove" architectural barriers in existing facilities. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv). This means that even facilities that have not been modified or altered in any way after the ADA was passed still have obligations. The standard is whether "removing barriers" (typically defined as bringing a condition into compliance with the ADAAG) is "readily achievable", defined as "...easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense".
The ADA’s relationship with websites has been a complicated and often confusing story. The ADA does not explicitly address online compliance, even after undergoing several amendments in the far more web-oriented era of 2008. With no specific coverage under the law, it usually falls to the courts to determine how ADA standards apply to websites—or whether they do at all.
Webpage designers often have aesthetic preferences and may want everyone to see their webpages in exactly the same color, size and layout. But because of their disability, many people with low vision do not see webpages the same as other people. Some see only small portions of a computer display at one time. Others cannot see text or images that are too small. Still others can only see website content if it appears in specific colors. For these reasons, many people with low vision use specific color and font settings when they access the Internet – settings that are often very different from those most people use. For example, many people with low vision need to use high contrast settings, such as bold white or yellow letters on a black background. Others need just the opposite – bold black text on a white or yellow background. And, many must use softer, more subtle color combinations.
Distinguishable: To assist color-blind users and those with other visual impairments, color is never used as the sole means of conveying information or prompting the user. Audio lasting more than 3 seconds can be paused, or the volume can be controlled independently of the system volume. Regular text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, and large text has a contrast ratio of at least 3:1. In addition, text can be resized up to 200 percent without causing issues with the website.
A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.
The Department has assembled an official online version of the 2010 Standards to bring together the information in one easy-to-access location. It provides the scoping and technical requirements for new construction and alterations resulting from the adoption of revised 2010 Standards in the final rules for Title II (28 CFR part 35) and Title III (28 CFR part 36).
As organizations around the world scramble to bring their sites into compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), focus on other, preexisting accessibility regulations has also intensified. The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most visible and one of the most complicated pieces of legislation in the sphere of accessibility. Let’s look at some of the ins and outs of what an ADA compliant website means today.
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it has been the law of the land since 1990. Title III (private sector businesses) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. It applies to any business that has 15 or more employees. While Title III of the ADA is typically known for its applicability to offline barriers such as lack of wheelchair access, acceptance of service animals, effective communication for hearing and vision impaired individuals, its focus in the digital age has turned to websites and online media.
Automated testing is the first step toward determining if your website is accessible to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, switch controls, and others. The free testing tools on this website will give you an idea of whether your website is compliant with laws like Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. If you find you have many violations, Level Access has experts that can help you reduce your legal risk.
Even though automated testing is a great tool any tester can have, there are still some issues that even the most sophisticated testing platforms can’t detect. Automated testing platforms are not able to detect how a screen reader relays the content to the user, how the page navigates using the keyboarding (tabbing through the site), alternative text that is inadequate (automated tests are just checking to make sure you have something in the ALT text field), certain color combinations that fall outside acceptable ratios for contrast, and videos that are uncaptioned or do not contain text transcripts.
Title IV of the ADA amended the landmark Communications Act of 1934 primarily by adding section 47 U.S.C. § 225. This section requires that all telecommunications companies in the U.S. take steps to ensure functionally equivalent services for consumers with disabilities, notably those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with speech impairments. When Title IV took effect in the early 1990s, it led to the installation of public teletypewriter (TTY) machines and other TDD (telecommunications devices for the deaf). Title IV also led to the creation, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, of what was then called dual-party relay services and now are known as Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), such as STS relay. Today, many TRS-mediated calls are made over the Internet by consumers who use broadband connections. Some are Video Relay Service (VRS) calls, while others are text calls. In either variation, communication assistants translate between the signed or typed words of a consumer and the spoken words of others. In 2006, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), VRS calls averaged two million minutes a month.
Pax was born in the kennels of The Seeing Eye in the beautiful Washington Valley of New Jersey in March 2000. He lived with a puppy-raiser family for almost a year where he learned basic obedience and was exposed to the sights and sounds of community life—the same experiences he would soon face as a guide dog. He then went through four months of intensive training where he learned how to guide and ensure the safety of the person with whom he would be matched. In November 2001 he was matched with his handler and they worked as a team until Pax’s retirement in January 2012, after a long and successful career. Pax retired with his handler’s family, where he lived with two other dogs. His life was full of play, long naps, and recreational walks until his death in January 2014.
Input Assistance: When users are entering input into the website, any input errors are automatically detected and written out, providing, for instance, text descriptions that identify fields that were not filled out or data that was in the wrong format. The website also provides suggestions to fix the errors. Input fields and buttons are labeled to provide their functions and instructions. If the user’s input is being used for legal purposes or financial transactions, then the user must be able to reverse submissions or correct errors.
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
So, without a clear set of accessibility regulations to comply with, how can you tell if your website is compliant? The best measure available is the aforementioned WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. WCAG standards have been the guiding accessibility principle in the European Union and other countries since 1999, with the most recent update taking effect in Spring of 2018. While WCAG is a set of recommended actions rather than enforceable legislation, it forms the backbone of many online accessibility laws around the world and offers a strong model for any American organization striving to provide equal access for all users.
There have been some notable cases regarding the ADA. For example, two major hotel room marketers (Expedia.com and Hotels.com) with their business presence on the Internet were sued because its customers with disabilities could not reserve hotel rooms, through their websites without substantial extra efforts that persons without disabilities were not required to perform. These represent a major potential expansion of the ADA in that this, and other similar suits (known as "bricks vs. clicks"), seeks to expand the ADA's authority to cyberspace, where entities may not have actual physical facilities that are required to comply.
