In this episode we discuss making your boat dealership website ADA compliant. You may have heard of ADA compliance, but many aren’t sure exactly how it applies to websites, specifically in the boating industry.
In this episode, Boat Marketing Pros CEO is joined by Sydney Fahrenbruch, the Digital Marketing Manager at Boat Marketing Pros & Atilus. They’ll give you all the details you need on what ADA web compliance is and if you need it for your boating website.
Read the transcript below. Translated by https://otter.ai
Hey, welcome to the Boat Marketing Podcast. My name is Harry Casimir. And today our guest is Sydney Fahrenbruch and she will talk to us, kind of answer a question, it’s more of a conversation her and I will have regarding ADA compliance & websites. Really the question is – does your boat dealer website need to be ADA compliant?
So we’re gonna kind of unravel this question and answer piece by piece to the best of our knowledge. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Sydney. Sydney, can you give us a brief overview on ADA?
Yes, so hi, everyone! My name is Sydney, Digital Marketing Manager. And I’m here to give you guys a little bit of information about ADA compliance and how it applies to websites and what it all means.
So, again, as Harry said, we’ll kind of just start with a brief overview. If you don’t know, which I’m sure a lot of you probably don’t know because it is something that is starting to be more in the news and all that, but a lot of people still don’t know what it is. So, ADA refers to the American Disabilities Act, which is an act that requires all public spaces to remove barriers to prevent an individual with a disability from accessing them. So, when you go out to a restaurant or a store and you see wheelchair ramps, you see handicap parking spaces, you see things written in Braille, that is all because of the American Disabilities Act.
Something a little bit newer is how it applies to websites – is that websites basically have been now identified as public spaces, which when the act refers to public spaces, websites have basically fallen under that, because people need to use websites to do things like banking, shopping, getting information, anything like that. So it applies to websites as well. Because of that websites now need to be accessible to all. That includes people who are visually impaired and might use a screen reader, people who are hearing impaired, someone who has some sort of disability that means they can’t use a standard mouse and keyboard, or people who have cognitive impairments.
Well, and thank you, Sydney. And if I can even add to what Sydney said and kind of take a quick trip back to history into ADA compliance.
Really, the ADA compliance has been around for a long time back in the 60s, 70s. So in 1973, the US Congress passed the ADA section called 508 amendments to the act, specifically for technology that basically said if any entity, any government entity that received money from the federal government, their system must be able to accommodate for any person with a disability. So that’s including, obviously, in the 70s, there was no website, but any computer network and so forth. Now there are multiple revisions to this.
So back in the 90s that got enhanced, to make it even more prominent and making sure everyone knew of it. And the early 2000s the Department of Justice increased the visibility for ADA compliance when it comes to websites. The true piece that comes to play and nowadays that no one knows of it is, really back in 2015 when the Department of Justice really expanded ADA to include almost every public goods and services. So, meanings that if a service is provided to the public by your company, therefore, that service must be at compliance.
Now, again, legally, as a public entity, your website does not have to be ADA compliant. But we’re gonna go into the detail of that. Because this is a debate right now as we speak, including the recent big lawsuits and cases that went to the Supreme Court. We’re gonna go onto that in a little bit. Nowadays, almost everyone is starting to be aware of it because it’s affecting many, many businesses around, whether your boat dealers or is a mom and pop store down the street.
So without further ado, let me kind of bring this back from giving you a brief history into ADA compliance, how it relates to websites, but coming back to what are the guidelines? What are the guidelines, how its effect on a website? And what can a dealer or a boat club do to ensure their website is in compliance. So, Sydney, would you like to kind of give this a shot and, and tell us what does that entail?
Yeah, so there are a set of guidelines to be followed, that will basically tell you if your website is compliant or not. It’s a little bit difficult when we talk about this because, for someone as a business owner, and they hear about ADA compliance and they say – okay, my website needs to be accessible for those who have disabilities. Well, how do I do that? How do I know if it is or not? And it’s a hard question to answer because a lot of the steps are very technical.
But there are a set of guidelines that are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, also known as WCAG. And there are three different levels within that. So there’s A, double A and then triple A. So the double-A is typically standard. If you can fit within those guidelines, then we can say, your website is ADA compliant. And again, these things are very technical. So it has to do with things like color contrast ratio. So if someone’s colorblind and you don’t have the right ratio of colors onto each other, they won’t be able to read things on your website. It all also has to do with things like alt text on images. So people who use a screen reader you have to have tagged on the images so that if they can’t see them, their device is able to read it. People being able to tab through your website. Things like that where the average person, isn’t going to be able to see, you as a business owner isn’t necessarily going to be able to see but it’s a set of very technical guidelines that you have to follow.
That’s fantastic. Now one of the things that if I can go back to echo what Sydney said and how we come about the WCAG, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is this is started back in 1994. So for those who know Tim Berners Lee, who is basically the founder of the internet, it was not founded by Al Gore as some may believe. That’s just a joke. But it was, the internet wasn’t really founded by just Leo himself, although a lot of credit goes to him for what he was able to accomplish.
But back in 1994, they though if we have the internet, we must create a standard. So that’s why he created this World Wide Web Consortium, which called W3C, and in the 2000s they created what we call web content accessibility guidelines. And that’s really based on what Congress said, as you know, governments also like this, where this is the world, this is the law. And this is someone that they have figured out what the rules look like within the law. So what we see we’re able to do is create this basically – this division we then call really Web Accessibility Initiative. Actually, when that started back in the 90s, early-late 90s, I’m sorry, it called Web Accessibility Initiative. And that’s how we get the World Wide Web Consortium, that’s basically created an extension for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
So once that guideline was in place, there are multiple versions of this along the way, as you can imagine. Now Sydney mentioned currently, there are three levels but we didn’t know was there are versions at the moment currently in 2020. They are two key versions you must be aware of one is version 2.0. And there is version 2.1. The big difference is that in late 2018, that’s when to version 2.1
was released. At the moment, as we speak, 2.0 is still very good and is acceptable in most places to just have it. So as a business, if you can meet version 2.0 level double-A, your website is compliant.
However, if you if your website does not meet any of this, there are most likely a lot of elements you’re missing. That’s a big difference here in terms of what are the different level again, 2.1 is currently out and many ADA compliance agencies actually go to make sure their website is in 2.1, although they do not have to be to have to be, your website can be in 2.0 and meet the current standard.
Now, I know Sydney, one of the things that I would suspect business owner would have is what why should I be in compliance? And again, I do want to put that disclaimer out there. Again, we’re not lawyers, but we have worked with dozens of clients with their website from auditing, remediation slash updates, monitoring websites, and we can we see the effect of this, but I do want to make sure.
And why does compliance help me at all besides making your website ready for someone that may never visit it? Sydney, why is it important to have your website compliant?
Yeah, so that really is the question that comes from all of this, – you know what ADA compliant is, you know what goes into it. But then as a business owner, you’re asking, so does my website need to be ADA compliant or not? That’s really the ultimate question that we want to be able to answer for you.
So like Harry said, we’re not lawyers, we don’t want to give legal advice necessarily, because that’s not our expertise, but from a website perspective, and from what we’ve seen in the world, this is basically an answer to that question. So, Harry earlier mentioned the 508 section of the ADA, American Disability Act. So based on that if you are a government organization or a government funded organization, you have to be ADA compliant, it’s a legal requirement for you.
If you are not, which majority of boat dealers or anything in the boating industry is probably not government funded so this would apply to you, it is not technically illegal. However, if a disabled person comes to your website and they are not able to access it you are vulnerable to a lawsuit. So it’s not technically illegal but you are vulnerable to be sued if someone encounters your website and comes across it and sees that it’s not ADA compliant.
So from there, a lot of people will be like, okay, it’s probably not gonna happen to me. I’m not likely a person for this to happen to. But we have seen large companies that have been sued, including Winn Dixie, CVS, Nike, Fox, and Domino’s Pizza, which was a big landmark case recently, that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. And we’ve seen in pretty much all these cases, the judges will decide in favor of the plaintiffs. So if you do get sued, you most likely are not going to win that case.
Even there, from hearing about these big companies that get sued, you might think – okay, well, still, that probably doesn’t apply to me. But we do know of cases specific to the boating industry. Some local cases in our area in Southwest Florida where a boat dealer was sued. There was actually a bunch of Cases up in New York because someone who was a lawyer that specializes in these kinds of cases, visited a boat show and they went to all the vendor’s website and basically, put cases out up against a bunch of these people in the boating industry specifically.
And there is another element to it. Like we said unless you’re government-funded, you’re not it’s not technically illegal, but if you do have a physical location that your website is tied to, so if you’re a boat dealer and your website is promoting your boat dealership, which has a physical location or if you’re a boat rental club, and your website is marketing that you have a physical location – that makes you a little bit more vulnerable, because being tied to any kind of brick and mortar location, it basically increases the validity of the case that could get brought against you.
This is something that a lot of people are getting targeted. You could be a big company, be a small company, you could have a physical location, you could not have a physical location. And people in the boating industry specifically have been targeted with cases. So it is something that you are vulnerable to. And as we’ve said, it’s at this point not technically legal, but as more cases get brought up, and as you know, the world is relying more on websites and the internet and the digital world to get their information. I think, especially with that Dominos case, as we mentioned, going all the way up to the Supreme Court. It’s only a matter of time before it does become a legal requirement for everyone.
Thank you, Sydney. And Sydney’s right Domino’s case specifically, as some of you may have heard, they went to the Supreme Court, the lower court in California has sided with the plaintiff, then went to Supreme Court and Supreme Court said lower court stands. So, meaning that basically that’s a floodgate to, I think, what will come for many additional businesses.
I know many universities, almost every one of my alma mater is going to get sued for at compliance. So it’s just a matter of time. But one of the things that I want to kind of shift is gonna be just a bit technical but as a business owner, there are key elements that you must be aware of. Again, you don’t have to have to learn everything about ADA compliance. But what ADA compliance is able to achieve, there are four key elements to ADA compliance.
There’s the perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust those are the four key things, and when a website is ADA compliant. Perceivable is basically, make sure all the kind of texts and all the text and the images, all the multimedia that is on your website have alternatives so that the user can understand it. For example, here’s a perfect example. Let’s see on your website, you went to imagine if someone blind or deaf or has disability issues. And technology is reading that information for that person. The abbreviation must be well defined. That’s what they call the title of this abbreviation. So we can read the title explanation based on how the website is coded.
That is really, really important, I’m just giving just as an example that’s include almost everything on your website. So another good one is operable. Which is the functionality of the important things on your website? So for example, if you go to a contact form, a contact form should not allow, for example, inside the form field so on say the phone number field, there shouldn’t be like any other characters except acceptable character to help identify a phone number. This is really really really important because someone that is not able to read this, or can’t see this, or they have to use a specific special machine to actually put this information inside those form fields – if those form fields are not well defined, that can put you in the hot seat and make the website is not compliant.
So and then also things that for example, understanding what that means is basically can every single text and even the sentence on their website be read by a robot so that no human can understand it. This is really very important, making sure there is no error on their website everything spelled out as it should be. And sometimes the things that you may take is tedious but imagine, I’m not able to access certain information – that’s how people some people with disability, they’re not able to access the information themselves, they use a certain machine to read this and that’s how you guide them.
So it is very important that when you do not have as a business owner and marketing person or general manager that’s listening to this right now you might think well what why should I learn all this? Well, you know, not all agencies are well versed in this, but there are plenty of tools out there that you can use to learn or at least get your website to some degree of compliance. Now there are different levels of compliance obviously, but there are the four or three things that you must understand about how compliance works.
For any compliance with your website, there should always be an audit, and the second thing making sure you remediate your website remediate means updates, make the updates based on the audit. So when you run an audit, you fix the errors you find from the audit and then you rerun the audit again, and then from there, you monitor it.
My suggestion to most business owners if you are not versed in this and most likely most of us are not, you don’t have enough, time to monitor your website. My suggestion is, I highly recommend that you find an agency that knows about ADA compliance and willing to take over your website for you to ensure that the updates they make to your website you always in compliance.
One of the key things here is that as a business you’re not gonna have the time, possibly the resources in-house to maintain ADA compliance, you’re most likely going to have either using an agency and or someone inhouse, maybe you get trained and one of the podcasts we will be covering not on this one.
But we need to know the difference between using the existing tools versus using an agency that specializes just an ADA compliance, the difference between those two and how can you differentiate and how you make a decision and selecting an agency ADA compliance.
So with that Sydney, can you basically give us an idea why, what are some of the benefits and the upside, obviously, there is plenty of downside for not being ADA compliance, you have fewer people visiting your website. Possibly you can get a lawyer just go after you so by the time you finish with that litigation, you probably spend thousands and thousands of dollars. So you might as well get your website ADA compliance for a fraction of that cost anyways.
Yeah, so obviously, the main, driving factor that we see behind making your website ADA compliant is, the threat of a lawsuit or, seeing that you’re going to have to pay all these legal fees and deal with the stress of having a lawsuit brought against you is obviously, nothing that any business owner wants to go through. So that really is, the main thing that drives, at least from what we see people learn more about ADA compliance.
