Navigating the ADA: Does it Apply to SaaS Companies?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the workplace or in accessing public goods and services. The law has helped millions of Americans with disabilities gain equal access to education, transportation, employment, and other opportunities. However, as technology continues to evolve, many companies are left wondering how the ADA applies to their businesses. In this article, we will explore whether or not the ADA applies to SaaS companies.
What is a SaaS Company?
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is hosted on a cloud-based platform and accessed over the internet. SaaS companies provide a variety of web-based services, such as email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), project management, and file sharing, among others. Many SaaS companies cater to businesses of all sizes and offer a subscription-based pricing model.
Does the ADA Apply to SaaS Companies?
While the ADA does not specifically mention Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, it has been interpreted by courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to apply to websites and online services. Title III of the ADA addresses public accommodations and requires that businesses provide equal access to goods and services to people with disabilities. This has been extended to include digital accessibility, which means that websites, mobile apps, and other digital platforms should be accessible to people with disabilities.
To ensure compliance with the ADA, SaaS companies should take steps to make their software accessible to users with disabilities. This may involve following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
Recent Legal Cases Involving SaaS Companies and the ADA
Several recent lawsuits have been filed against SaaS companies alleging violations of the ADA. In 2019, a blind user filed a lawsuit against the online education platform, edX, claiming that the platform was inaccessible to users with disabilities. The plaintiff argued that edX's failure to provide alternative text for images, proper labeling of form fields, and other accessibility features violated the ADA. The case was settled out of court, with edX agreeing to make its website and mobile applications accessible to people with disabilities.
Another case involving SaaS and the ADA was filed against the video conferencing platform, Zoom, in 2020. The plaintiff alleged that Zoom's lack of closed captioning and other accessibility features made it difficult for deaf and hard-of-hearing users to participate in virtual meetings. The case was settled with Zoom agreeing to improve its accessibility features and pay damages to the plaintiffs.
These cases demonstrate that SaaS companies can be held liable for ADA violations if their software or services are not accessible to people with disabilities.
How Can SaaS Companies Stay Compliant with the ADA?
To avoid potential legal issues, SaaS companies should take steps to ensure that their software and services are accessible to people with disabilities. This includes:
- Conducting Accessibility Audits: SaaS companies should conduct regular accessibility audits of their software and services to identify any barriers to access for people with disabilities. These audits should be conducted by experts who understand the ADA and accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Providing Alternative Text: SaaS companies should provide alternative text for all images, charts, and graphics used in their software and services. Alternative text is a brief description of the visual content that can be read by screen readers, which are used by people with visual impairments.
- Making Forms Accessible: SaaS companies should ensure that all form fields are properly labeled and structured to be accessible to screen readers. This includes providing clear instructions and error messages that are easy to understand.
- Providing Closed Captioning: SaaS companies that offer video or audio content should provide closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. This can be done through automatic captioning or by providing a transcript of the content.
- Providing Keyboard Navigation: SaaS companies should ensure that their software and services can be navigated using only a keyboard. This is important for users with motor impairments who may not be able to use a mouse or other pointing device.
- Work with ADA Plug-In: One great innovation in website accessibility has been plug-ins. Websites, including SaaS platforms, can integrate an accessibility plug-in which allows all users and site visitors to adjust accessibility specifications to their needs. Here at Accountable, we have integrated a Web Accessibility Solution that allows content, color, orientation, and other adjustments to assist anyone who may need those accommodations.
The ADA was enacted over 30 years ago to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the workplace or in accessing public goods and services. To stay compliant with the ADA, SaaS companies should conduct regular accessibility audits of their software and services, provide alternative text for images and graphics, make forms accessible, provide closed captioning, and ensure keyboard navigation. By doing so, SaaS companies can ensure that their software and services are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.