Attention Florida and New York Dealers: Your Website could be at Risk!

In this blog I’d like to talk a little bit about American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility and your websites, quickly covering some emerging issues and simple corrective actions you can take.

If you are an auto dealer in Florida or New York, your website is likely under scrutiny by lawyers representing potential customers. They review your site to see if it is accessible to potential customers with disabilities, as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act. In 2018, there were over 2,200 ADA compliance lawsuits filed – with almost 1,600 of them being in New York alone. The challenge of accessibility for dealers is made harder by a lack of agreement on the definition of “ADA Compliant” in the courts. Also, sites with large inventories and technical details, such as VIN numbers, are particularly difficult to make accessible.

As a dealer, what are you to do? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed a set of standards – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – which are now on their second version. Dealer websites should meet at least WCAG 2.1 Level A accessibility guidelines at a minimum and should strive to meet Level AA guidelines where practical. These guidelines focus on four areas known as POUR:

  • Perceivable – the tags and directions on the site should be evident and give the user a sense for what the form, button or link does.
  • Operable – the site should be navigable with a keyboard or a mouse.
  • Understandable – any messages and directions should be written clearly.
  • Robust – the design should work with most browsers and assistive technologies.

The W3C has a quick review checklist to assess your current website for accessibility against WCAG requirements. As a dealer, you should take a few minutes and check your sites, identify any obvious areas of weakness, and work with your website provider and digital marketing agency to bring the site in line with the WCAG 2.1 A Standards.

When you build a website, I recommend that you check that your website provider can start with an approach that is designed to meet WCAG 2.1 A Standards as follows:

  • All uploaded images can be configured with an ‘alt’ text by the user.
  • You should not be forced to use PDFs. Choose a responsive web platform that is designed and built using text-based formats and is compatible with leading assistive technologies.
  • Your provider should supply you with the tools necessary to ensure your websites have every opportunity to remain compliant with this standard. However please note that brand compliance standards impact the ability of some solutions to always meet optimal standards right out of the box. Think colors and red-green color blindness, for instance.
  • Your provider should give you the tools and options to choose colors, sizing and font settings, and the ability to implement color schemes to align with your brand, where possible. As a dealer, you should maintain ultimate control over your website visitors’ web experience, and as such, can override brand and compliance guidelines, if and when it is needed.
  • Your provider’s website tools should enable you to frame in a video on your website and to also include related videos on your Vehicle Details Page (VDP). In both cases, if the video includes an audio description (text captions, etc.), the video and supporting elements should render correctly on your website.

Will this prevent an enterprising lawyer from suing your dealership? No. Will a website that focuses on accessibility in design and applies available accessibility tools reduce your exposure and risk? Yes.

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