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You want your business to succeed and you try to stay abreast of all legal and industry developments to ensure that you are on top of things and out of trouble. But it is difficult to be aware of all the government agencies and all of the regulations that might impact your business.
Here is a fine example. In 2010, the Department of Justice proposed new rules outlining what businesses would need to do to bring websites in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Governmental websites already follow these rules, and businesses that are considered public will have to make accommodations too, although it is not clear how soon the rules will take effect.
The proposed rules, while proposed again each year since 2010, have not yet been finally adopted for governmental websites. But certain standards have already been agreed upon for accessibility of websites for people with disabilities.
According to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, "The ADA's promise to provide an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic and economic life will be achieved in today´s technologically advanced society only if it is clear to State and local governments, businesses, educators, and other public accommodations that their websites must be accessible."
Looking at the standards the government uses now will indicate what businesses will have to do in the future when the rules are finalized. And it should be noted that some businesses -- which exist exclusively on the web -- have already faced governmental scrutiny for their failure to accommodate people with disabilities.
It is not always obvious to people who do not have disabilities all the obstacles the disabled face. The DOJ explains.
"Millions of individuals in the United States have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Many of these individuals use assistive technology to enable them to navigate websites or access information contained on those sites. For example, individuals who do not have use of their hands may use speech recognition software to navigate a website, while individuals who are blind may rely on a screen reader to convert the visual information on a website into speech. Many websites fail to incorporate or activate features that enable users with disabilities to access all the site´s information or elements."
Although the federal government again failed to adopt the rules finally in 2015, it seems likely that businesses with websites will soon need to conduct a review to ensure that they comply with the coming rules. Starting now means getting ahead of the game, and could lead to attracting and keeping more customers.
If you are concerned about your compliance with the ADA on your website or in your brick and mortar business, or any other aspect of your business operations, speak to a lawyer. Get help.
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