Legal Considerations for Making Your Business Accessible to Those with Disabilities
It’s good practice for businesses to ensure accommodations for customers and clients with disabilities. It's also the law—specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government' programs and services.
An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
Of course, accommodations aren’t always intuitive to figure out. Plus, what is legally allowed or required? For example, can a business ask customers why they have service dogs? Long answer short: No.
What if the business is online only? Does it legally need to offer online accessibility? Whether you want to start a business, have just opened one, or are a longtime owner, there are legal considerations.
For example: Suppose your website is a business, state, or local organization. If it is, and especially if you are working for the public’s benefit and your website isn’t ADA compliant, you might face a hefty lawsuit. You can expect to pay legal fees, settlement issues, lose customers, and damage your business’s reputation, not to mention that you will need to rebuild your website to be ADA-compliant.
If there’s one thing to emphasize when it comes to accommodations, it’s this: No one expects a business to implement all needed accommodations at once. Nor does anyone expect complicated, convoluted, expensive “solutions” when much simpler alternatives do just fine.
Another point to highlight is this: Try to see accommodations not as a hindrance or burden, but as part of treating customers fairly and respectfully. Accommodations make good business sense and help your bottom line when done properly. Accessibility should also extend to your website, even if your company is online-only.