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ADA Compliance: Navigating the Path to Inclusive Online Spaces

Published on | Rob Anderson | Point of View

Rob Anderson

Helpful information from our Associate Member, Rob Anderson, Chief Operating Officer of Run Free Project

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal, financial, or parenting advice; it is for informational purposes only. The tasks needed for ADA compliance vary in each case.

Periodically, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance issues come to the forefront in the run specialty industry, causing concern among retailers. This pattern usually follows reports of running stores facing legal action for not meeting ADA requirements, creating a ripple of anxiety within the community.

As the sole run specialty-specific eCommerce provider out there, we've been inundated with questions on ADA compliance recently. Thus, in this article I aim to offer guidance, meant to assist you in avoiding legal entanglements while fostering inclusivity.

Let's begin with context.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, aims to prohibit discrimination based on disability comprehensively. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice extended ADA's mandate to include website accessibility, recognizing the virtual realm's significance. Despite nearly five decades since its inception, the ADA is still heralded as crucial legislation with broad bipartisan support.

So, why the controversy? Are running stores averse to assisting disabled individuals?

Far from it. Our industry is committed to inclusion and accessibility; it's ingrained in our DNA. The real issue arises from a few groups of individuals exploiting legal loopholes, allowing them (and their attorneys) to capitalize at the expense of local retailers. Questionable lawsuits from individuals styling themselves as ADA compliance testers have become prevalent, causing quite a bit of financial strain on small businesses. One tester alone has generated millions in damages and legal fees. They are effectively the internet age's ambulance chasers. To the uninitiated, the solution appears simple: "Give us a 30-day grace period to rectify issues and avoid a lawsuit, contributing to enhanced accessibility with an understanding of their needs to better inform future design decisions."

Isn't that the ultimate goal? Ensuring accessibility? The optimist in me says yes, while the realist suggests being prepared until the law evolves a more sensible resolution to close the loopholes being exploited at your expense for financial gain.

What is website ADA compliance?

ADA compliance involves ensuring website accessibility, adhering to rules, behaviors, code standards, and design guidelines for effective use by people with disabilities. Accessibility focuses on diverse needs, including blindness, motor and mobility issues, color blindness, epilepsy, blurred vision, cognitive disorders, aging, cataracts, and more.

What should you do?

Website ADA compliance concentrates on five site-specific factors:

  1. Navigation
  2. Headings and titles
  3. Language and text
  4. Media and color
  5. Design and aesthetics

While the details within the five factors go beyond this article's scope, the essence is presenting content in a way that empowers users for easy accessibility.

For a more personalized assessment, consult an ADA compliance specialist. As an initial step, consider two excellent free tools.

Google Lighthouse 

Despite concerns about Chrome's privacy impact, it offers a useful analysis tool—Lighthouse. This tool allows you to run an accessibility report on-demand, providing insights into your website's ADA compliance. The report covers issues and offers additional resources for a comprehensive understanding.

To use it, simply open the browser (close your tabs, clear your cache, and history), navigate to the URL you'd like to run an accessibility report against, click the three dots in the upper right corner of the window, choose more tools, then developer tools. That will open up a frame in your browser that lets you see behind the scenes. If you tap the double arrows to the right on the top ribbon in that frame, you'll see Lighthouse appear next to Sources. Click Lighthouse.

Within the Lighthouse tab, choose Navigation as your mode, select desktop as your device (although it's a good idea to do this for mobile, too), then uncheck all the boxes except for accessibility. Finally, click the analyze page load button and wait for your results. After a little bit, it'll present you with an overall score and a list of issues it found. This report also includes a ton of resources to provide you with context around components of ADA compliance that can't be covered by automated assessment tools, so be sure to spend some time reviewing those.

The widget

Thankfully, you can automate your adherence to many of the ADA compliance requirements using a free JavaScript widget. Our stores have had good experiences with UserWay (, so it's the only one I will recommend directly here, but there are a ton to choose from. 

Essentially, you go to the widget provider's website, sign up for an account, choose the free or paid version (free seems to be good enough for most circumstances), configure the widget in their dashboard, then they'll present you with a JavaScript code snippet to drop into your website and/or eCommerce store. From there, simply paste the snippet into the footer code of your website to ensure it presents itself on every page automatically.

If you're a Run Free Project website and/or eCommerce platform user, it's simple to do. Go to the widget provider's dashboard, choose configure widget, then select choose widget location and set it to show on the bottom right or bottom left of your site, depending on your preferences. Copy the code snippet from their site. 

Next, log into your Run Free Project admin dashboard, select layout, then content, then click add content. Select Template: Footer, give it a title, click the source button on the options ribbon of the dialog box, paste the code snippet, and click save.

When you reload your site, the widget will magically appear in the corner of each page, providing a myriad of accessibility tools to users who visit.

Final thoughts

After adding the widget, run a second Lighthouse accessibility report to gauge its impact. Save the report for a professional ADA compliance specialist, reducing the complexity and cost of formal compliance services.

This primer on ADA compliance is not legal advice. If you're interested in how Run Free Project facilitates compliance while streamlining digital life, visit Remember, I'm not an attorney or ADA expert—just some guy sharing insights to help you navigate ADA compliance more smoothly. Until next time!

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