Dealers are in the business of providing excellent service to our customers. We are all aware that providing great customer service requires a certain degree of tailoring our service to best serve each and every customer, including those with disabilities.
Customers with hearing, sight or physical disabilities rely on assistive technologies – such as screen readers, text enlargement tools, and programs to control computers by voice – to allow for use of their computers. For these tools to work and give access to people with disabilities, websites must be coded appropriately on the back end. If a dealership’s website is not compatible with assistive technologies, disabled customers may not be able to shop for vehicles, make online parts purchases or learn about what our dealerships have to offer.
For many years, the U.S. Department of Justice has stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to public-facing commercial websites, urging businesses to make websites accessible to those with disabilities. Dealers have taken action and adapted their websites as necessary. However, some dealers are facing legal action from plaintiffs who assert that the dealership’s website does not provide equal access under the ADA. To avoid expensive litigation, dealerships have often settled their claims with these plaintiffs.
As we’re all aware, website accessibility is a complicated undertaking as a majority of our dealership websites are mandated by OEMs and involve third-party website developers, vendors and content providers. Each third-party entity has a level of control for the content of our websites, which adds a layer of complexity to website accessibility.
With the new year less than a month away, it is a good time for franchised new-car dealers to evaluate their websites for accessibility and reaffirm our commitment to website accessibility.
NADA continues to monitor the issue at a macro level, including the degree to which OEMs and third-party website vendors are collaborating to ensure templates and content is accessible to those with disabilities.
ADA accessibility companies, such as Accessible, AudioEye and UserWay, can be an additional resource to assist dealerships with accessibility, particularly as websites are updated continuously and must be evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance.
Let’s start the decade by auditing our website’s accessibility and ensuring our websites can serve all of our customers. I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season!
Charlie Gilchrist, 2019 NADA chairman, is president of Gilchrist Automotive in greater Dallas-Ft. Worth.