Website ADA compliance for Restaurants

As a restaurant owner, you know having a website makes business sense. You also probably have multiple social media accounts. What’s just as important is the need to make your restaurant’s website is ADA compliant.

Your restaurant must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Are you aware your restaurant’s website must do the same? Below you’ll find more information about website ADA compliance for restaurants. You’ll also learn how to make sure your site is compliant and welcomes everyone.

Restaurants Are a Target for ADA Lawsuits

Restaurant websites are one of the most popular targets for ADA non-compliance lawsuits. One of the best-known cases involved a vision-impaired plaintiff who couldn’t order from the Domino’s Pizza website menu or mobile app.

What makes restaurants particularly vulnerable to lawsuits is the growing popularity of online ordering. Ordering takeout from your phone or laptop has become a convenient option in recent years. Unfortunately, when some disabled users try to order meals from their favorite restaurant websites, they can’t. When that happens, those restaurants risk being sued.

And don’t think ADA compliance for websites doesn’t apply to your restaurant because it’s small. Large chains aren’t the only ones being sued for non-compliance. Even family-run restaurants have been hit with lawsuits. 

Title III and How it Impacts Your Restaurant

Title III of the ADA specifically addresses the right of disabled people to enjoy places of public accommodations, like restaurants the same way non-disabled users do. When the ADA was enacted, Title III only meant making brick-and-mortar restaurants accessible to everyone.

Today, millions of people visit restaurant websites to access menus and order. While there is no clear law regarding website ADA compliance and Title III, the courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of disabled plaintiffs who couldn’t order or even access a restaurant’s online menu.

Making Your Restaurant Website ADA Compliant

There may not be a federal or state law regarding website ADA compliance, but WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 Level A and AA is the recognized standard for measuring compliance. Newer WCAG 2.1 guidelines were released in 2018 in response to advances in technology and are used together with version 2.0, not as a replacement.

ADA compliance for your restaurant website must be complete. That is, every element on every page needs to be compliant.

The one area that triggers many ADA lawsuits against restaurants is the online ordering system. Some restaurant owners mistakenly believe they can’t be sued because their customers only order through delivery services like Postmates. That isn’t true. Some delivery ordering systems aren’t compliant, and restaurants that use them have been sued.

These are some of the most common non-compliant elements on restaurant websites:

  • Missing screen reader compatible functionality – This missing element is what led to the lawsuit against Domino’s. The plaintiff, who is vision impaired relies on screen readers to tell him what’s on a menu. When he tried to order a custom pizza from their website and the mobile app, he couldn’t because there was no screen readers compliant functionality on either platform.
  • Can’t navigate the website with a keyboard – Disabled users who don’t have the use of their arms or are vision-impaired can’t navigate with a mouse. They often use assistive technology on their keyboards to read a restaurant menu and order—unless it’s not available.
  • No captions – Hearing impaired users should have equal access to any media on your restaurant’s website. If your videos don’t have any captions, your restaurant’s site isn’t compliant.

If you have a developer who regularly maintains and updates your site, website ADA compliance consultants can provide them with the results of their in-depth audit including code samples. Your developer can use this audit as a blueprint for implementing and fixing all issues.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a developer. You can hire a company that works with current WCAG guidelines to make restaurant websites ADA compliant. They’ll perform the manual audit and fix all of the issues for you.

The Ramifications of Not Being Compliant

One of the biggest ramifications of not being compliant is being sued. You might consider taking your chances to avoid the cost of hiring ADA website compliance consultants. However, that cost will be minor compared to the expense of hiring a lawyer to defend you from a pricy lawsuit.

Another problem that comes with non-compliance is your restaurant could face a social media backlash. When someone can’t view or order from your restaurant menu, they might leave negative reviews or posts across social media. That can quickly snowball, damage your brand and ultimately hurt your bottom line.

When you ignore compliance, you also ignore almost 61 million Americans. The disabled are not some tiny minority. The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 people in the U.S. are disabled and that number is growing. Your restaurant is overlooking a major portion of the population and that’s not even counting disabled visitors from overseas.

How WCAG Pros Can Help Your Restaurant

Need help bringing your website into compliance? WCAG Pros can help by performing a manual WCAG audit to identify all non-compliant elements on your restaurant’s website. We can also remediate those issues and run another audit to make sure everything is compliant. That will let you stop worrying about lawsuits and start welcoming a whole new group of customers to your restaurant.

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