The ADA Book: How to Lower Risk of a Website Accessibility Lawsuit

Just two days ago, I officially published The ADA Book (Updated and revised on October 1, 2019).

There is nothing like this book available in the marketplace.

The ADA Book gives you a step-by-step blueprint of the best way to approach making a website accessible. The chronological order in which you approach web accessibility is crucial, it can be the difference between receiving a demand letter and not.

The order I provide recommend is based on court rulings and the charged violations contained within demand letters and lawsuits.

This information is extremely valuable. It will enable you to have a cloak of accessibility (to thwart plaintiff’s law firms) while you bring your website up to date, mostly following WCAG 2.0 AA.

As you read through the steps outlined, you’ll be able to formulate a plan on how best to approach website compliance. But, as you’ll read, I advise an aggressive attack vs. strategizing; the strategy is reading the book and then you run with the information and make your website accessible.

Here is a preview:

Legal Overview

Inside the book, I summarize the legal landscape. I think it’s important for context, so readers can understand exactly how we’ve arrived at a code red in and what exactly the different terminology means. Let’s talk about this briefly.

ADA refers to The Americans With Disabilities Act and, as decided by the DOJ and courts, Title III of the ADA is what mandates that websites be ADA compliant.

What does ADA Website Compliance mean?

It means everyone, including persons with disabilities, has equal and full use and enjoyment of your website.

How do you make your website accessible?

The de facto standard used by US courts and the DOJ is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Success Level AA which is compromised of 38 success criteria or bullet points for making your website accessible.

Key point: WCAG is not the law but it is something courts continually reference when determining whether a website is accessible.

Many legal authorities (Assistant Attorney General, Section508.gov, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) have stated that you have flexibility in how you make your website accessible so the above standards aren’t the law, just guides.

WCAG 2.0 Summary and Detailed Outline

Well how exactly do you make a website accessible?

My WCAG 2.0 AA Guide is a great start to understanding what you need to do.

In the ADA book, I expound upon this outline and explain each WCAG 2.0 AA success criterion in plain, simple English so that anyone can understand what it is asking for.

Blueprint: Where do you start?

The most important part of The ADA Book is where I detail exactly how to approach website accessibility.  There is a lot of legal best practices embedded within this section because this is all about not getting sued, reducing your risk of seeing a demand letter in your mailbox.

Exactly no one wants to get sued and in the blueprint section is where I strategize for what I would do with a general website.

This information is going to have applicability for any type of entity: corporations, banks, credit unions, mom and pop shops, small businesses, hotels, non-profits, churches, universities, financial and investment institutions, restaurants, etc.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important the next steps you take are.  How you approach accessibility makes all the difference between getting sued and not.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Another section full of gold information is the FAQ section where I answer common questions I have seen in forums and discussions on the web.  I’ve searched Quora, Reddit, and keyword research tools to find the pressing questions people want to know.

  • What are the most frequently cited complaints in lawsuits?
  • Do all websites need to be ADA compliant?
  • Does it matter if I don’t have 15 employees?
  • What about WCAG 2.1 (just released in June of 2018)?
  • How much is a typical settlement?
  • Are plaintiff’s law firms just going after deep pockets?
  • What industries are they targeting the most?

 
and several more questions are answered.

The ADA Book (released February 2019 and last updated in October 2019) is going to guide you through the best way to become accessible so that you hopefully never have to hire an attorney to represent you.  It’s written by an attorney and accessibility consultant (me), gets right to the point, and contains really, really good information – the best information in the world.

You can buy the book at https://adabook.com.

SEO and Reputation Management vs. Consumer Affairs Reviews

Have you ever noticed “review” sites have a way of turning into complaint hubs that majorly skew your company or brand’s reputation in Google?

I mean, because they’re not really reviews are they? They’re more just like a complaints hub for everybody to pile on your company.

Check out the SERPs (search engine results pages) for “Costo reviews”:

costco search results in google

ConsumerAffairs.com is showing a 2.3 rating for Costco and TrustPilot.com basically has them at a 1 star.

I chose Costco as an example for this article because having been an executive member for a decade, I know them to be a rock solid corporation with a very liberal return policy that should satisfy even the most fervent of agitated customers.

And yet that’s not the picture we get with a quick Google search. Instead, we quickly see a collection of individuals who feel they’ve been wronged.

And many certainly have had bad experiences - but what we’re not seeing is the millions who have had a pleasant experience in dealing with the wholesale retailer.