When Section 508 compliance was first implemented, testing for accessibility was a very time-consuming process. Manual testing is performed by a tester sitting in front of a computer carefully going through pages, trying various usage and input combinations, comparing the results to the expected behaviors and recording their observations. Most testers had to rely on manual testing since not many automated testing platforms were available.
When choosing an aid or service, title II entities are required to give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service requested by the person who has a communication disability. The state or local government must honor the person’s choice, unless it can demonstrate that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that the use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration or in an undue burden (see limitations below). If the choice expressed by the person with a disability would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration, the public entity still has an obligation to provide an alternative aid or service that provides effective communication if one is available.
Under 2010 revisions of Department of Justice regulations, newly constructed or altered swimming pools, wading pools, and spas must have an accessible means of entrance and exit to pools for disabled people. However, the requirement is conditioned on whether providing access through a fixed lift is "readily achievable". Other requirements exist, based on pool size, include providing a certain number of accessible means of entry and exit, which are outlined in Section 242 of the standards. However, businesses are free to consider the differences in the application of the rules depending on whether the pool is new or altered, or whether the swimming pool was in existence before the effective date of the new rule. Full compliance may not be required for existing facilities; Section 242 and 1009 of the 2010 Standards outline such exceptions.
Social Security pays a monthly benefit to older Americans, workers who become disabled, and families in which a spouse or parent dies. When you retire, your Social Security payment is based on your average earnings over your working career. If you are determined to be disabled, your benefit is based on the amount of income on which you’ve paid Social Security taxes.
Enough Time: Users have sufficient time to read and use the website’s content. If part of the website has a time limit, users are able to turn off the time limit, or they can adjust or extend it to at least ten times the default limit (unless the time limit is essential to the website’s functionality, such as auction websites like eBay). Content that moves, blinks, or automatically updates can be paused or stopped unless it’s essential to the website’s functionality.
Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. was a case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. The defendant argued that as a vessel flying the flag of a foreign nation it was exempt from the requirements of the ADA. This argument was accepted by a federal court in Florida and, subsequently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts on the basis that Norwegian Cruise Lines was a business headquartered in the United States whose clients were predominantly Americans and, more importantly, operated out of port facilities throughout the United States.
Visual: Use a screen reader to help you navigate the site. Users who are blind must be able to understand any element on the site where they land and if it contains functionality such as a link. Several ways to emulate this are to close your eyes or turn your monitor around and navigate the site using the keyboard. If, you as a tester, land on an element and a screen reader cannot make sense of what the element is, that is an issue of ADA compliance. For users with poor vision or colorblindness, testers have to make sure colors are distinguishable, and these can include background colors, link colors, font colors, etc. Screen magnifiers are a great way to test for poor visibility. There is a great tool known as Color Oracle that can emulate what a user with colorblindness sees on the screen. If colors can’t be distinguishable, that is an issue of ADA compliance. Make sure text alternatives are provided to images that convey information (look at the alt tag on the code).
Various courts around America have ruled that commercial websites are places of public accommodation and thus subject to ADA rules. Other cases have concluded that websites are bound by ADA regulations if there is a close “nexus” between the site and a physical location, the most famous example being the ruling against the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain for not making its site accessible to users with low vision. Other courts have decided that the ADA as written simply does not offer any protections for online users. With no overarching federal rules in place, it’s difficult to make a definitive statement about whether or not any given website is governed by ADA accessibility rules.
The ADA provides explicit coverage for service animals. Guidelines have been developed not only to protect persons with disabilities but also to indemnify businesses from damages related to granting access to service animals on their premises. Businesses are allowed to ask if the animal is a service animal and ask what tasks it is trained to perform, but they are not allowed to ask the service animal to perform the task nor ask for a special ID of the animal. They cannot ask what the person's disabilities are. A person with a disability cannot be removed from the premises unless either of two things happen: the animal is out of control and its owner cannot get it under control (e.g. a dog barking uncontrollably in a restaurant), or the animal is a direct threat to people's health and safety. Allergies and fear of animals would not be considered a threat to people's health and safety, so it would not be a valid reason to deny access to people with service animals. Businesses that prepare or serve food must allow service animals and their owners on the premises even if state or local health laws otherwise prohibit animals on the premises. In this case, businesses that prepare or serve food are not required to provide care or food for service animals, nor do they have to provide a designated area for the service animal to relieve itself. Lastly, people that require service dogs cannot be charged an extra fee for their service dog or be treated unfairly, for example, being isolated from people at a restaurant. People with disabilities cannot be treated as "less than" other customers. However, if a business normally charges for damages caused by the person to property, the customer with a disability will be charged for his/her service animal's damages to the property.
Now you know that some types of content and format on webpages can pose barriers for people with disabilities. The next steps are to develop an action plan to fix web content that is currently inaccessible and implement procedures to ensure that all new and modified web content is accessible. The website accessibility checklist included in this section helps you assess what needs to be done.
 See “Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities”, 73 Federal Register 208 (27 October 2008), pp. 63834-63838; United States. (2004). Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act: Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Justice. Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Justice [Electronic Version]. Retrieved 03/06/2014 from http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/jointstatement_ra.php.
Error prevention on important forms (3.3.4): For pages that create legal commitments or financial transactions or any other important data submissions, one of the following is true: 1) submissions are reversible, 2) the user has an opportunity to correct errors, and 3) confirmation is available that allows an opportunity to review and correct before submission.