9+Things You Need to Know and Do to Avoid an ADA Compliance Lawsuit

26 Sep 2019

Lawsuits against website owners who are not in compliance with web accessibility standards dictated by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WACG) 2.0 Level AA have become a thing -- and a rather expensive, PIA thing, too if you lose in court or pay a settlement fee. In fact, there seems to be a cadre of attorneys on the hunt for websites that are out of compliance, with the DOJ referring to WACG as the authority on this topic.


Several clients of my Wix designer colleagues have already been victims of this legal opportunism. Hence this blog post so that you are informed and can take any actions you need to protect yourself.



What Does Accessible Mean?


In brief, it means ensuring that visitors to your website who are deaf, vision impaired, have cognitive  or reading comprehension difficulties, or are otherwise disabled, will have full use of your site. It means having: 

  • clear and understandable content 

  • direct and obvious navigation

  • audio, video, downloads, forms, etc., can be successfully interacted with

  • an accessibility policy added to your website.


Here are the most important of the 38 points that are considered WACG success criterion from Accessible.org:  https://accessible.org/Web-Accessibility-Standards-WAS.pdf


If your Wix website was designed by me, many of the basics have already been taken care of for you. But these new accessibility points include many elements that may not have been considered if your site was completed prior to Sept 2019. I strongly urge that you read through the points and identify what you might need to change or improve.



Things I Recommend Changing or Adding Right Now


  1. Photo Alt Tags -- Alt tags usually have been done to help SEO. That means making them more focused on marketing keywords than on clear description of the photo itself. The accessibility standards demand the latter, although this can be combined with the former.

  2. No Auto-Play Audio or Video -- it's required that visitors have the option to turn on your sound or vlogs or other videos. So turn off those auto-play elements. (damn, and I just redesigned my own site to use to background videos on the home page.)

  3. Use Closed Captions --  on your vlog posts and other video.  Here's a resource for how to do this with YouTube, provided by an accessibility expert who is also an attorney.

  4. Scrap Your Pop-Ups -- this especially means not having subscription forms pop-up. It also likely includes pop-ups that urge visitors to stay on the site, take a survey, or email questions.

  5. Correct Your Title Tags -- If you designed your own site and used the same H tags for every headline on your site, this needs to change. Not only is it bad for SEO, it's now a requirement for accessibility compliance. Your name or business name in the website header (top of every page) should be the only H1 tag. Then each page title right under the header should be an H2 tag -- but you don't need a page title on the homepage. Section titles further down the page should be H3 tags. Paragraphs should be P1. Let me know if you need help with this.

  6. Use Simple Clear Page Names -- Page names appear in four places: (a) in the menu, (b) as the title at the top of the page under the header, (c) in the meta tag link that's seen in a search engine, and (d) in the page's url. The page name should be identical in all four places. Don't be clever. Creativity in page names is annoying and confusing for many visitors, and out of accessibility compliance. Not worth the risk.

  7. Color Contrast Ratio -- Not only is it just bad design to have a light colored font for your text sitting against a white page background, it's now a definite no-no for ADA compliance. The ratio must be 4.5:1 at minimum, or better. You can check your color contrast ratio with this cool web tool.  You'll need the hex code number of your font and page background, which you'll find in your Wix editor. But if I've designed your site, don't worry, your contrast is perfect at 7:1 or higher. 

  8. Visible Sitemap -- WAS says that a link to a sitemap must be provided at minimum on your homepage. The likely place for it is in the footer unless you want to make it a more obvious feature of the home page. An example of that can be found at the bottom of the homepage on another of my websites: TheNoHypeMentor.com.  I need to do a little updating of this myself. But not everyone likes having a sitemap on the homepage. So that means adding a new page for it, and putting a link in your footer. I can help with that if you don't have time to do this.

  9. Accessibility Policy -- According to that same ADA compliance attorney Kris Rivenburgh, every website also needs an accessibility policy page. He generously provides a template and invites us to use it as a model in crafting our own statement. I had hoped to combine this with the data protection policy page, but it looks to me like it is long enough to warrant its own separate page. I have a draft accessibility policy for those in the healing and advising arts that I'm happy to share. Just ask.

    Or get Kris's more generic template here. And don't forget to add a link to your accessibility page in the footer, as well as having the page visible in your menu.


Be sure to read the whole set of WACG standards and not just the abbreviated but easier to comprehend version at WAS. The 9 points provided here are not all there is, and you should be aware of the others that might apply to you. And it's worth the time to read this article from attorney Kris Rivenburgh, along with the comments posted at the end of the article as well because there is even more helpful info there.


Other Resources on the Topic









Lastly, I'm just catching up on this topic myself, so I can't claim to have any expertise on ADA compliance and web accessibility standards. I believe the resources I've provided here are credible and reliable, and I know they are being widely circulated among other Wix designers. Again, I urge you to read through the links here, then check your website for things to correct, eliminate, or add.


BTW, I have crafted a policy statement -- modeled, by permission, on the one that Rivenburgh created --  that should fit most of my clients. If you are a current or past client of mine and want a copy before I get a chance to add it to your website, just email me or text 425-215-8425 for it.



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Why I've Retired

It's possible this will come as a surprise to you -- it certainly has snuck on me that I'm well past retirement age. Over the last year or so, my heart has been pulled in other directions, and while I still love the creative aspects of website design, I want to use my time making a life rather than devoting my energies to making a living. So I plan to travel, attend writers' retreats, work on learning to take good iPhone photos, and just be open to where my spirit guides take me. I have also stepped back from my esoteric work for 2020, and who knows what the future holds for that.

Please see the blog post for my two Wix designers who have earned my highest recommendations for serving my client niche.

All the Best to You!