If your company or business is feeling the effects of unduly harsh reviews, believe me, you’re not alone.

Besides Trust Pilot and Consumer Affairs, sites like Yelp, PissedConsumer.com, RipoffReport.com, ResellerRatings.com, etc. are more than happy to broadcast unhappy experiences.

And the worst part is… many of them - especially TrustPilot.com and ConsumerAffairs.com - rank particularly high in Google because they’re authoritative, powerful sites with good on-page SEO.

Oh, make no mistake, they’re not ranking high by accident.

First of all, their leave-a-review business model works out quite lovely for them in terms of search engine optimization:

  1. They get continually fresh, free content with brand and/or company keywords naturally sprinkled in.
  2. They get good user engagement (a newer ranking factor that’s gaining favor by Google’s algorithm) because people want to see the bad reviews and then proceed to gawk at the 18-wheeler sprawled out on the side of the road (stories bashing said company).
  3. People link to the pages because of the incredible stories.
  4. Competitors surely don’t mind leaving a few anonymous reviews to pile on. I mean, a few extra Macho Man elbows from the top turnbuckle never hurt anyone, right?

 
(Well only the company at-hand but they were already dead when we got here.)

It’s a problem, a real big problem.

One of my clients actually had Consumer Affairs ranking on the first page for just their company name alone - yikes!

How to remove Consumer Affairs from Google Results

I know you were hoping for there to be some Google complaint form where you can put in a URL that’s muddying up your brand reputation and then have Google quickly remove it from the search results within 1-3 business days.

That luxury does not exist.  If it did, you wouldn’t see so many complaint sites showing up for large companies.

The best path to removing a negative page in 2019 is to promote the pages surrounding it.  I’ll explain more in the section below.

So how did we push ConsumerAffairs.com to page 2 of Google?

We consistently and strategically linked to everyone else around ConsumerAffairs.com.

Obviously we’d push a positive blog post result but even neutral sites like GlassDoor.com, we’d promote.

Because this is much more about just not having a customer seeing something horrible as soon as they open up your shop door vs. daintily organizing everything in your store ever so perfectly like Marie Kondo would.

We really just don’t want a dozen bloody fish carcasses flopping around right off the bat.

The Bullet Points

  • Set a baseline. If there are any sites above a bad review listing, we want to fortify them. God forbid those get overtaken.
  • Pick out 10–15 independent sites, preferably websites with authority, content, and backlinks that have the ability to rank as high as position #1.
  • Immediately begin to build a diverse and strong backlink portfolio to those websites.
  • Start layering in tier-2 links that point to the new links.
  • Record everything including original rank, date created, and anchor text used.
  • Rinse and repeat for 4–6 months.

 
Yeah, you read that right. It takes time. This is not an overnight pay some geek to do it real fast type of deal.

Can you get results faster?

Sure, but don’t bank on it. If you hire an SEO agency and you’re not popping champagne in 2 weeks, it’s not because they’re holding out the goods on you.

(Stick around and keep reading, I’ll tell you some cheap tricks to hack an immediate push down to maybe get the bad review guys below the fold.)

Review sites like ConsumerAffairs.com are highly authoritative which basically means they’re really sticky in Google.

And…and even when you think you’ve vanquished a Trust Pilot or whoever, Google’s probably still going to dance with the rankings while they sort things out.

It’s just the nature of the beast. As you may have already noticed Google puts some sites in default God mode and any little article they publish insta-ranks.

For example, in the marketing world, Neil Patel just runs away with everything. He’s got a few sites going and whenever he publishes content, it owns the first page for all sorts of related and semi-related keywords.

As another example, look at Amazon, is there any retail product on earth they don’t show up in Google for? Again, #godmode.

Check out what comes up if you search “car cleaning kit”:

search results for car cleaning kit in google

A similar power is being wielded here: Google loves Consumer Affairs so if they publish a page on your company, it’s going to rank by default because CA is in their gilded circle.

To combat this unheralded love, you have to work 10x as hard promoting a bunch of other independent sites. One tip worth noting here: Typically the sites that already rank the highest are the best to target.

Another heads up if you’re eyeballing your social properties as a means of displacing the Pissed Consumers of the world: Many of them won’t get you there.

For your company or brand name alone, Facebook is definitely doable, that is you can rank it on the 1st page.

After that, it depends what social properties Google deems relevant for your organic search results.

