ADA Website Compliance, a Topic of Utmost Importance for Businesses

So ADA Website Compliance, for those who have not heard of it, yes it’s a thing. For those who have heard of ADA psychical compliance, yes it is related but it relates to your website instead of physical space and also to parts of your online presence. And just because your business does not have to be physically ADA compliant, does not mean you get a free pass when it comes to online website compliance.

If you have a brick and mortar business you should be ADA website compliant. If you are on online business, it’s another gray area, but you should be regardless. A recent court case in CA brings up the point that we may have to be as well. See: A Second California State Court Judge Says the ADA Covers Online-Only Businesses. 

This first came to my attention a few years ago when the lodging association I work for started getting a lot of lodging properties hit with threat letters saying that their websites are non-ADA website compliant. And so it was that I had to get up to speed with what ADA website compliance meant.

And here comes the rub, for small businesses, there is no set in stone legal guidelines we are supposed to be following, only suggested guidelines and they are important for businesses to follow for several reasons besides just making a website compliant for people with disabilities.

One, WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) also has a lot to do with good SEO (Search Engine Optimization, ie getting found in Google search) but it also has a solid basis in good marketing, ease of navigation, ease of readability, etc.

For example, if your customer base is over 55, chances are they no longer all have 20/20 vision, if the text on your website is font size 6, not only is it not going to be ADA compliant but it will also probably not be user/customer/guest friendly, odds are you will have a pretty high bounce rate (i.e. they will navigate away) with the people that can’t easily read the text on your website who will probably go elsewhere to shop, so you have lost a sale. And that’s just one example out of many.

Why do I bring this up now if it’s been around for several years and not a new thing? With the start of Covid, we saw a drop in the number of cases and threat letters, unfortunately in the past few months, both have been on the rise.

Two, there are an awful lot of business owners who are still unaware of this, and three, the bill that has been sitting in the government languishing literally for years is being reintroduced. House Bill Introduced to Require Accessible Consumer Facing Websites and Mobile Apps was introduced (or technically reintroduced with changes from some years ago) at the beginning of October. Whether it passes or not, we won’t know probably for a while, and there are some big pros and also some big cons for businesses if it does. If that does come to pass, we may have more direction (which would be good) but we may have fewer protections (not so good) but again we won’t know unless it passes.

This is a tough one as well because even if you or whoever you work with as a website designer makes your website on the technical side 100% ADA compliant, it doesn’t mean you would pass a visual site audit by a specialist or be oked by someone using a screen reader whose job it is to specifically test websites. There are technical audits you can run to check your site at least to start with and get a heads up if your website is in really bad shape compliance wise. It’s a good place to start.

Website Accessibility Checkers

There are a ton of things that you can do (many are small changes) to make your site as accessible as possible. Adding an accessibility statement to your website is very much suggested as well as when you (or your web designer) make changes to the site, you document document document. If your business does end up going to court, having proof that you gave someone an alternative way to get the information provided on your site as well to show the fact that you know a business needs to be compliant and you have been working on it (and documenting that you have been working on it) seems to go a long way in the court cases that I have been tracking.

There is some hope for ADA complaints (which the bill, if it passes, may or may not help with), The Eastern District of New York Provides Businesses an Early Holiday Gift in Strictly Construing Standing Requirements in ADA Title III Case, the gist of this was that a woman wanted to purchase tickets to a performance and failed to actually contact the venue to see if snacks she had to bring because of her disability would be allowed, read the full article to see the full version of this as it is important from a standpoint of having an accessibility statement on your website and giving people alternative means of contacting you, i.e. sending an email or calling vs having to make any sort of transaction or reservation on your website.

I am also glad to see that the serial threat letter senders are starting to make the mainstream news so more people are aware of this. Woman files ADA lawsuits across US as ‘tester’ of compliance as this has been a huge issue for years with a handful of lawyers and plaintiffs sending out threat letters to lodging facilities, art galleries, car dealerships, and many many more types of small businesses.

The importance of having an ADA compliant website is so that your website should be as ADA compliant as possible because it is good business practices and because it should be accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, the ongoing slew of drive-by lawsuits are not helping this get recognized as the true reason to do so, instead relying on scare tactics and the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) because it’s been such a gray area for so many years.

