Just this week we heard about increasing claims against brokerage and agent websites that are not accessible to Americans with disabilities… and today our first Berkshire REALTOR was served with legal papers advising of an ADA [American’s with Disabilities] lawsuit and settlement information. As we reported starting in 2016, there is a growing legal threat from law firms cashing in on the federal government’s delay in issuing final rules for how to make websites accessible to Americans with disabilities. NAR is advocating at the federal level, but here’s what you need to know locally:
What is an ADA complaint website designed to do? Web content should be accessible to blind users, deaf users and those who must navigate by voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies.
- Provide text alternatives for all graphics so that they can be automatically converted by software be read, made larger or use simpler language
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Provide users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
- Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
- Make text content readable and understandable.
- Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future assistive technologies for disabled visitors.
Test your Site: To find out where your website stands on compliance, run an accessibility scan of the webpages using a free online tool, such as wave.webaim.org. The report will show areas of the webpage that may not be accessible and recommend a solution. Keep records of your ongoing efforts in pursuit of accessibility and prioritize any content accessibility violations.
The primary areas of non-compliance cited are:
- Company logo
- Arrow buttons
- Social media icons
- Missing alternative text for images
- Missing link text
Update your Site: Talk to your website provider about implementing a plan for making your site compliant with WCAG 2.0. (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
Smart Site Redesign: If you’re planning a website redesign or upgrade, make sure to chose a vendor that will create compliant pages and images.
Add an Accessibility Statement: You may have the fair housing logo (and should!) on your website but it is also in your best interest to also post a clear accessibility statement offering direct assistance to anyone unable to take advantage of the services, including home search, offered on their websites. Although it’s no guarantee that you won’t become the target of an ADA noncompliance threat, offering some accommodation for disabled users on your site makes it more likely that the lawsuit mills will move on to easier targets.
Pending legislation aims to curb ADA-related lawsuits
Lawmakers in both the Senate and House proposed legislation called the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 to reduce the number of lawsuits filed by requiring plaintiffs to give businesses written notice of the alleged violations and an opportunity to address them before filing suit. The legislation stalled in Congress but is expected to gain new momentum with the current administration. Opponents of the measure say it would create new hurdles for citizen enforcement of the Act and weaken its effectiveness.