October 26, 2020 Fernando Carvalho

Web accessibility for Real Estate Websites

As ADA and FHA lawsuits increase in the real estate industry, it must be clear how to protect your business.

Accessible housing has become a top priority for real estate and housing companies because ADA and other accessibility laws have clearly outlined the physical elements needed to enable people with disabilities to access housing, shops, facilities, etc.

But when it comes to the accessibility of Web sites that offer real estate and housing services, things are starting to blur, as evidenced by the wave of Internet accessibility lawsuits that have targeted the real estate industry in recent months, including industry leaders like Zillow and Compass, who have been sued for being inaccessible to the blind.

What are the overlaps between real estate accessibility and Internet accessibility, and how can companies maintain ADA compliance in their physical and digital business units? This article will break down the accessibility of websites that offer housing and real estate services and the process of compliance with GlobalLincks, the Internet accessibility solution that makes your website accessible from day one.

Web Accessibility for Real Estate SitesWeb Accessibility Legislation for the Real Estate SectorCase Study: Zillow Faces Web-Based ADA & FHA Legislation

Web accessibility for real estate websites

Web accessibility is the practice of repairing a website to make it accessible to people with disabilities, which means specific code customizations that allow people with disabilities to surf without obstacles and interact with your content, ranging from design elements such as enlarged text for the visually impaired and pause animations for epileptic users to screen reader compatibility for the blind and keyboard navigation for the motor disabled.

The online provision of real estate and housing services to people with disabilities is as sensitive and in demand as physical structures. This is one of the main reasons why the real estate industry finds itself in the web accessibility hotspot, as it is an indispensable service. This contact with a wider range of users increases the likelihood of being discovered for an inaccessible website.

Accessibility solutions such as GlobalLincks are available to support the conformity process. GlobalLincks uses AI and automation to scan and correct all accessibility errors on your website without manual intervention except for the initial 5-minute implementation of a single line of code. The alternative, manual refurbishment, is not as available or effective for real estate websites because outsourcing an accessibility expert can cost you thousands of dollars and can take up to three months. GlobalLincks is an ideal solution for companies that prefer a reliable solution for their security and the ability to deploy valuable resources to other companies.

Accessibility legislation for the real estate industry

Easy access to real estate and housing services has always been a major concern for legislators. Of course, this remains a top priority on the web. Websites that operate in this ecosystem have several laws that they must comply with. GlobalLincks’s solution allows for compliance with all of these regulations.

American’s with Disabilities Act. ADA, established in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. In 2010, the law was updated with ADA Title III to extend this ban to public accommodations, which includes all businesses. In 2018, the DOJ confirmed that websites should be considered places of public accommodations and should comply with the ADA. Although the ADA outlines requirements for accessibility of physical structures, it does not do so for websites.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The WCAG are the standard for Web Accessibility worldwide and have been adopted by most accessibility laws, including ADA. The careful instructions guide developers through the process of refurbishing a Web site to accessibility. Once implemented, the WCAG enable a wide range of people with disabilities to access, surf and interact with a Web site.

The Fair Housing Act. The FHA goes one step further and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Unlike the ADA, which covers all aspects of society, the FHA is specific to the housing and real estate industry. The legislation covers discrimination against anyone who wants to rent or buy a home, take out a mortgage, seek help or conduct other housing policy activities, including, of course, people with disabilities.

Associations and organizations. Although this is not official legislation, it is important to note that official agencies such as the NAR and brokerage organizations have called on their communities to make their websites accessible and compliant in order to avoid lawsuits and open their websites to people with disabilities.

Case Study: Zillow Faces Web-Based ADA Lawsuits

Zillow made headlines earlier this year when the real estate service provider was sued for not being accessible to the blind. Visually impaired people who filed the lawsuit claimed that Zillow’s website denied people with disabilities full and equal access to the listings and housing services offered on the platform.

Zillow had failed to design a website that was compatible with the screen reader software that blind people can use to surf the Internet. As a result, the website had created “an incredible barrier to access for blind and visually impaired people, unless they can access websites and therefore the information and services contained therein.”

What Zillow and thousands of other websites failed to recognize is that screenreading software cannot be “interpreted” into the text that the screen reader can access.

The complaint mentions the non-compliance of both the ADA and the FHA and makes it clear that people with disabilities will not have access to publicly offered housing services under these two conditions. Defendant made it very clear to the Court that “the unlawful discriminatory practices of Defendants will continue indefinitely without court intervention.”

The process of accessibility

GlobalLincks has an affordable service that makes your website ADA and WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. If accessibility comes at the expense of performance, companies will reluctantly refurbish their websites, but that runs counter to accessibility, namely making the Internet accessible to all. The only way to do this is to make the web accessibility process simple, convenient, and reliable, so that website owners don’t even have to think twice about making this important decision.

If you are a Real Estate or any professional and need to comply with WCAG regulations, contact us right now via email [email protected]

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