Real Estate News

Published on Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Access our latest property investment summary by completing the form below.

When a software vendor touts its ADA accessibility, it’s not talking about elevators or ramps.

Companies regularly like to announce their awards, certifications, and other such honoraria. But sometimes there’s something more under the surface than it seems.

In this case, 365 Connect, which is a vendor of multifamily marketing, leasing, and resident service process automation, announced the renewal of its “platform-wide ADA Accessibility Certification.”

“Certified by an independent accessibility auditing firm, the 365 Connect platform complies with the federally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and is re-certified semi-annually for ongoing compliance,” the company wrote. “The certification covers the entire platform, including property websites, lead forms, chatbots, tour requests, rental applications, portals, and payments.” The company claims that it received the first WCAG certification in multifamily in 2019.

But this might be one of those self-pats on the back that has more to it than might seem. Many in real estate might associate the Americans with Disabilities Act with the need for accommodation of physical needs in buildings. This one needs an elevator with braille markers on the operating surfaces. That one has to install ramps, doors, and bathrooms designed to allow access by persons in wheelchairs.

However, the ADA extends to software that a company might offer for the convenience of customers. If the site doesn’t have the proper design and capabilities, someone could sue for a breach of the ADA, and this happens more frequently than you might think.

The Augusta Free Press put together a list of large companies that had faced an ADA-related lawsuit over their websites. They included Apple, Amazon, Bank of America, Burger King, Hulu, Netflix, Nike, the National Basketball Association, and Rolex.

“Website accessibility has become a massive issue in the multifamily housing space and beyond,” 365 Connected said in its press release. “ADA lawsuits alleging that websites, mobile apps, and digital content are failing to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are running at full steam. With an array of court victories and high-profile settlements paving the way, thousands of federal and state lawsuits were filed this year alone. Multifamily operators sit at the top of the high-risk list, as housing is a highly regulated industry and serves as the model for non-discrimination under an array of federal, state, and local laws.”

Some of the common factors that websites miss include so-called alt text on images (a text descriptor of an image that a web page reader will recognize), a lack of page headings, bad color contrast, and much more.