In 1990, the American governing body made The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a law. This was aimed to make people with disabilities feel included and open up opportunities that were available for those without disabilities. The ADA is a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities in all areas of life including jobs, education, entertainment, transportation, and access to all public and private spaces which are open to accommodate the general public.
In 2008, the ADAAA – Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act was signed as the law and came into effect on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes and added specific definitions to the term – “disability”. The ADA covers 5 major titles, namely:
Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities
This title is regulated and enforced by the department of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law ensures that people with disabilities have equal opportunity and access to jobs as their general counterparts. This title defines the disability, establishes guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, addresses medical examinations and inquiries, and defines “direct threat” when there is a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others.
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Under the regulation and enforcement of the U.S. Department of Justice, this title oversees all programs, activities, and services of public entities. This ensures that no individual is disqualified from the services across all states, local governments, the department and agencies under them, and/or any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments. This also applies to public entities that provide transportation to the general public – irrespective of whether or not they receive financial assistance from the federal government.
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
This title operates under the purview of the U.S. Department of Justice. This title mandates all privately owned, leased, or rental properties that are open to the general public must also make sure that their establishment is accessible to those with disabilities. The establishments include but are not limited to – hotels, swimming pools, dental clinics, schools, care centers, movie theaters, sports complexes, etc.
Under this title, it is mandated that all telephone and internet service companies make their products and services available and accessible to people with disabilities such as hearing loss, visual impairment, and speech impairments. This includes supporting visual or video content with the appropriate closed captions. This applies to the federal government announcements and services too. This title falls under the control of the Federal Communications Commission. Such as Zoom Live Events and Shows.
This final title comprises everything else that does not fall within the above categories such as – the relationship it has with other laws, how ADA affects insurance providers and benefits, the prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees. This title also talks about what does not fall under the disabilities category.
Why is ADA Compliance important?
Having ADA-compliant content, not only promotes equality and accessibility but also saves a ton of legal cases from being filed against the brand or company. Every year thousands of cases are filed by people with disabilities against companies that do not accommodate the ADA guidelines. It is important that web developers, content managers, and organizations do regular audits of their content to make sure they are keeping up with the 508 Standards and the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA at all times.
Not only does it improve the accessibility of content but also improves engagement, proven by studies – videos that support closed captions have a better watch duration and conversion rate when compared to those videos which do not support captions. This has a direct impact on how the content ranks in SEO and community engagement forums.