All of the people with disabilities I have discussed this issue with are not very happy about this either. It reminds me (and I personally have a huge problem with this) of people passing fake service dogs off as the real thing, it makes it that much harder for people that have real service dogs. As someone with a disability myself (dyslexia and I name that because I am great example of if your website has text (small font size and/or fancy dancy script on it) you’ll see me click away faster then freshly cooked bacon disappears in this house and that’s darn quick!), the drive-by lawsuits absolutely horrify me because it minimizes the real importance of businesses taking this seriously to make sure that a website IS accessible to everyone.

I’d recommend businesses get up to speed on ADA and learn the basics, talk to your web developer (if you have one) and get as much as you can done to make your site as compliant as possible. Even if this bill doesn’t pass, it’s likely to come up again plus your business could be hit with a threat letter at any time.

My two favorite law blogs to follow, they both have a free newsletter subscription so you can keep up to date on current news regarding all types of ADA.

Additional ADA Website Accessibility resources:

State and Regional ADA Resources (not every state has ADA resources, check your regional offices first for information)

I am not an ADA expert, I just know more then your average person but I am also learning new things every day as additional issues get raised and as businesses get hit with threat letters and come to me looking for additional information. Awareness is the first step, taking action to make your business accessible is the second.

A Social Media Strategic Plan for Online Crisis. An Outline for Bed and Breakfasts and Other Businesses

Reputation Management ImageMany businesses large and small don’t think about creating a social media crisis strategic plan until after the fact. I liken it to not backing up your personal and business information from your computer or computers until after the fire that guts your office or the flood that sweeps away the business.

Planning ahead and at least getting a handle on how you would approach an online crisis before it happens is key to helping your business survive an incident without you having to have a mental breakdown during a situation. This can cause an enormous amount of stress between employees and management or partners and spouses/significant others. Or if you are not that concerned about a full-scale online meltdown but simply want to be better prepared when you have a review or two that is negative and you need a plan in place for how to handle it this can be useful to at least do the basics.

I wrote this out a few years ago for a client’s use and just recently updated it and thought it may be helpful to post it as I see many reputation management companies out there making suggestions but not many give (or any I could find easily at least) actual step by step guidelines and suggestions for what to do. I would guess they want you to pay for it but it’s an important topic that many small businesses may not and do not have in the budget to employ a company to handle and manage this.

You can download this in (PDF) Social Media Strategic Plan for Crisis or MSWord Social Media Strategic Plan for Crisis, and here is the text to review if you would like to peruse what constitutes putting a plan in place. This is an outline to be modified or tweaked as needed and to customize it to your own business. Be safe and be prepared! (and backup your information too!!!) Please feel free to take it and adapt for use, if you are going to copy it and use it for distribution, some credit would be appreciated, if you are going to copy it for your own and sell it for a fee, karma will come around and bite you at some point and you are not a good human being, enough said.

Strategy for Social Media Crisis for “Your Business“

Date Created:
Date last updated:

Facebook-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Facebook Access: Admin Editor Moderator Advertiser Analyst
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Facebook Access: Admin Editor Moderator Advertiser Analyst
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Facebook Access: Admin Editor Moderator Advertiser Analyst
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Twitter-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Team Member: Yes No
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Team Member: Yes No
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Pinterest-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Access to shared boards: Yes No Yes, which specific ones:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Access to shared boards: Yes No Yes, which specific ones:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Youtube-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Youtube Access: Primary Owner Owner Manager Communications Manager
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Youtube Access: Primary Owner Owner Manager Communications Manager
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Instagram-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Google My Business-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• GMB Access: Primary Owner Owner Manager Site Manager
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• GMB Access: Primary Owner Owner Manager Site Manager
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Yelp-Who has Access?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Full Access: Yes No
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Full Access: Yes No
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Other Social Media Channels-Who has Access? For Lodging Add Tripadvisor and OTAs, for other hospitality, any other specific platforms that take reviews.
Cut and paste and put the level of access in if applicable:
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Full Access: Yes No
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

What channels and programs are being used to monitor company reputation online? (Be specific) include costs if applicable.

How often are those channels be checked?

Who is responsible for company online monitoring?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

Define what a crisis is
Single Event VS Massive Online Meltdown: (Define)

Single Event (i.e. a comment) VS Single Event that Snowballs (i.e. it keeps getting larger): (Define)

What constitutes an online crisis to your company (be specific if possible)?

What are some of the repercussions your company can face in the event of an online crisis?

Who will be the point person in responding to online crisis events? (Add contact information here)

Who is a secondary person (in the event the first is not available or additional help is needed)? (Add contact information here)

Who needs to be informed of an online crisis? (Add contact information here) Add secondary people who can make recommendations and directions in the event the key people are not available.

