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How to Make Your Restaurant’s Website ADA Compliant

November 07, 2019  /  by  Cassie Shukitis

ADA is Here to Stay

ADA compliance is not a trend. You probably already knew that, but a reminder never hurt anyone.

It’s been a few years since restaurants came under fire for failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for websites and mobile apps, but similar lawsuits are constantly entering litigation. The ADA is intended to protect Americans with disabilities from experiencing blockages or difficulties accessing the same commodities as those who do not fall under the ADA umbrella- but getting all businesses to jump on board has proven to be difficult. Despite this epidemic of non-compliance, ADA compliance standards continue to get more defined and more prominent rather than floating away into the ether.

If accessibility and inclusivity aren’t enough to push businesses into action where ADA compliance is involved, maybe they’ll be incentivized by the buying power of the population covered by ADA. A recent study by the American Institutes for Research reported that one in five Americans has a disability. This population controls nearly half a billion dollars in disposable income – this isn’t chump change.

Getting Started with ADA Compliance

Restaurants are among the top industries impacted by ADA compliance regulations and consequential lawsuits. If you own or operate a website, you need to be especially prudent when it comes to addressing faults in your establishment’s website, mobile apps, or other modes of accessibility going forward. Forgoing ADA compliance when building or updating a website not only excludes an entire segment of the population from becoming customers, but will certainly turn into a costly oversight when the restaurant is sued for their failure to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

ADA compliance needs to be at the forefront of restaurateurs' consciousness in order to prevent litigious events from hindering growth or progress…but where to start? If you already have a website, then you need to begin outlining the updates you intend on performing to get your website up to speed. If you don’t have a website – you need to lay the foundation for a strong start-up. Start small if you need to – even a good faith effort to boost your website’s compliance can help your restaurant stay ahead of the regulatory curve while the parameters of ADA are still in flux.

Begin by considering WCAG’s founding principles:

Perceivable: The information on your website needs to be perceivable by all who come across your restaurant’s website. If they cannot see your menu, then they will need a menu that can be read by screen-readers or another form of assistive technology. If visitors cannot hear videos playing on your site, then they will need closed captioning. The information presented must be accessible to all visitors.

Operable: Your website should be easy to navigate. If your site cannot easily be operated by all visitors, then it may be incompliant.

Understandable: Site visitors should be able to respond to and digest all aspects of the website. Instructions or calls to action, downloadable offers, etc. should all be simplified to accommodate the needs of all visitors.

Robust: Your website’s content needs to be rich enough to withstand the tests of technological advancement. This means that your website should be robust and information rich – to maintain the integrity of any assistive technologies that might be introduced to aid visitors protected by the ADA.

These principles will help you and your development team (who might not be familiar with ADA requirements) to better understand the importance of ADA and the intricacies of transforming a problematic website into a compliant one. Once you address your website with these principles in hand, it will be easy to roadmap your updates and compliance efforts in the future.

What Comes Next?

You’ve got a long road ahead of you. Really long. And twisty. It might get dark along the way. You might run out of snacks. The important thing to remember is that you’ll get there.

It’s been estimated that making an existing website ADA-compliant can cost up to $37,000. Being sued for failure to meet ADA regulations can cost upwards of $50,000. It isn’t cheap either way – but there’s a clear winner here. Start small if you need to. Work with developers who are familiar with ADA to ensure you’re on the right path.

If you don’t have the time, capacity, or confidence to travel into the ADA-unknown by yourself – give Roger West a call.