30 Years of the ADA: What Does It Mean for Digital?

a woman in a wheelchair in an office setting navigates a laptop while speaking on a smartphone
18 Dec 2020

This past July, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) turned 30 years old.

This landmark legislation has helped to make changes in the opportunities available for more than 60 million people in the United States who have some type of disability.

Although the ADA has been a major benefit for a large number of people in the United States, there are still areas where improvements need to be made.

Namely, there need to be improvements and changes made for digital ADA compliance.

Technology Has Created a Need for Changes

In the 30 years since the ADA was passed, technology has changed dramatically. The ADA has done a good job of helping to regulate and improve the physical world for people who have disabilities.

However, it was passed three decades ago before the proliferation of all of the various types of technology many people take for granted today.

The ADA does not do enough to help ensure accessibility for disabled people in the digital world even under Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA.

Consider for a moment just how much the digital world affects peoples’ lives on a daily basis. People are using the Internet to make shopping easier, to do their banking, to communicate with one another, and more.

Today, many are choosing to use the Internet for online education and even for working from home.

Because of the widespread use of technology in so many important facets of life, it is essential that there is some type of digital ADA compliance added to the legislation.

More Improvements Need to Be Made

There have been some strides made with accessibility. Devices such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home have helped to make it easier for those who have issues with dexterity or who have a visual impairment to use voice command to do various things and to access websites.

There are technologies that can read aloud information on websites, helping to improve website accessibility.

However, these changes are not incorporated by everyone who operates sites on the Internet, which means that disabled people are not experiencing the web equally.

Many have trouble viewing a site and getting the information they need due to their disability. This is true with laptop and desktop computers, as well as mobile devices with touch screens.

In some cases, people who have limited dexterity will have trouble clicking on the links or entering passwords. Some have trouble navigating audio description features or making the text or cursor larger on the sites they visit.

Additionally, not all websites have integrated even the most basic accessibility features.

Not only does this slow down the visits to these sites, but it sometimes means that certain sites are unusable by a segment of the population.

Naturally, this leads to frustration.

These individuals are unable to get an equal experience from the web, which should make life easier for everyone.

Instead, it often leads to disappointment, to say the least.

Another area that could use improvement is captioning.

Online content does not always include captioning, which will exclude those who have hearing issues. On some sites, captioning is available, but the quality of the captions tends to be subpar. This means that the information that is imparted in the text is not always accurate to what is being said in the video.

Lack of website accessibility does not have to continue.

There are ways to fix the problem, but website developers and those who are running the sites need to implement them. Currently, the only requirements for website accessibility fall to websites run by the federal, state, and local governments.

When it comes to privately owned websites, there are no digital ADA compliance requirements.

The United States is falling behind other parts of the world in this respect.

The 2019 European Accessibility Act helps to address website accessibility issues for public and private sites. This has led to websites being designed with a more inclusive focus to help make them accessible to everyone.

It is likely that in the near future, the ADA will be updated to include accessibility requirements for the Internet. Until then, website owners can take matters into their own hands and work on improving the accessibility of their sites.

Why Site Owners Should Improve Website Accessibility

Companies and individuals who run websites can and should do their part to help improve accessibility even though there may not currently be requirements for digital ADA compliance, but changes are likely coming.

Getting on board with digital ADA compliance early will help to ensure that the site is ready when those changes become law.

By meeting digital ADA compliance, it will help to increase the audience of the website. With tens of millions of people in the United States with disabilities, it could bring in a substantial number of people to the site.

Many of these people may be interested in what is available through the site, but they will not be capable of navigating or finding what they need when they arrive.

Another benefit of digital ADA compliance is that it can help to improve SEO efforts. Search engine crawlers are often looking at sites with “human intention.”

This means that when a site meets content accessibility guidelines for the web, it will appeal to more people and will be recommended more often by the search engines.

Compliance can help to improve the usability of the site, and it can help the reputation of the site, as well.

There are more reasons to choose to make an accessible site today than to ignore the need, and eventually, it will become a requirement by law. It makes sense to make the changes now.

Take the time to find resources that can be added to a website to help make accessibility possible for those who visit.

Not only will it help to create a stronger and more inclusive online environment, but it can help companies to gain more customers who would not have been able to find them and use their site otherwise.

We invite your inquiries to TruAbilities. Our tools make an instant compliance update to your site possible, so you not only will help people access your content, you will have a site that meets ADA usability standards now and in the future. Contact us today to learn more.

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