RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine

FEB 2018

Real Estate magazine is the industry's leading source for real estate news and information since 1980. Published monthly by RISMedia, Real Estate magazine offers timely and relevant real estate news to the industry's top brokers and agents.

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RISMedia's REAL ESTATE February 2018 15 {Policy Matters} T he National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently sent a letter to the Depart- ment of Justice (DOJ) ex- pressing support for clear website accessibility standards for compli- ance with the Americans with Dis- abilities Act (ADA). In 2016, the De- partment began work on regulations for state and local government web- site accessibility, which would have helped inform website accessibility rulemaking for places of public ac- commodations, including real es- tate brokerages. However, with the change in executive leadership in 2017, the Department has stalled work on the issue. This poses ongo- ing problems for REALTOR® mem- bers facing lawsuits for alleged vio- lations of the ADA. These lawsuits have left NAR members confused about how to mitigate legal risks in this area. In the absence of federal regu- lations, courts around the country continue to wrestle with the ques- tion of whether the ADA's acces- sibility obligations extend to a business's online presence. There have been numerous split opinions among the various circuits. Some states and local governments have also enacted their own policies related to government agencies' website accessibility. With a rise in state and local requirements re- garding website accessibility, along with varying court opinions on the issue, businesses could be subject to inconsistent rules across juris- dictions. This is yet another reason why the DOJ's swift guidance on this topic is needed now more than ever. In the meantime, what can you do to get ahead of this issue? NAR continues to recommend that busi- ness owners review the "Web Con- tent Accessibility Guidelines 2.0," which were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium to help de- velopers and site managers make the web more accessible. Contact your website provider and ask what's being done to create or im- prove accessibility and how to en- sure ongoing compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guide- lines 2.0. If you operate your own website and do not have the techni- cal expertise in-house, consult an expert who specializes in creating and maintaining accessible web- sites. Once you understand what website accessibility improvements are needed, changes can be imple- mented incrementally. Educate and train relevant personnel to ensure they're knowledgeable about and focused on your business's online accessibility. Technical experts are also available to monitor your web- site and alert you when a change or remediation is necessary. Consider proactive ways to help disabled users of your site to get in touch. Adding contact information for someone at your business who can respond to a particular user's inability to access the site, or a por- tion of it, is a step your business can take to address site acces- sibility issues. A simple feedback form is another tool to help users inform you about what accessibility features may need to be improved or added. With more and more business being conducted over the internet, getting out in front of the online accessibility issue is a smart business decision. Not only can it help you avoid legal risks down the road, it also establishes your busi- ness as accessible to all, and may enhance your reputation and even your bottom line. RE For more information on ADA website compliance, go to https://www.nar.realtor/videos/window-to- the-law/window-to-the-law-accessible-websites-and- the-ada. Sarah Young is the director of Real Estate Services for the National Association of REALTORS®. Website Compliance With Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group. by Sarah Young

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