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Your Business Website: Is It ADA Compliant or a Potential Lawsuit Dilemma?

Your Business Website: Is It ADA Compliant or a Potential Lawsuit Dilemma?

In 2017, the grocery store chain, Winn-Dixie, lost a lawsuit alleging that their website violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Specifically, the grocer’s website was found not accessible to a blind plaintiff according to Title III of the ADA mandates.

Winn-Dixie was ordered to pony up $250,000 to conform their website to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0AA. Plus, the Plaintiff’s Attorneys were going to pursue legal fees from the grocer.

Website accessibility lawsuits against businesses surged in 2017. While these ADA Title III federal lawsuits occurred nationwide, New York and Florida businesses took the brunt of the legal action:

  • New York with 335 lawsuits
  • Florida with 325 lawsuits

Below, we’ll explore what ADA compliance means to a business’ website and suggested steps to remediate the site. However, keep in mind this article is not legal advice. It’s an effort to make you aware of a potential legal (and financial) issue that’s impacting businesses across the county.

What is ADA Compliance and How Does it Impact Your Website?

Title III of the ADA legally directs all businesses open to the public to remove access barriers that would hinder a disabled person from enjoying the business’ goods and services.

You’ll find the result of ADA compliance in the disabled parking spots, service counter heights, and ramps for wheelchair-bound individuals.

In recent years, ADA compliance attention has migrated from a business’ physical presence to their digital presence.

Courts have ruled that any website offering goods and services be considered a place of public accommodation. Regardless if the business has a physical presence or not.

How do courts determine if a website is accessible? They’ve used a set of guidelines that determine if a website is ADA compliant: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

What is WCAG?

It’s globally recognized guidelines compiled by the World Wide Web Consortium that have set the technical standards for website accessibility.

Accessibility guidelines are divided into four main principals:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Criteria for accessibility is provided based on:

Level A: Criteria affecting the largest number of potential users—basically the minimum level of conformance.

Level AA: Satisfying Level A criteria plus deals with the largest and most common barriers for disabled users.

Level AAA: The highest and most complex challenges of website accessibility.

Courts have focused on Level AA for their rulings.

Accessibility guidelines for websites concern at a minimum:

Page structure: Making sure content uses a semantic structure to help user’s and devices understand page hierarchy

Navigation: Provide means to easily navigate the site and web pages using a keyboard and skip navigation.

Text:

  • Allowing assistive technologies to read the page, for example, ability to scale text 200%.
  • Make sure text clearly communicates instructions in a way that the disabled can understand
  • Text instructions in forms should be easily understood

Links: Make sure links to make sense when read out of context. For example, instead of “read more” or “click here” be specific like “read more about ADA compliance here” or “Click here to download this guide.”

Images: Make sure that each image on your page uses alternative (alt) text to accurately describe it. If you use images with text, be sure the alt text communicates the text.

Videos and Audio: Provide captioning and transcripts for videos appearing on your site.

More About the Lawsuits

As mentioned above, 2017 saw a surge of lawsuits regarding website accessibility. While Winn-Dixie had a large financial impact, small businesses were impacted as well.

In California, Whisper Lounge Restaurant was ordered to make its website comply with WCAG 2.0 AA. Also, the court ordered the restaurant to pay $4,000 in statutory damages.

For most small businesses, the legal fees defending a lawsuit and paying damages could be costly.

In 2018, the ADA Education and Reform Act was passed in the US House of Representatives that could offer some relief from frivolous lawsuits—but businesses should still be wary.

Demand letters from law firms can still be sent to businesses found in violation of ADA compliance. If the business does not respond within 60 days that they are correcting the problem, a lawsuit can be filed.

It might be prudent for businesses to be proactive and start the process of making their website ADA compliant. That way, if they do receive a letter, they can show their progress to remediate the issue and, hopefully, negate any potential legal action down the road.

Do You Need a New Site or Can You Modify Your Current One to make it ADA Compliant?

The majority of sites developed with current technologies shouldn’t have many challenges in updating their site. However, in some cases, it will take a team of web developers and designers plus content creators to ensure your site meets the Level AA guidelines.

If you have an older site, a new site might be easier to make compliant.

An accessibility audit might be necessary to determine your specific website’s needs.

Reach Out for Help with a Free Consultation

We understand that businesses are busy and researching the details of ADA website compliance and coming up with a strategy can be daunting.

Give us a call at Business Solutions Unlimited, (904) 429-4588, to discuss options and see how we can help you today.

 

With New Tax Laws Taking Effect, Here’s How to Check Your 2018 Federal Withholding Calculations

With New Tax Laws Taking Effect, Here’s How to Check Your 2018 Federal Withholding Calculations

Have your employees looked at their withholding allowances on the W-4 lately?

For that matter, when was the last time you checked your withholding allowances?

If you or they typically itemize deductions and haven’t checked withholding amounts, now is the time to do so.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect this year making major changes to what we pay in taxes and the IRS encourages everyone to perform a Paycheck Checkup.

