The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers much more than just the physical world. Today, the ADA exceeds what was originally envisioned by it in the early 1990s and its implications for the real estate industry go beyond what was traditionally thought of as accessibility.
Now, the ADA includes digital accessibility, with the goal of abolishing discrimination online with an accessible internet that everyone can use. If you have an inaccessible website, you could be prosecuted under the ADA. Having an ADA-compliant site is not only the right thing to do, it’s a legal and business necessity as well.
Why Should Real Estate Websites Be Accessible?
A report from 2018 found that 44% of potential home buyers looked at properties online first when searching for real estate. Alternatively, if you already have real estate and are thinking about renting it, there’s a very high possibility that users will find that rental online.
That trend will only increase in the years to come. Digital is obviously here to stay, but many don’t think that digital accessibility is something they should be concerned about. As long ago as 2016, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) warned its members to be aware of ADA compliance after learning about certain real estate brokerages receiving threatening legal letters. Now is the time to make changes as an industry, especially as major players within real estate are already making big changes to their websites.
If you have a website that’s difficult or impossible to navigate for disabled users, then you could potentially be alienating a considerable amount of your customer base. Especially considering that 1 out of 4 adult Americans have disabilities, it could damage your brand’s reputation.
You could even be taken to court and fined potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to be compliant with the ADA. Lawsuits relating to violating the ADA have become so numerous that some people have resorted to using ADA lawsuits as a source of personal income. In 2020 alone, there were around 3,500 lawsuits filed.
When you think about real estate from a customer’s point of view, it becomes clear why having an inaccessible website would upset many people. For most, buying real estate is one of the most important purchases they will ever make.
Many desperately need a place to live that’s exactly the right price, while for others, buying real estate is simply an experience that feels very intimidating.
Your customers want to be assured they can trust your website. That trust comes from having a website where information is displayed clearly and is easy to navigate and interact with.
An ADA-compliant website helps build trust, increases your brand’s reputation, and adds to the number of potential customers. It’s critical for avoiding costly and unnecessary lawsuits, too.
What Does Digitally Accessible Real Estate Look Like?
We’ve already established that making your website accessible is crucial for real estate. So, how do you make your site digitally accessible and ADA-compliant?
A great place to start would be to conduct an accessibility audit. This gives you a diagnosis of what your current website is doing wrong and offers tips on which remediations are needed to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard.
WCAG is widely viewed as the “gold standard” of accessibility compliance around the globe. In fact, courts in the United States have ordered companies that have lost lawsuits to make their websites WCAG 2.1AA compliant, the second-highest accessibility standard defined by the WCAG.
From that starting point, you then have a clear understanding of what needs to be changed. Here are some common examples of adjustments that are usually required: