Consumers rely more than ever on websites when searching for a new home, so it only makes sense that real estate companies should make their sites accessible to people with disabilities. According to a National Association of REALTORS® article at Realtor.org, there is another reason the approximately 39 million people in the United States living with disabilities should not be ignored: the threat of legal action.
The article “Real Estate Companies Should Address Website Accessibility to Avoid Lawsuits” noted that according to new data from the NAR, 95% of recent buyers used the internet at some point during their home search. Litigator and real estate transaction lawyer Alisa Carr of Leech Tishman in Pittsburgh said recent court cases have found that a business’s accessibility obligations extend to its website and mobile applications, according to the article.
Mary Brougher is executive vice president for Bender Consulting Services in Pittsburgh, a firm that partners with corporations and federal agencies to help them achieve disability-focused diversity and workforce inclusion initiatives. According to the article, she said accessible websites allow those with certain disabilities to use assistive technology to augment content and make it easier to consume. This can include adding text descriptions with complex graphics, voice-overs that read text aloud and videos with transcripts.
Although the announcement of technical standards for website accessibility has been delayed by the Department of Justice until 2018, Brougher recommended the following steps real estate companies can take to reach compliance and potentially avoid future litigation, according to the article:
- Designate an executive to be responsible for website accessibility.
- Create and implement a digital accessibility training plan.
- Conduct an assessment of the company’s websites and digital applications.
- Keep records of the company’s ongoing accessibility efforts.
- Work with third-party vendors to acquire and implement software and features.
- Prioritize any content accessibility violations.
- Continue to assess online sites and tools for compliance.
NAR’s legal experts recommend in the article that site operators contact their website provider to ask about their site’s accessibility features, and a hired technical expert can help site operators identify where their site might fail to comply.
Source: “Real Estate Companies Should Address Website Accessibility to Avoid Lawsuits,” Realtor.org (Nov. 6, 2016)