They even provided an updated online withholding calculator to help you determine the proper payroll withholding amounts for 2018.

Below, we share a link to the calculator plus tips on how to use it.

But First, Let’s Explore How the TCJA Changes Could Impact Your Withholdings

Tax law changes that affect withholding include:

  • Reduced tax rates
  • Elimination of personal exemptions
  • Changes to itemized deductions

Additionally, the new tax law increased standard deductions to:

  • $12,000 for singles
  • $18,000 for heads of households
  • $24,000 for married couples filing jointly

Those who claim the Child Tax Credit will see the following increases:

  • $2,000 per qualifying child
  • $500 for other qualifying dependents

Who Should Do a Paycheck Checkup?

If you itemize deductions, you should do a paycheck checkup. More specifically, if you:

  • Are part of a two-income family
  • Have two or more jobs at the same time or who only work part of the year
  • Claim credits like the Child Tax Credit
  • Have dependents age 17 or older
  • Have high income or a complex tax return
  • Have a large tax refund or tax bill for 2017

It should only take a few moments to check your withholding allowances with the calculator and make adjustments to your W-4.

How to Use the Updated Withholding Calculator

As a taxpayer, you should check at least yearly how much you’re overpaying or underpaying the government. Experts say you should withhold an amount of your paycheck that’s as close to your final annual tax bill as possible. The withholding calculator can help you determine that amount.

By the way, the calculator doesn’t ask for any identifying information like:

  • Your name
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your address
  • Any bank account numbers

Additionally, the IRS does not save or record information you enter into the calculator.

Before using the calculator:

  • Gather your most recent paystubs—be sure to check that it shows the federal income tax amount you’ve withheld so far in 2018
  • Get a hold of your most recent income tax return—your completed form 1040 could help you estimate your 2018 income

Once you’ve gathered the documents listed above, head over to the Withholding Calculator located on the IRS.gov website. Make sure your browser has Javascript enabled.

The IRS reminds calculator users that the calculated results are only as accurate as the information you enter. Plus, recheck your withholding amounts if your circumstances change during the year:

  • Getting married
  • Having a baby

Once you’ve determined your withholding amounts, download the W-4 Form and fill it out.

Need Help with Payroll, Bookkeeping or Other Business Accounting Topics?

Business Solutions Unlimited Virtual Assistants are ready to help. Give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s discuss how we can help your business.

When Website Visitors Don’t Call: It Might Be Time to Improve Your Landing Page Conversions

When Website Visitors Don’t Call: It Might Be Time to Improve Your Landing Page Conversions

During a networking meeting, someone expressed frustration that their Facebook ad campaign wasn’t getting the results they expected.

The Facebook ad was performing well by driving traffic to their website…but their phone wasn’t ringing.

Assuming the Facebook ad campaign was targeting the right demographics for their business, it might not be a Facebook ad issue. Instead, it might be the destination of the click—the landing page on their website.

It’s been our experience that many small businesses focus primarily on design and copy when it comes to building websites. While those are important, businesses should also consider their conversion funnel. Mainly, how to simply and quickly convert a visitor to a prospect or customer through an effective landing page.

Build Your Landing Page to Convert

Below are simple tactics you can use to help improve your landing pages to better convert visitors.

Make Sure It Loads Fast

Ad clickers are fickle. They expect an almost immediate response for their action (the click). A one-second delay can result in 11 percent fewer page views.

Site speed matters. Make sure your images are optimized. Be sure your website hosting is up to the task of delivering your site quickly.

Keep your page simple—complications can task the speed of your site.

Keep it Uncluttered, Focused and Beneficial

Speaking of simple…

Many times, I’ve clicked on an ad only to arrive at a landing page showing everything about the business (including the kitchen sink), and many times that destination is the home page.

When people click on your Facebook or Google ad, they’ve expressed an interest in your initial message. The destination page should reward that visitor by continuing just that message.

Everything on the landing page should focus on the message. Anything else is just a distraction for the visitor. A distraction is an opportunity for the visitor to leave. Keep your copy focused on message and benefit-oriented. The beneficial copy and images should help drive the visitor to an appropriate call to action.

Test It

A/B testing can show you what works and what doesn’t on your landing page.

Don’t hesitate to try new colors, images or copy. See if a different headline increases how long people stay on your page. Maybe a video will increase conversion. How does a green button work compared to the blue one? Change one element at a time on your landing page or create two landing pages and have your ad automatically split where the visitors go.

The data you gather from A/B testing will be invaluable to improving your landing page conversions.

Reach Out for Help

An effective landing page can drive the customer to your business, but it takes time to find out what an effective landing page looks like for your target market. If that’s time you don’t have, consider delegating. A Virtual Assistance Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can provide the expertise and talent to build, test and manage your landing page.

Give us a call at (904) 429-4588 to discuss what we can do for you today.

Small Business Hurricane Preparedness: How Smart Business Owners Can Weather a Storm’s Aftermath

Small Business Hurricane Preparedness: How Smart Business Owners Can Weather a Storm’s Aftermath

Another June 1st has arrived along with another hurricane season.

