ADA Compliance and the future of SEO

Recently you might have heard about “ADA Compliance” within the digital space. What is that, you have probably asked. For starters ADA refers to the American’s with Disabilities Act. It was enacted in 1990 to prevent people with disabilities from being discriminated in all aspects of public life.  This includes ramps at entrances of buildings, accessibility for the hearing impaired, etc. Lately this has started to cause a stir in regards to people’s websites.

The landmark legal case was GIl vs Winn-Dixie Stores (PDF) when a man sued Winn-Dixie Stores because he was not able to navigate their website as a blind man. He argued, and won, that they needed to make their site accessible to him under the ADA. The courts found that Winn-Dixie is a “public accommodation”  and needed to be compliant with ADA guidelines. Since this time over 61 guidelines have been released and updated to make websites ADA compliant.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? The biggest question on anyone’s mind should be what is a public accommodation, and is my business one? Public accommodation applies to most B2C websites in the retail or hospitality space. If your site is open to sell goods and services to the general public than chances are you will fall under this category. If you’re B2B and sell heavy machinery that is only used by 3 other companies heavy manufacturing companies around the world than you probably don’t fall under this category.

However, the recent guidelines from the government are being taken very seriously by Google, and when Google thinks websites should follow “guidelines” from anyone, chances are their search algorithm will accommodate for those guidelines at some point. So even if you may not be open to a lawsuit by John Q. Public, you may need to take this very seriously for your SEO strategy anyways.

What sorts of things are in these guidelines? The contrast between the text on your site and the background has to equal a certain ratio, also you have to be able to zoom in without the site structure breaking so vision impaired people can read it more clearly. There are 61 guidelines that were released in January that lay out exactly what is needed. While this may be overwhelming, take heart, there are experts in this field who can help you.

Firms like ours offer ADA compliance as a part of an overall SEO strategy. Since the search engines are going to start viewing ADA compliant guidelines as best practices you will need a partner who can stay in front of the changes and updates to these guidelines. Coming into ADA compliance can sometimes seem impossible and while yes, it is a lot of work, there are experts ready to speak with you about how to do it, and it isn’t as expensive as you may think.

If you are interested in learning about ADA compliance and SEO in general, contact us today to get started.

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