Accessibility is a familiar term to housing providers. Management is keenly aware of accessibility requirements around its properties to ensure fair housing compliance. But what about website accessibility? This article will review what website accessibility is and why every property management company should be reviewing its websites today.What is Website Accessibility and Why Is It Important?
Website accessibility refers to the ability of a website to be accessed and consumed by anyone, including those with physical disabilities. For instance, individuals with visual impairments rely on screen readers to access content, which requires a website to have the necessary technology.
Recently, website accessibility has become a hot topic due to an increase in complaints against companies that do not offer accessible websites. While there is a lack of consensus on whether accessible websites are a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some companies have been found liable under ADA laws for not having websites equipped with technology that makes content accessible to people with disabilities.
Although the 11th Circuit, which is the Court of Appeals for the southeast region, recently ruled that the ADA does not require website accessibility, an advocacy group in Florida is attempting to make the case that an inaccessible website for housing providers violates the Fair Housing Act. As we can see, website accessibility is an evolving situation. Thus, it is essential for property management companies to prioritize website accessibility in their business practices.Website Accessibility - A Fair Housing Best Practice
While having an accessible website is not yet a legal requirement, companies should consider it a best business practice to ensure inclusivity and compliance with fair housing laws. Having an inaccessible website can potentially lead to lost business opportunities or even legal consequences.
For example, an individual looking to book an appointment to view a unit may not be able to fill out an online form due to inaccessible fields, leading to frustration and potential loss of interest or, even worse, a claim that your site is not accessible and, therefore, discriminatory.
It used to be that accessible websites were costly and had to be specifically built and maintained, making them out of reach for most small or moderate-sized companies.
However, today technology has come a long way. Companies can easily ensure website accessibility with the help of easily added-on programs or plugins that do the heavy lifting. They are relatively inexpensive and are quite literally plug-and-play.
Additionally, there is a marketing advantage to having an accessible website. Google prefers and ranks websites that are easy to use, have readable text and elements, and have images that use good descriptive text. All of which is included in an accessible-enabled website.
In conclusion, property management companies should prioritize website accessibility as a best business and fair housing practice. We here at The Fair Housing Institute have already upgraded our site, and it was quite easy. While it is not yet a legal requirement, it can improve inclusivity and avoid potential negative consequences. With accessible website technology now easily accessible, there is no excuse for companies not to ensure their websites are accessible to all.