But there are a couple of other points that I like to touch on and just talk about whenever we’re having these conversations because I think it is important to a just bring more context to the situation and kind of just looking at the bigger picture, I guess when you’re going through something like this. So, one of the first things I want to mention is that most of the guidelines for ADA, which you know, we talked about the WCAG earlier, and the standards that are set to make your website ADA compliant, pretty much all of those are things that fall in line with SEO best practices and things that fall in line with making your website more user friendly. So it’s almost like it becomes twofold by making your website ADA compliant, you’re improving your SEO and you’re making it a more user-friendly website.
Again, when we talk about ADA compliance, people will say, Well, how many blind people are really going to my website, or how many people with this disability are really going through my website? But there are people who might have things like temporary impairments or cause them to have difficulty when navigating your website. So this kind of considers a whole larger group of people and makes it easier for them to use the website and then also just in general, it’s just amazing improving your website. So that’s a really important thing to consider you’re almost saving yourself time in a way the time that you could be putting into SEO you’re kind of crossing that over to help with that.
And then another point which kind of ties into what I was saying before when people say how many people really go on my website that has a this disability or whatever, but the numbers show that one in five people have some kind of disability so by not having your website be ADA compliant, you’re limiting your audience. It’s not just the threat of – oh if someone can’t access my website, they’re going to sue me. You’re opening yourself up to a broader audience by doing this and being proactive and making your website ADA compliant. So that’s another really important thing.
Then last but not least, which I think is really important because obviously, you know, the threat of a lawsuit is scary and making sure that you’re not you opening yourself up to any vulnerabilities as a business owner. But I think it is important to not take that defensive or negative stance on it, and just think that by doing this, you’re being more socially responsible, you’re being more inclusive and you’re benefiting the community and those around you. Um, if you take the previous examples, as we talked about, like, including wheelchair ramps and including handicapped bathrooms, we wouldn’t say, why do we have to have wheelchair ramps or why do we have to have handicapped bathrooms. It’s just a standard that we have now because we want to be able to include everyone and we want things in the world to be accessible for everyone. So I think it’s important to look at websites the same way.
I want to kind of leave you guys up with some of the things that I and the team here we talk about all the time and kind of some of the best practices. We put a guideline and if you ever have a chance to go to our website, we do have these guidelines available to download as well. But by just looking at it, if you never train on ADA compliance for websites is would be very very hard to just look at something. So don’t rely on just the color of the navigation or the color of the image to say this is in compliance, is this complaint, because there are tools out there that help you do that but also it requires some training.
Just like again, if you are a professional boater, you know, on some of the element on your boats, what makes this boat faster than the other one and why some boats are better than the other one is the same thing for that’s applied to almost everything in life. ADA is the same thing as well, certain elements or certain tools and ADA compliance make a big difference.
Again, coming back again, some of the like best practices do not rely on just color or just by looking at the difference between the color and the image in the text. Making sure all the images on your website have the proper tags. Especially for complex images. Now when you can and if you can avoid using any, any super complex images on your website. So that’s really hard to explain. So maybe an image as we contrast it, it’s best to have an image – so for example, that’s very easy to give a description to that image. So for example, if you boat dealers that carry Robalo or Grady-White, maybe you can describe this image – Grady-White Canyon 256 model 2020. That is very descriptive, and that when a system read this, it’s really easy for the user to identify what that is, and you can almost describe it to even take it further. I would add to that descriptive name even the color of that boat so that way again, this is all entered in the tag itself in the title for that image so that when it will assist when the robot reads that information is it really, it can almost tell out what’s in there for the user.
Now, also functionality, make sure the functionality of the website itself, including the navigation, all the links, that are included, are accessible directly to the keyboard and the voice control without using the mouse. Now, most of us, we used to be able to touch the screen by now and or just take off a mouse and then click to the thing that we need. But again, not everyone has the capability to do so due to disability. So you have to make sure your website has all the functionalities in place so that the user can use maybe a keyboard because that’s maybe the only thing they can do. They can use just a mouse, or they can use just a voice command, or sometimes none of this all available for that user to use. That user might use a special system with the website. And if your website is not meeting this guideline, this functionality is not available for that user.
And second, the other thing is if you have audio on their website so, for example, audio or video, make sure you provide transcripts for the user to be able to maybe read or learn or give that information. So for example, our podcast right now we are talking about if you go to our website, you will find the full transcript of that podcast. Because we know there might be the user that comes to our site that may not be able to listen to what we are saying but if you want to be able to read information. Making sure that whatever you have, whatever the medium you have, whether it’s a video, whether it’s an audio or what have you, if possible, when possible, just try to transcribe it and make sure it’s available on their website, especially video.
And you’ll notice came out early last year right now it is required if you have a video on your website, your video should not only provide captions as it goes, but it also required to have a full transcript of that video as well.
