In today’s world, most home searches begin online – not just for non-disabled people, but those with special needs as well. Having a website that helps facilitate this for disabled people is a fundamental part of the home-buying process and ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to buy a home as everyone else. When websites are not properly coded to assist them, lawsuits may occur on the basis of the American Disabilities Act. Since the American judicial system considers websites public spaces, you may find yourself in a situation where you will have to settle out of court or pay large fines.
When it comes to the accessibility of websites offering real estate, Cotton & Company understands compliance guidelines should be followed to protect our clients. Before launching our latest ADA compliant website for The Residences at The St. Regis Longboat Key, the Cotton team partnered with The Miami Lighthouse Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A thorough audit of the site was conducted, and personalized disability testing took place to ensure all aspects of the website were easy for disabled people to use. Not only was important that the website be made accessible to persons using assistive technology devices such as screen readers, screen magnification, alternate text, and Braille output devices but also maintain its programming foundation for search engine optimization.
Cotton & Company’s Website Senior Developer, Sonya Pereira says, “Avoiding legal issues due to site compliance is important, but there are other advantages as well.” People with disabilities are often overlooked as consumers. Pereira concludes, “Allowing accessibility for everyone including the disabled has benefits such as increased traffic, more sales, site popularity and can also decrease bounce rates.”
Real estate associated industry websites have seen an alarming rate of lawsuits in the past few years resulting in 100s of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, plaintiff payouts, fines and negative press. Most recently, the National Association of Realtors (NARS), a membership organization that represents the interests of over 1.4 million real estate professionals nationwide, has been aggressively working to address demand letters alleging that their websites violate the Fair Housing Act. NARS has been in close communication with Florida Realtors® about this issue and disagrees with the allegations.
An ADA accessible real estate website may just be your competitive advantage. By meeting the latest standards in ADA compliance, you will reach 15% more of the world’s population that experience some form of disability. Additionally, by making these modifications you will be acting socially responsible and inclusive.
For real estate developers, builders, hospitality companies, and country club marketers facing real estate marketing challenges, Cotton & Company’s experienced team is ready to develop a program to reach today’s emerging markets, taking full advantage of the technological advances in today’s digital marketing environment. Cotton & Company is an industry-leading marketing and advertising firm specializing in luxury real estate. Sign up for Cotton’ & Company’s weekly e-newsletter, the Cotton Compendium to stay up to date on real estate industry news.