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Your Responsibilities Under the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public spaces. It also ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to employment and consumer opportunities. Most people know that the ADA applies to physical spaces, but not everyone knows that business websites should also be accessible. Title III of the ADA addresses how businesses serve customers in physical locations and online. Let’s start there.


It’s important — not to mention beneficial — to provide an accessible and inclusive online experience for all existing and potential customers. An accessible website has:

  • Alternative formats to accompany audio, video or text content. These formats may include clearly labeled buttons, captions, transcripts and alt text behind images, all of which allow screen reader technology to read web content aloud. An automated tool like accessWidget can assist with this.
  • No content known to trigger seizures. This includes content that flashes more than three times a second.
  • Checkout features that are designed with clear messages in case of an error, and no processes that include many complex steps.
  • Online documents that are configured to be accessible to people with disabilities. You can use built-in testing features available in Adobe Acrobat for PDFs and Microsoft Office for Word. Both will flag accessibility issues for you to remediate.

To be sure your site is accessible, use an ADA-compliant software tool like accessScan. It can help you test for free to ascertain whether your small business website is ADA compliant. You submit your website’s URL and the tool will run a quick audit of your web page, highlighting website elements that require further attention.

Your physical location

Under the ADA, small businesses are responsible for:

  • Ensuring equal access to goods and services. Be sure you have ample accessible parking spaces and loading zones. You also need to be sure that your restrooms, sales counters and tables are accessible. Then look at your aisles: Are they wide enough for wheelchairs to navigate?
  • Modifying physical space to avoid barriers. This includes installing wheelchair ramps, redoing bathrooms, creating Braille signage, adding audio/visual aids for people with hearing/vision impairments and creating a policy for service animals.

Physical space is not the only way your business can show its commitment to the ADA. Your employees should be adequately trained on how to recognize, respond to and support customers with disabilities so that every customer has a positive experience. Not only is this good for business, it helps mitigate the possibility of facing legal recourse for noncompliance. Keep tabs on best practices for interpersonal responses and make sure your insights trickle down to all employees.

Your employees

Title I of the ADA provides that qualified people with disabilities must be treated equally and should be accommodated in all areas of employment; this includes creating equal application and interview processes as well as the necessary assistance and tools so people with disabilities can properly perform their jobs.

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability must be qualified and able to perform essential functions when provided with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations might include:

  • Choosing accessible locations for interviews and tests.
  • Ensuring that application tests don’t require the use of a person’s impaired skill unless the test is designed to measure that skill.
  • Providing written materials in accessible formats: large print, braille or audiotape.
  • Considering assistive technology, sign language interpreters or large-print communications.
  • Making existing facilities accessible, such as by installing ramps or ergonomic workstations.
  • Creating a service animal policy.
  • Allowing for a part-time schedule.

During the interview process, you’re allowed to tell all applicants what the hiring process involves and to ask whether they will require reasonable accommodation. But you cannot ask candidates with disabilities questions that you don’t ask other candidates — that means you are not allowed to ask specific questions about health conditions, medications or sick days. Any medical information shared during the hiring process must remain confidential.

If you think of accommodations as productivity enhancers rather than special treatment, you might be surprised: Ergonomic workstations, for example, will likely be welcomed by all employees. Other accommodations will help you communicate with customers with disabilities. The solutions you offer may benefit more people than you think.

Be sure to check out for more information.

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