And what are the steps and procedures point people need to follow in order to inform the above?

Who should an employee or company contact get in touch within the event something is seen online that the company needs to address? (Add contact information here)

What steps should a point person take immediately if they are unable to get a response from a key person in charge of decisions?
Examples: Unpublish the Facebook Business Page, Deactivate Twitter account (you have 30 days to recover it), Instagram: temporarily deactivate account, Pinterest: temporarily deactivate account, Youtube: turn off commenting, etc. (major crisis)
Or
Delete posts, pins, boards, videos etc. (minor issue)
++Keep in mind people screenshot, so just deleting something doesn’t necessarily mean the problem will go away if someone saw it and took a screenshot or more it can resurface.

Who is responsible for company online monitoring?
• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

• Name:
• Role in Organization:
• Email address:
• Alternative Email Address:
• Phone Number:
• Cell Number:

What are the goals you want accomplished?
Examples: minimize publicity etc.
Damage control doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and attention to it.

Who can your company reach out to to minimize impact and even out bad reviews or other bad publicity?
Examples: employees, past customers, business supporters, press.
If you have press contacts, who are they and how can a company contact them?

What message in a crisis do you want to be conveying?

What can you put out there to promote and reinforce your brand’s core message?

What are your company’s values?

What is your company’s value proposition to your customer base?

In the event of an online crisis, what guidelines for each platform should your point people be following?
For example: Facebook-delete post or respond (outline a standard response)
Yelp reviews- respond (outline a standard response)
Google My Business reviews- respond (outline a standard response)

What follow-up and addition steps can be taken to mitigate an online crisis?
Press Releases-Who will write, who will have input
Website Statement-Who will write, who will have input
Social Media Statement-Who will write, who will have input

Response templates for reviews: Customize to suit the platform, a Facebook response may not be worded quite the same way as you would word a Google My Business review or post:
Facebook:
Instagram:
Twitter: (keep in mind the 280 character count)
Google:
Yelp:

Other channels:
-Write up an initial response for each, a brief response acknowledging and the situation. This needs to go out as soon as there is a problem.
-Write up follow up responses, there will be two main types, responses to worried concerned people and responses to very unhappy/mad people.
-Create responses for key people as well. A moderator may be posting on behalf of the company owner or manager but it needs to be labeled as a response from that source.

What are some questions that might be asked by people in the event of an online crisis? Write some template responses in how to address these common questions.

What follow-up will you do online and off in the event of an online crisis and for how long?

If a crisis, even a minor one occurs, note what were the results of this, what could you have done differently? What did not go as planned? Did the process for addressing a problem go well? If not what could be tweaked to make it better if something happens in the future?

Reputation Management Checklist for Platforms

Google My Business/Google Maps= Checked Listing
Yes No
No: Check

Claimed Ownership of listing
Yes No
No; Claim

Verified Listing Information is Correct
Yes No
No: Fix

Signed Up for Email Alerts of Reviews
Yes No
No: Sign Up

Yelp = Checked Yelp Listing
Yes No
No: Check

Claimed Ownership of listing
Yes No
No; Claim

Verified Listing Information is Correct
Yes No
No: Fix

Signed Up for Email Alerts of Reviews
Yes No
No: Sign Up

Checked Bing Local Listing http://www.bing.com/businessportal
Yes No
No: Check

Claimed Ownership of listing Yes No
Yes No
No; Claim

Verified Listing Information is Correct
Yes No
No: Fix

Signed Up for Email Alerts of Reviews
Yes No
No: Sign Up

Checked Yahoo Local Listing/Yext
Yes No
No: Check

Claimed Ownership of listing
Yes No
No; Claim

Verified Listing Information is Correct
Yes No
No: Fix

Signed Up for Email Alerts of Reviews
Yes No
No: Sign Up
++Note about Yahoo listings, the site signup is confusing, this article may help https://localmarketinginstitute.com/yahoo-free-business-listing/

Optional Merchant Circle, Manta, Other directories

Other services and monitoring:
Check to see if your business name is taken on social networks:
http://namechk.com/

http://knowem.com/
-Don’t sign up for the service, just use it check (and be cognizant of the fact that they don’t seem to be right 100% of the time)

Free Reputation alerts:
http://google.com/alerts (put in quotes for better return results)
Real time search (twitter) https://twitter.com/search-advanced

Paid:
https://mention.com/en/
https://sproutsocial.com/plans-and-pricing/

There are additonal paid monitoring services out there, use your judgement, get a demo, talk to other companies who have used them. Benchmark any reports and results if you pay for it.

