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What ADA and Web Accessibility Means for Restaurant Websites

On ADA accessible templates, automated & manual remediation and website certification.

a close up of a logo

ADA Compliance and the Restaurant Industry

Website accessibility should be top of mind for restaurant owners and operators this year. But what does ADA and accessibility mean for websites? After all, the World Wide Web was in its infancy around the time that the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1991. And yet, restaurants across the United States are facing lawsuits that cost—on average—$20,000+ to settle, on the grounds that their websites violate this act. This article explains website accessibility as it pertains to ADA, the different levels to be aware of and additional steps restaurants can take to protect themselves from ADA related-lawsuits online. 


Watch this video from a recent BentoBox webinar to learn what your website needs, plus red flags to avoid.

In 2019, ADA lawsuits were introduced at a rate of 8 per hour. Out of the thousands of these website-related lawsuits, restaurants have been one of the most targeted businesses, even online, since they are considered public places that require equal access to all. In fact, the food service industry — just behind retail — is the 2nd largest target for ADA lawsuits throughout the United States.

a screenshot of a bar graph

Food service is the second most targeted industry behind retail when it comes to ADA-related lawsuits.

It’s not just well-known restaurants or metropolitan cities that are targeted by ADA-related lawsuits, either. While the largest clusters of lawsuits affect New York, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas, many smaller restaurants across the country are feeling this trend hit particularly hard.

A graphic of the united states highlighting the states prone to ADA lawsuits alongside news clippings.

While CA, TX, FL, and NJ see the most lawsuits, smaller towns across the U.S. are also affected by this growing trend

Guests who need assistive technology when viewing websites are submitting complaint letters to restaurants about their website’s lack of accessibility. When a restaurant receives one, it can go one of two ways. Some go forward to trial while some are settled out of court for thousands of dollars. Trials typically end in a ruling similar to an initial trial against Winn Dixie in 2017, where a Florida federal judge ruled that public accommodation extends beyond physical access.


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The 4 Layers of Web Accessibility

A pyramid graphic of the layers of website accessibility.

The four layers of website accessibility

Build on a Template That’s Web Accessible

Think of accessibility as having 4 levels. At the bottom is the most basic level: the template your website is built on. Any website provider should be building your website — or helping you build (if it’s a DIY tool) — on a certified-accessible template. This is ensured for all BentoBox customers. This means that when your website is designed and launched — the guest experience is built with accessibility top of mind. 

BentoBox is the only website platform for restaurants that takes web accessibility one step further by optimizing your sitemap structure and keyboard navigation for accessibility specific to restaurant guests. In addition to that, we set your color contrast for you, convert menus from PDF to text and add alternative text (alt-text) and page titles to your website. While an agency can charge upwards of $20,000+ for a new website with these accessibility elements, BentoBox is less than 5% of this cost

A screenshot of the BentoBox backend.

Alt-text is automatically generated on the BentoBox Backend when uploading a new image. 

For example, here’s what it looks like in our backend when you upload a new image on your own. You can see that alt-text is automatically generated for you. You should always check the alt-text that our platform automatically generates for you to make sure it’s describing the image as accurately as possible. You can also easily add a title whenever you add a new page. This is another accessibility requirement that’s simple to do in the BentoBox backend.

Automated Testing and Remediation

The second layer of web accessibility is automated testing and remediation. This is an online tool that checks your website for ADA issues and automatically fixes them for you. Some website providers offer accessibility widgets that fix easy-to-find errors on a website. These include items such as adding keyboard operability, adjusting color contrast and putting ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) tags onto your website. ARIA tags allow screen readers to read each bit of information correctly.

The issue, however, is that automatic testing and remediation can typically only catch 30% of accessibility issues. This brings us to the third type of accessibility protection.

a close up of a logo

A chart showing Testing & Remediation Coverage percentages.

Manual Testing and Remediation

Monitoring your website content for any new updates by users on your team is nearly impossible for a busy restaurant operator. And identifying any accessibility issues is not an easy thing to spot if you’re not an accessibility expert. It would require hiring an ADA-trained engineer to recognize certain issues, fix them, and pay them a retainer to monitor your website’s user edits over time. 

Our new tool, ADA Pro powered by AudioEye, provides continual and comprehensive audits of your website. It does this through a combination of automated and manual processes to identify and remediate any accessibility issues. The AudioEye team are web accessibility experts, trained to spot issues that automated testing alone does not catch. This brings us to our final layer of accessibility.

Certification

When it comes to accessibility, it’s important to have an official website certification for your website. ADA Pro covers automated and manual testing and remediation over time, no matter what changes your team makes to your website.

ADA certification on a restaurant website.

The certification statement icon. 

On top of that, it gives you a certification that anyone visiting your website can see. The certification lives in a toolbar on your website, showing the public your commitment to inclusion. It also includes a host of accessibility tools that any site visitor can use, including the ability to adjust text size, line height, use a player and a 24/7 accessibility help desk that connects visitors directly with digital accessibility experts. ADA Pro is a powerful added layer of support that BentoBox is proud to offer customers who want to take their web accessibility further than template-level certification.

How to Get an Accessible Website

Regardless of your website provider, you should inquire if their templates are accessible, offer monitoring and remediation, expert accessibility support and certification. Inquiring about these will help you to learn upfront from a website vendor exactly what they can offer you for website protection.

If you want to learn more about digital accessibility:

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