What is ADA Compliance, Why it’s Important for Your Property Website, and How to Easily Meet Requirements
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Within the next few years, ADA-compliance for apartments will be a necessity.
This isn’t just an educated prediction for our industry, it’s a conclusion based on the increasing number of lawsuits being filed against apartment websites that aren’t accessible for everyone.
We know. It’s not what you want to hear right now.
The upkeep of a modern, fully functioning property website is difficult enough, and now there’s a need for it to be “ADA compliant” too?
Before you get too stressed out though, please read through everything we have for you. Feel free to use the “Table of Contents” above to navigate to the sections you’re most interested in.
Let’s break down ADA compliance for apartments:
What Is ADA Compliance?
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act and ADA compliance simply means an entity that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. As with many laws, the ADA has evolved over the years through both clear, written amendments and widely accepted reinterpretations — making it a bit of a murky subject for the general public.
Unfortunately, a lot of online articles and blogs lump together the written law with what is generally done/accepted, making it more difficult to survey the situation.
To get you up to speed with where ADA compliance for apartments stands today and why it’s such a hot topic of question, here is a quick overview:
Nowadays, when people address ADA compliance, they are usually referring to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
As stated above, discussions on ADA compliance often merge ADA regulations with guidelines that have been set, when in reality — in terms of what the law says — that is not how it is.
ADA vs. WCAG
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and was published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in an effort to extend disability regulations to the internet and make web content more universally accessible.
Multiple versions of the WCAG have been published but the ones to understand are the most recent two. WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008 in response to the unprecedented changes in technology. It introduced the principles of accessibility that stated content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
To break it down more, the WCAG ensures your apartment website is:
Fairly recently in 2018, WCAG 2.1 was published. It does not replace the prior version but rather builds on it to include mobile devices and people with vision and cognitive disabilities.
This is great news for apartment website developers like Swifty as well as readers like you who are typing to compile a list of steps to take for accessible websites.
The problem is — guidelines are not law.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are not an official part of ADA compliance.
Does ADA Compliance for Apartments Apply to Websites?
Welcome to the murky waters we were referring to.
The biggest mistake congress made when enacting the ADA was not properly anticipating the critical and dominant role the internet would have in the 21st century.
This miscalculation has caused a slew of lawsuits regarding web content and websites that aren’t accessible to people with disabilities.
While the ADA does not specifically address websites, the Standards for Accessible Design asserts that entities that have “places of public accommodation” and that statement has been interpreted to include the internet, and for our purposes, websites. In fact, the DOJ has stated that many websites can be considered “places of public accommodation” even if they don’t have a physical presence.
What About Apartment Websites?
Being that the DOJ considers websites that don’t have a physical entity to be under ADA regulations, it’s more than safe to assume that websites that are connected to physical apartments — one of the most frequent “places of accommodation in the United States — are considered to be under ADA regulations.
Does Your Apartment Website Need to be ADA Compliant?
Our answer is an unwavering yes.
This is what we tell all of our multifamily clients and we’ll explain why…
Putting legal matters aside for a moment, let’s look at other reasons.
When you do not prioritize ADA compliance for apartments, you are hindering a whole segment of individuals from learning about your property. Not only can this cut you off from potential new leases but it’s also discriminating against individuals with disabilities. As an industry that strives to offer high-quality living options for anyone to call home, we feel like inaccessible property websites go directly against our goals and purposes.
Due to a lack of accessible property websites, many individuals with disabilities hire apartment hunters or only search from a specified list of ADA-compliant websites. Imagine if your apartment website was a part of that small list or the individual didn’t have to hire someone. That’s more potential leases for your property and more accessibility for members of your community.
On top of that, in recent years the DOJ has stated on multiple occasions, both verbally and through legal case rulings, that apartment websites are underneath the umbrella of ADA. By not complying, you are opening your property up to potential lawsuits.
Even though it is not law, in a recent ruling the court stated that it “can order compliance with WCAG 2.0” on how to make your site accessible.
Now, we’re not saying that the moment you launch a new website or update your current one, you’re going to be sued by the government. However, it’s better to get in front of this new trend and not open your property up to potential problems in the future.
Why Does ADA Compliance for Apartments Matter More Now?
The most recent version of the Americans with Disabilities Act has been around for over 10 years — so why is there suddenly so much chatter about ADA compliance for apartments now?
That’s the real question, right?
Not too long ago, none of us in the multifamily industry were thinking about this, much less trying to actually get a compliant apartment website.
Along with the recently updated guidelines that were mentioned earlier, the past few years have seen a significant increase in federal lawsuits filed against businesses, alleging that their websites violate the ADA by not being accessible to people with disabilities.
It’s quite disheartening how many websites aren’t accessible to people with disabilities. In a recent study, it was found that 98 percent of the world’s top 1 million websites are noncompliant.
