ADA and your Restaurant's Website


ADA and your Restaurant's Website

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Disclaimer: We are designers, not lawyers, so please do not consider this legal advice, rather recommendations and suggestions based on our understanding of these issues and how they impact small restaurant businesses.

You may have heard about the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold a lower court ruling that allows a disabled person to sue Domino’s Pizza for an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) violation. While ADA suits aren’t uncommon, this case is particularly interesting because it doesn’t have anything to do with a physical Domino’s location that doesn’t meet ADA standards, rather it claims that the Domino’s website does not meet ADA standards and that those with disabilities can’t fully access the Domino’s in a way that allows them to complete tasks like placing an order online.

Here at Fresh Branding, we’ve been monitoring this issue for the last few months and researching options for our clients. We've also been waiting on this Supreme Court case for guidance. First and foremost, it should be understood that almost no restaurant website is in full and complete ADA compliance.

Though the obvious goal of ADA compliance is to make your website manageable for visually-impaired visitors, there’s more to it than that.

So what is an ADA compliant restaurant website? Actually, there is no straightforward answer to this yet. Even though the Supreme Court upheld the 9th circuit ruling regarding Title III of ADA applying to restaurant websites, there are no guidelines established within this title that explicitly define what makes a website an accessible website. The generally accepted standards are WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Here are summaries of the various levels of accessibility. There are different levels of compliance here, some of which are relatively easy to achieve (like alt-tags on photos), while others would require a completely custom-built solution. The most frustrating aspect of this is that the Department of Justice has not accepted these WCAG standards for websites. Essentially, DOJ is saying that yes, websites need to be ADA compliant, but then does not provide a framework or standards to achieve full compliancy.

But there are a number of steps to help get your website into further compliance with WCAG standards.

While being 100% fully compliant would be challenging at this point for most small businesses, we do believe that these steps are worth taking and could help protect you from any potential issues, while also offering better service to customers. After all, that’s what it’s all about – SERVICE.

We expect over time that website providers like Squarespace will inevitably be forced into increasing the accessibility functions of their platforms.

Until then, there are two main things we recommend doing to help bring you into a further degree of compliance:

Image Audit for Alt-Text: Screen readers (software that allows the visually impaired to use the web) depend on tags applied to images on a website. These tags allow the software to "read" these images to the user. Essentially, these tags provide a description of the image to help the visually impaired have a better understanding of the content they cannot see. Previously these tags were often used for SEO (search engine optimization) rather than accurately describing the content of each photo. We recommend auditing your website to ensure that you have made the best use of these tags on your images.

UserWay: We've sourced this free plug-in that addresses a great deal of the current limitations of Squarespace (ability to change the text to be more legible, change contrast, etc.) You can check it out on our website. Just click the little accessibility button in the bottom right. Though we haven't totally optimized it yet for our site, it should give you a good idea of what this plug-in does.

With both of these items in place, we feel like any website that takes these steps will be better covered from any potential issues, while also offering an increased level of service to visually impaired guests. That’s what we call a win-win.

If you have any questions about this issue or need help updating your website, just shoot us a message!