The Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to help make business more accessible for those with disabilities. The act passed in 1992 and has been regularly updated since. It includes a series of rules about how ramps, doors, signs, and other elements of your business need to be designed and implemented. However, it is challenging for your average small business to understand all the regulations they need to follow to avoid fines and other penalties. In this guide, we’ll tell you what you need to know about ADA compliance for small businesses.
Does Your Business Need to be ADA Compliant?
Before you start wading into any specific rules, it’s best to start out by discovering if your business needs to be ADA compliant. Many small businesses are not large enough or in business long enough to be included in the first section of the ADA. Specifically, your business only needs to worry about the employer regulations of the ADA if it:
- Employs 15 or more people
- Is in business for 20 or more weeks in a calendar year
- Is engaged in an industry affecting commerce
Of course, this only relates to private businesses, which are covered under Title I of the ADA. Public organizations are covered under Title II of the act, and they have different rules.
There is also a third section of the ADA called Title III. This section is about how a business treats the public and not about how it treats its employees. All businesses, with some very rare exceptions, need to follow the rules in Title III. This section has rules for twelve different kinds of public accommodations/businesses, including:
- Health care facilities
- Schools and museums
- Restaurants and bars
- Hotels and theatres
- Other stores and shops
If you are a commercial facility, such as a factory, office building, or warehouse, you only need to follow the ADA’s requirements when engaging in new construction or altering your property. If applicable, you may also have to abide by the Title I rules.
In recent years, the ADA has turned its attention to online accessibility instead of just physical accessibility in-person at your business. You have an obligation to ensure that people with disabilities can access it, regardless of the size of your business or for how long you’re in operation. Although, these are flexible rules that may not even apply to your website if you don’t have the feature it pertains to.
Here are some guidelines for website accessibility:
- Video and images need text: Not everyone can see videos and images but can use software to read text online. So, all content should have a text transcript. Images should have alt text, with exceptions. Live video presentations should have closed captioning too.
- Focus on order and structure: Proper website structure will help with your SEO efforts and conform to ADA guidelines. The idea is simply to make your website easy to navigate. Allow text to be resized, don’t rely on color alone (or people who are colorblind may have issues with your website).