Is Your Spa's Website ADA-Compliant?

Your spa's website has to be ADA Compliant // Photo credit: Rattankun Thongbun/iStock/Getty Images Plus

You are mindful of ADA regulations. You make sure your hallways are just the right width. You install grab rails in bathrooms and elevators. You make sure your doors swing exactly the right way in order to comply with the American with Disabilities Act and to welcome and accommodate the handicapped. But did you know that ADA laws apply to your website as well?

Recent court rulings have determined that websites must also accommodate the handicapped, specifically the visually impaired. While this can be a boon to the visually impaired, it has become an especially big boon to an army of lawyers who are filing lawsuits as fast as they can against companies whose websites are not compliant. In some cases settlements have exceeded $200,000, and if you're hit with a lawsuit, there is nothing you can do but pay the plaintiff (through their lawyer). There is nothing in current law that allows any grace period for correcting inaccessibility. Many speculate that the attorneys who are "specializing" in ADA compliance violations are doing so more to gain a quick and lucrative settlement than to protect the handicapped.

So what does website accessibility mean? It encompasses a number of factors, including color contrast, keyboard navigation, page reader compatibility, alt-tag on graphic images, and more. More detail on accessibility requirements can be found at the WCAG 2.0 website, which outlines three levels of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA. Currently, AA is what is being required by law. Some corrections can be made relatively easily, such as color contrast if you're using CSS. A simple change can make a global effect on your website. Other changes, however, will need to be made manually. It is important that the website is tested both before and after the changes are made to determine the level of compliance.

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I'm an ex-techie with more than 20 years of high-tech experience under my belt before starting Spa Gregories. I'm very familiar with technology, websites, the internet, databases, and more, but that didn't stop me from getting hit with a lawsuit. When we were served, the first thing I did was I went to our web hosting company (which hosts 14 million websites) and I could not find anyone who could shed light on this new requirement. Since then, I've come to know that this is a very real requirement and that companies are being sued everyday, and the number of lawsuits are rising exponentially.

It's safe to assume that in several years  all websites will be created or modified to be ADA compliant, but in the meantime if your website is not up to the ADA standards, you run a very real risk of facing a lawsuit that you cannot win.

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