 

Linkedin Fake Profiles on the Rise

While Facebook is being overwhelmed with fake Facebook profiles, Linkedin is also on the rise. I get, on average, out of the blue about 3-4 Linkedin requests per week, out of those, at least one or two a week are fakes, up from last year when it was about once a month. The Linkedin fakes are a little harder to spot right off the bat, they are on Linkedin, so I would guess the average education level of the spammer/scammers might be a little higher and the copies of messages I have gotten from friends and clients are definitely a lot more sophisticated then the Facebook messages you might get having connected with some “one” on that platform. And I’ve been getting quite a few reports from friends and clients that they are getting lots of odd connection requests.

A question I frequently get from people when I’ve messaged, emailed them or in some case called (especially if it’s a large group of connections that has been hit), is how do you know it’s a fake?

Step one, eyeball the full profile. Generic photo (red flag), the fact they don’t have a banner image in the back is negligible unless they are Linkedin power users or in marketing, many regular Linkedin profile do not add an image. generic text in the bio (red flag), but he has over 500 connections…….

Fake Linkedin Profile Screenshot

Step two, look for mutual connections and wait ohhhh, we have a mutual connection….. (sometimes more)

Fake Linkedin Profile Screenshot

Step Three, look at what they list as experience. Do the companies they list have a Linkedin page for the business (in this case it’s a tech business, so if not, red flag). Google the business listed, in quotes, so in this case “Inhouse design” WordPress web design and “Clean Mate Designing” Websites or Website design. Hmm in this no case no search results for either, tad suspicious no for a web development company? The Third one is a real company, but had live chat on their website, so followed through and asked if he had ever worked there. Not that they recall.  I also Google the name and location of the fake profile and in this case got absolutely nothing online, anywhere, no websites, no social media channels, Nada. Sometimes you might get a name hit, but its an appropriated name, so John Doe from Missouri in Healthcare is actually John Doe from Missouri but the real person is a Granite Distributor.

Step Four (in case you were still in doubt when vetting a Linkedin request a this point), Education? “Maybe” I’ve seen schools listed that don’t even actually exist. He (or she) has over 500 connections, but not a single one of them has endorsed them for a skill, that’s a huge red flag.

And finally Step Five, reverse search their profile picture, occasionally they are a dead giveaway, I’ve had connection requests from people with Susan Boyle’s photo, Prince Harry and Michelle Pfeiffer, it does seem like most of the fake profiles set up information with Tech information in the bios, but not all. The Susan Boyle one stood out because it said she was a local realtor. Some are posing as Job Headhunters (especially if you list on your profile you are job seeking.)

In this particular case, I tracked the image down to a free stock photo site, sometimes you have to dig a little, but generally they pop right up in search.

I very much recommend, similar to locking down your friends list on Facebook (even to friends) because once they are connected then they have access, locking down your Linkedin connections, unless you are scrupulous about making sure connection requests are real people, even then unless you are heavily using Linkedin daily, and using it connect with others and facilitate connections, locking it down is a good idea. This is how these people get access, they connect with someone in business and then boom they have access as a connection to see who that person is connected to, and then start sending out connection requests because they know appear as a second degree connection. The same thing happens with Facebook, Billy Joe and Linda Sue are friend/connections so they must be ok.

As I mentioned the messaging is more sophisticated then the Facebook direct messages, frequently offering a special deal or job offers. They are looking to get personal information from you by getting a job application filled out usually with your social security number, or its an investment or buyin scheme requiring you to pay money and get XXXX which never comes through.

Please report/block these profiles and if you are sure it’s a fake, message anyone you know that is connected to them, most people are not aware the connection is fraudulent and may never have received a direct message from the fake account, they are purely being used as a way to leverage more connection requests. When in doubt, ask your connection if they really know them.

Locking down your connections:

A

And while you are in there, I’d recommend besides locking down connections, go through all your back end settings, especially Account -then- Partners and services -then- Permitted Services and disable any application access that you are not 100% sure is safe. If your Linkedin account is or has been or will be hacked, it’s almost 100% of the time through application access you have granted to your account.

I hope this was helpful, and if you get a Linkedin request that your not totally sure of, please let me know and I’d be happy to take a look.