Let’s also not forget that ever since the emergence of COVID-19, we have merged even more onto the online space as an entire industry. Our apartment tours and the majority of our potential renter communication is now happening online. An accessible and compliant property website has never been more important.
Basics of an ADA-Compliant Apartment Website
As you might imagine, there’s many steps and procedures that go into making an apartment website ADA compliant.
However, there’s a few changes you can make right now with minimal web knowledge to increase the compliance of your property website to what is considered a “Level A.”
If you are looking to make your current or future website ADA compliant, it is important that you seek experts that understand the different levels and guidelines of the WCAG, as well as understand how current website design can help or hinder accessibility to users with disabilities. To learn more about how Swifty can easily become your expert, visit here.
First, here is an overview of the main elements that are crucial for accessibility:
- Navigation, links, focus state.
- Forms, digitally signed forms.
- Images, galleries, sliders.
- Video, podcasts, audio.
- Tables and iframes.
- Maps, infographics, illustrative graphs.
- Text layout, fonts, distractions, color contrasts.
- Page structure and organization.
- PDFs, Docs, PowerPoint.
This can help give you an idea of how encompassing ADA compliance for apartments is for a website. It basically touchees every aspect of your property website.
Now, here are the basic changes you can make:
Alt Tags — Alt tags allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to view. Alt tags describe the object itself and, generally, the purpose it serves on the site. Every image, video, and audio file should be given an alt tag.
Text Transcripts — Text transcripts help individuals with hearing impairments understand content that would otherwise be inaccessible. All video and audio content on your website should have a text transcript.
Site Language — By identifying the site’s language in the header code, users who use aids such as text readers will be able to identify those codes and function accordingly.
Consistent Layout — Menus, links, and buttons should be organized in such a way that they are clearly delineated from one another, and are easily navigated throughout the entire site.
If getting your apartment website to a Level A compliance is all you can do at the moment, it’s a great first start!
What Does an Apartment Website that is ADA-Compliant Look Like?
Do You Really Need a Website Developer for ADA Compliance?
An ADA-compliant property website is about more than readable content and easy navigation. Reaching full compliance requires large amounts of effort and web knowledge to make your website robust enough to work with currents and future assistive technologies. Your website should practically anticipate the needs of a renter with a disability who is checking out your site.
The right apartment website developer can make getting an ADA-compliant website for your property insanely easy!
Here are just a few things a web developer can tackle for you as you tackle other important projects:
- Color Contrast: The colors of all elements on the site should be sufficiently contrasting so that information is easy to read. Additionally, any information in color (e.g. graphs, buttons, etc.) should be labeled in such a way that users can understand the color information without color.
- Form Labels: All forms with editable fields should be clearly labeled outside of the field itself. For example, a search bar should have a “Search” label before thefield itself instead of inside the field box or after.
- Stylesheets: Website stylesheets are used to control a site’s layout and presentation and should be specially coded to ensure the site’s presentation is optimally retained. Stylesheets should also use relative rather than absolute units.
- Keyboard: All content functions should be operable through a keyboard interface, such as using unmodified arrow or tab keys.
- Website Structure: Use proper markup techniques to structure your website’s content (e.g., use correct heading tags and HTML for ordered and unordered lists).
- Meaningful Order: Present content in a meaningful order and sequence so that it reads properly.
- Sensory Characteristics: When providing detailed instructions, make it so they aren’t reliant on a single sensory ability.
- Audio Control: Any audio must be able to be paused, stopped, or muted.
- Text Resize: Text must be able to be resized up to 200% without negatively affecting the ability to read content or use functions.
- Text Images: Do not use images of text unless necessary (e.g. logo).
This is just the tip of the iceberg which is why we recommend you at least meet with a trusted web developer to discuss the transition of your website to an ADA-compliant form.
For a complete list of everything that is needed for an ADA-complaint website, visit here.
Is Your Apartment Website Compliant Right Now?
WCAG 2.0 has a list of tools that you can use to check if your apartment website meets accessibility guidelines. Of course, online tools are no substitute for a human expert.
You can also use our Website Accessibility Self-Questionnaire to determine yourself how accessible your website is before deciding on further steps.
Let Swifty Be Your Solution!
At Swifty, we understand the importance of ADA compliance for apartments, which is why we offer affordable apartment websites that fully meet accessibility guidelines. From appropriate color contrast to form labels and more, each Swifty web theme prioritizes ADA compliance for apartments so you can sit back, relax, and watch the leads filter in.
Plus, we make migration easy with no effort needed on your end. Our goal is to give you time back while also decreasing your bounce rate and increasing your bottom line.
If you’re ready for beautifully-designed, ADA-compliant apartment websites, book a demo with our CEO Jon Simpson to learn more and see it in action!