There is no quick fix or easy button for making your website, booking engine, or physical property accessible. I see many innkeepers using an “accessibility overlay” or “accessibility widget” that often times promises to make your website compliant without touching the underlying website source code.
What is an "accessibility widget" or "accessibility overlay"?
An accessibility widget or overlay is the icon that you typically see in the bottom corner of a website, usually featuring a stick figure that pops up a toolbar when you click on it. These toolbars may seem like a great option as they allow a guest with a disability to customize their use of your website content by modifying the background color, text size, etc.
Should you trust an "accessibility overlay" or "accessibility widget" to ensure website compliance?
The answer may be found in the data and documentation being produced by a company called UsableNet.com.
Who is UsableNet.com?
UsableNet.com’s research team reviews all lawsuits filed in federal courts under the ADA and in California under Unruh (over 12,000 this year). "The cases are reviewed to identify cases where a digital property is the subject of the claim and not a physical one."
From UsableNet’s Mid-Year 2022 Report
“Businesses using accessibility widgets received more than 300 lawsuits, a big YOY increase. In 2021, we reviewed 400 cases for the entire year. These lawsuits list the widget features as a barrier to equal access in addition to WCAG violations and other user web barriers.”
The Bottom Line
If you are using an "accessibility widget" or "accessibility overlay" product, you should revisit this avenue of protection to avoid a potential ADA lawsuit.
If your webmaster is relying on an "accessibility widget" or "accessibility overlay" to ensure your website's compliance, based on UsableNet’s investigations, you are at risk of the "accessibility widget" or "accessibility overlay" actually being part of the cause for the lawsuit, as it may provide a barrier to equal access.
Why Acorn Marketing is Different
Acorn Marketing is not and has never been an advocate for using an "accessibility widget" or "accessibility overlay" to ensure ADA website compliance. We physically design our underlying website code to meet WCAG guidelines, including but not limited to those that apply to blind users, users with motion issues, low vision, etc.
If you want to learn more about ADA compliance, including website, physical property, and booking engine requirements, then we encourage you to watch our FFA (Free for all) ADA webinar.
No website is 100% ADA compliant. You can get sued regardless of what you do. So adding a widget to assist if needed will always be the better option.
You are correct that you can always be sued, even if your site is ADA compliant. The standards of your site will determine whether you win the suit. As you can see from the data provided in the post, a widget is not the better option. The better option is making your website as technically ADA compliant as possible, so that if someone decides to sue, whether warranted or not, you have a leg to stand on in court. If you’d like more information on this, you can take a look at the complete report from Usable.net: https://blog.usablenet.com/6-ada-web-accessibility-trends-revealed-in-our-mid-year-report