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Why should I make my business website accessible to the disabled?

New York business owners are familiar with many of the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For instance, businesses need to provide a certain number of handicapped parking spaces. How many depends on the number of spaces in the lot. They also need to make the business accessible to those with disabilities by providing ramps for those who can't use stairs.

One regulation under the act just might have flown under your radar if you're a business owner. Is the website for your business accessible under ADA requirements? If it isn't, your business could be the target of a lawsuit.

Under Title I of the ADA, the requirement for an accessible business website applies to companies that have a minimum of 15 full-time employees and is open at least 20 weeks each year.

Under Title III of the ADA, businesses that are considered to be public accommodations – including banks, hotels and restaurants – must maintain an accessible website.

Just what is that? It is a site that can be used by people who are deaf, blind or can interact with websites by voice only. A web designer can install technologies, like a screen reader, that will have a voice read the content on the website.

Another way to comply with the accessibility requirement includes creating text transcripts of audio or video content to allow the hearing impaired to read what is being said. Businesses can also include what are known as "alt tags" on images or videos so sight-impaired users can hear a description of what is being depicted.

There will be extra costs in building your website to be ADA-compliant. The bigger the business, the more work it will take, and the costs can be in the thousands of dollars.

However, whatever you pay to set up the site will be cheaper than facing a lawsuit because your site is not complying with the ADA. A lawsuit can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, and you'll likely wind up modifying your website to comply anyway.

If you have questions about how to interpret the requirements, an attorney can offer guidance. This can help you avoid costly litigation.

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