A big factor for Twitter being in your top 10 is whether Google inserts your Twitter news feed inside the organic results like so:

lockheed martin twitter feed result

If this is the case, then you’re a LOT less likely to see your simple Twitter account listing taking up virtual real estate in the SERPs.

The Social Others

From experience, I can tell you Instagram is a lot harder to rank on the first page of Google. It very much depends on the niche. If you’re searching for a social influencer, yeah they’re going to rank but for most companies, usually not.

YouTube channels are definitely more accepted by Big G but, again, it depends on the applicability of the channel.
Google Plus - forget about it.

LinkedIn - forget about it, probably.

And here’s another determining factor: How many search results does a search for your company yield?

Google has begun limiting certain first page results to 6 or 7 organic spots!

If this is the case for your SERPs, you’re definitely not going to have many social properties show above page 2. This is especially true for larger corporate entities.

Hacking Kinda

A lot of people are lazy when they search. Unfortunately people that search for “company + reviews” are more diligent but we’ve got to do what we can in the interim so here are three hacks to help you in the near term:

  • Buy an ad spot on the top of the page with Google Adwords.
  • Create a reviews page on your main website (e.g., YourCompanyBrand.com/reviews) - since you are the authority for your company/brand, this will usually rank above other results
  • Buy an in-depth review/editorial from a big blogger or authority site in your niche or news outlet

 
Yeah, I get it, these aren’t ideal.

One, you might not want to pay just to show up for your own keywords in Google (lots of strategy wrinkles here on why you might want to but that’s another bed time story).

Two, any reviews on your site either are or look like they are controlled by you which is totally inauthentic.

Three, this single article will probably cost you $750 - $5,000 (if it’s actually from an authority site).

But hey, if you employ these three hacks maybe you get ConsumerAffairs.com or PissedConsumer.com or whoever below the fold when someone searches.

Hypothetically, this is potentially three more top spots in Google you could right away.

At the very least, you keep those ugly 1.2 star ratings from being the first thing people see.

That’s it. I hope this helps with your reputation management in Big G.

If you’d like to consult with me about your rankings, you can email me at kris {at} rivemarketing {dot} com

Security Service’s (SSFCU) $6 Power Protected Checking Fee

I’ve been a member at Security Service Federal Credit Union my entire banking life.  I’m 37 now so that should put me around 20 years.

The reason I’ve never switched is because I loathe banks like Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and etc.  These banks are constantly trying to put the screws to their customers, finding every which way to fee them.

I didn’t think I had to worry about that with SSFCU – they’re safe, they’re a credit union, right?

Well today I look at my account and see a -$6 fee.  Here’s what it looked like on my online statement:

6.00 POWR PROT ACCT FEE PWR PROT FEE

I had never seen this before but sure enough, my account had it as a recurring fee as far back as I looked.

And I KNOW for 100% certainty that I never would have signed up for a $6 debit on my account every month.

I called Security Service and was told that they had sent out multiple notices that this would be happening and that I didn’t opt out.

Here’s the big problem: it’s not up to me to opt-out, it’s up to me to opt-in!!!

In other words, you don’t get to decide to arbitrarily charge me and then leave it up to me to fight the charge.

YOU, SSFCU, have to sit there and wait and pray and try to convince me to sign up for this BS.

Access to my checking account is not a license to put your hand in my money without my informed consent and acceptance.

I get a lot of notices from SSFCU and amazingly, guess what, I do not read the vast majority.

I will say that I should have noticed this $6 debit sooner but I will also say I never expected SSFCU to pull this type of BS so I didn’t feel the need to be constantly scanning all of my transactions.

I log into my account a few times a month and as long as the balances look about right, I’m good with that.

And of course, security service, banks, and companies everywhere (like Google and their ultra tricky privacy settings) know exactly why they try to make everything an opt-out:

Because most people will never know.  The ones that do might not get around to it.  Some will never figure it out.  And others will give up because they don’t have the energy to do XYZ.

I called Security Service’s San Antonio branch and was able to get some of the charges removed.

But this has nothing to do with a manager or an employee of SSFCU.  This enactment comes straight from the top and it’s a very ugly and unbecoming policy.

This review reflects poorly upon Security Service because of how they have interacted with me as their customer.

If it were an easy process for me to switch banks, I’d already be gone.

Texas LLC Instructions for Form 205 Certificate of Formation

Confused by the vague instructions provided by The Texas Secretary of State on Form 205?

You’re not alone.  Many would-be DIYers give up and pay $49 or $99 on up to use a professional filing service or even hire a lawyer.

It’s completely necessary. 

My Texas LLC Guide explains every question and prompt on Form 205 step-by-step.

I’ve even added a new video where I walk and talk you through Form 205 as if I was filing for a new limited liability company with the state.

Here’s me explaining everything on YouTube:

I created this guide because I saw my friend – an attorney no less! – using one of the filing services (like Legal Zoom, Swyft Filings, Inc File, Incorporate Fast, etc.) you see advertised all over Google to “file” for him.

I asked him why he was paying $100 for a few minutes of convenience when he could easily just file for himself.

The answer was he thought it was more difficult than it was.

And if that’s what he was thinking, then I knew there were entrepreneurs and beginners who were making the same mistake when filing their certificate of formation and registering their company formally with the state.

There were and still are articles, blogs, and YouTube videos out there but none of them are completely clear. The instructions just don’t quite provide enough information.

Why?

Because they’re usually trying to sell something else that routes you back to a filing service, a rush or expedited filing, or another service like registered agent.

And the prices on this stuff are very fluffy.

In contrast, my guide is $15 and I only recommend the bare bones essentials needed to have you up and going ASAP.

If you need help understanding what to put on your Certificate of Formation, go to TexasLLC.org and you can instantly download and have access to both my guide and the explanation video.

Why I Don’t Take Any Supplements, Anything Whatsoever

I’m anti any type of drug or supplement or artificial whatever. The two things I’ve taken in my life are 1) massive amounts of whey protein powder over the course of years and 2) a literal drop of creatine when I was 15 or 16 (I let my tongue hit some creatine in a cup so I could taste it).

And although I’m currently out of peak condition, I’ve had great success in the gym with 17 inch biceps, curling 70 lb dumbells, bench pressing 320 lbs, and incline bench pressing 10 reps of 225 lbs.

I never was interested in taking steroids, HGH, or any of the ridiculous supplements available that could provide an artificial boost because I always felt strongly that it would be cheating and if I ever took one thing it would be cheating for life. I never had this idea that I could experiment and then back out.  No, if I took one thing once, I would have branded myself a cheater for life.

That’s how my mind works and its how I view people that take PEDs. If you took them once, you’re a cheater for life and it undoes everything you ever did (excluding cancer treatments and just taking steroids to live/be a functioning person – then I’d green light them, it’s not cheating to live or walk).

And I’ve studied PEDs. I get that steroids, when administered properly, have shown very little harmful effects vs. their portrayal as potentially deadly in the media. I also get that HGH might be a wonder drug in injury rehabilitation and prolonging careers.

But I’m not as flippant as Mark Cuban when it comes to HGH or Tim Ferriss when it comes to performance enhancers. I think sports should be free of any PEDs creams and injections whatsoever. And even though I’m a professional nothing, I can’t take steroids or the like and derive any good feelings from enhanced performance in regular life.

I acknowledge that’s not the sports world that we live in or even that I grew up in but it’s the one I think should exist.

Besides the cheating in competition aspect, I fundamentally don’t trust drugs whatsoever. And by this I mean Tylenol, Advil, daily supplements — EVERYTHING that’s chemical or a pill.

Artificial drugs are created by people and I do not trust people, especially ones that have incentives like profit.

Obviously, it’s a do the best you can world. Meat has/had hormones. And who knows what the hell else you consume, especially back in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

But I never knowingly take chemicals. I haven’t for at least 8 years. Hell, I even rejected flouride at my last dentist appointment.

When I rejected the flouride or when I reject aspirin, I get looks like I’m crazy. It’s funny because I think the would be administrator is just as crazy as they think I am.

And I’ve been injured. I’ve had my bicep completely tear and fall off while lifting weights. I’ve completely torn both my rotator cuffs. I’ve shredded my hamstring to the point the whole backside of my leg was purple and black. I still have back problems from my friend trying to bench 315 lbs and then not pushing at the count of three while I gave him a lift off – I’m sure there’s some kind of ongoing hernia or slipped disc or something. I get headaches every once in a while.

It’s not a fucking excuse for indulging in chemicals. I think chemicals are the LAST resort. Would I take them? Yeah, if I had nowhere else to turn but in all the previous scenarios, I’ve had a place to turn and that was to step back and allow my body to heal.

Would I take PEDs if it meant the difference between $100m and $2m? No.

I have to be able to live with myself and I can’t do that as an artificially enhanced person.

For others that get on whatever juice, I see them as weak and tainted, but I also see it as their choice.