And also one of the key things that I think most websites should have and the easiest way to see if even your website’s in compliance. If you go to your keyboard and you type, you press the tab button. So if your website is, I don’t want to say their website is compliant, but if their website is even attempting to be in compliance – when you click on the top button, there would be a navigation button that pops up right above the main navigation. And that navigation you see from there. Only people with a disability that using a special machine will see these automatically for you to see it. If you do not have that special machine, you actually have to press tab and then you see this pop-up. This is very, very important. That’s one of the key, kind of the first thing you can test to see if your website is an attempt to have to be in compliance.
Now, I know there are tons of questions that might be coming to this and some of them may I have a few of them here, I just want to answer the quick. So for example, I know some websites, they do have PDF documents. Now, does your PDF document need to be in compliance? And have you been in compliance? The answer? The short answer is yes. If you want your website to be in compliance with almost everything on the website, not online, but everything on their website has to be in compliance, to meet full compliance standards to including your PDF documents. And there are plenty of tools out there to make a PDF document compliant, basically, this PDF may have to be rewritten, restructure a little bit but they can be compliant, you just have to go through the motions of getting there.
So, and the question is, how descriptive an image should be in terms of, for each of the images on the website, as I mentioned just earlier, be as descriptive as you can be. And so don’t say, a lady with a red shirt and photo that means nothing to the end-user, but be descriptive. Possibly even give, give the age, possibly even give even a quick background of where that person might be standing. So coming back to the boat example I was given earlier, I was using Grady-White but again, if we could come back on my alt tag for an image with Grady-White Canyon 256 blue, light blue color, that’s what I would put in there. And put the year so that way when this system read this information, someone that cannot see this can actually understand what that is.
Now, another thing I know that a lot of people will ask us as of late is what are some of the good tools out, there are plenty of tools. I think we want to dedicate it to a new podcast just about the tools, different methods, how to test it in making sure you’re in compliance. We’re not going to go into the detail of the tools right now. But there are plenty of tools. But be careful the tools that you use, because the biggest thing I see with the tools, people think that they put that tools on their website, and their website is automatically compliant. And that’s not the case. Most of the time. The tools that people use on their website may help guide certain elements on the website to meet certain standards and compliance. But those tools don’t make your site compliant.
Again, think of it – you build your website. Your website has a bunch of codes that make it function and if someone just drafted one piece of code and now this is a website is compliant that doesn’t really add up much. Now there are cases that it does but most of the time you want your website for longevity for the long term, the reason you want your website to be in compliance by making sure the codes behind those pages are adjusted accordingly not just having a flyover within.
We will be covering all the different tools and ADA compliance and more detail on an upcoming podcast. we will have.
So, we are Boat Marketing Pros we are a spinoff of Atilus and Atilus is an agency where we work with dozens of clients all over – from international to local mom and pop store to make sure their website meets ADA compliance. And we would love to talk with you to answer the question you have. As we said if you have any questions and any tips, we would love to hear from you. Just email us at [email protected] or visit us at boatmarketingpros.com/podcast to learn more.
And with that I know I’ve been going on for a bit, but I would love to Sydney, I would love from you too if you have any last word any comment you would like to close with. But I know, I just wanted to cover those last pieces. I know they might be questions coming to us, and I wanted to address them.
Yeah, I mean, I think we really were able to cover a lot when it comes to this topic. It can, you know, get a little technical, get a little complicated, but we’ve kind of tried to put it into those terms that it makes sense for you as a business owner in the boating industry, what you really need to know, to kind of understand how it applies to you.
We do have a lot of other, resources, blog posts, and information that you can get on our website or that we can share with you if you reach out to us to give you More information about ADA. And like Harry said, there’s a lot of things that we do with this podcast is kind of trying to give you more information as a business owner resources that you can use on your own or you can use when collaborating with an agency to help grow your business.
But when it comes to ADA is really one of those things to fully implement it and maintain it, you really do need to work with someone that’s an expert on. It’s not – you can learn about it and you know, become educated on it, but I wouldn’t say it’s something that, you should really try to tackle yourself. It’s really something that you need to have a person with the technical knowledge, who knows what to do specifically for ADA compliant websites. It’s one of those things you really need to kind of reach out and get help with. Awesome.
Well, thank you so much. That really concluded for us here folks. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any comments or tips or any questions, things that you would like for us to address, on the podcast. Our email address is [email protected], you can visit us at boatmarketingpros.com/podcast to get all the latest podcast episodes as well.
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