The last several hurricane seasons have been harsh on small businesses. According to the U.S. Government:

  • 40% of small businesses won’t reopen after a natural disaster like a hurricane
  • 25% more small businesses will close within one year after a natural disaster
  • 75% of businesses without a continuity plan will fail within three years after a natural disaster

While these are sobering statistics, proper hurricane preparation can help small businesses mitigate potential losses and speed up recovery.

Looking at the 2018 Hurricane Horizon

So, what are small businesses preparing for in 2018?

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) forecasters anticipate 10 to 16 named storms this year. 5 to 9 might become hurricanes—1 to 4 being major.

Hurricane season began early this year. Before June 1, gulf coast residents and businesses felt the effects of subtropical storm Alberto.

If you’re doing business in coastal areas—even miles inland—consider your small business to be in the path of a storm this year and vulnerable to those U.S. Government statistics mentioned above.

Preparation Begins Well In Advance of Storm Warnings 

Small businesses that practice a proactive planning approach tend to be successful and profitable. That Includes disaster recovery planning.

Check Your Business Insurance Coverage

Now is the time to make sure you’re well-covered in case your business is impacted by a hurricane:

Commercial Property Insurance for money to pay for repairs or replacement after a storm—including flood damage. If you have commercial property insurance, make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not. Ask if additional riders are available to ensure your business is well-covered.

Business Interruption Insurance to cover the downtime experienced by a storm. This can help provide money to pay for rent, taxes, loan repayments and salaries. BTW, 66% of small businesses do not carry business interruption insurance.

Prepare Your Documents and Records

Would you be lost without your paperwork or electronic records on your computer? Make sure you’re well-prepared to conduct business away from your business location in case it’s damaged in a storm.

Inventory Your Business Starting Today to ensure your equipment and property is well-documented for insurance adjusters. Take photos of furnishings, computers and on-site equipment. Be sure to store the photos and records in a safe, off-site location.  

Create a Grab and Go Container to gather critical documents and information regarding your business. Of course, this activity means you know where all of your critical documents are at a given moment. Prepare a checklist that includes:

  • Name of documents
  • Location of documents

Keep this checklist in your container as a reminder of what to take and where to find it.

Maintain an Emergency Contact List for employees, vendors, suppliers and key people critical to running your business.

Create and Store Electronic Business Record Backups on an easy to grab external hard drive or—better yet—a virtual off-site location. Many online backup services can continuously back up your vital records, providing you peace of mind that you can access your up-to-date data regardless of your location in case of an evacuation.

Include Your Employees in Disaster Recovery Planning

The safety of your employees should always be paramount to your business disaster planning. In the aftermath of a storm, those employees could be critical to recovering your business, becoming profitable quickly and providing them with a salary.

Create a Communication Policy that allows you to keep in touch with each employee. This includes gathering and safe storing:

  • Employee evacuation plans
  • Phone numbers of employee cell phones plus location where they are staying (cell phone networks can fail after a disaster)
  • Email addresses—personal and business (consider creating a disaster-related email address for each employee on a free email service)

Delegate Your Hurricane Preparation

Sadly, most small businesses lack a disaster recovery plan. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates 4 out of 5 small businesses with 50 or fewer employees have not planned for a natural disaster.

Why is that?

  • 34% of small businesses make disaster recovery planning a low priority in running a business
  • 11% say they don’t have the time

Based on the business failure statistics mentioned above, disaster recovery planning should be a priority if you want your business to thrive after a hurricane.

If time is an issue, consider delegating. A Virtual Assistance Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can help you develop a disaster recovery plan.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 to see how we can help.

Create a Facebook Business Manager Account to Take Control of Your Facebook Business Presence

Create a Facebook Business Manager Account to Take Control of Your Facebook Business Presence

As a small business, you probably have a Facebook Business Page.

If you do, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Did you create it with your personal Facebook account?
  • Or did one of your staff members create it using their own personal Facebook account?
  • Does that staff member still work for you?
  • Who is the admin for your Facebook Page?
  • How many people have you given access to your Facebook Business Page—and do they still have access even if they no longer need it?
  • If you had to make changes to your Facebook Business Page, do you—as owner or manager of your business—have actual permission to do so?

As a small business owner or manager, you’re probably challenged managing that page. You might not have the time or the expertise. So you delegated.

Maybe you outsourced Facebook tasks to a freelancer:

  • Did you give them your personal Facebook login information to access your Business Page?
  • If not, did you give them admin rights to your Facebook Business Page? Did you have to “friend” them first?
  • Do they still have full access to your personal Facebook account?

If you’re running ads, you probably have a Facebook Ad Account or did an agency add your Facebook Business Page to their Ad Account—depriving you of future control over your Ad Account?

All of the above scenarios have one thing in common: Your lack of control over fully managing your Facebook Business Page.

Gain Control with Facebook Business Manager

A couple of years ago, Facebook provided a solution for businesses to better manage their accounts: Facebook Business Manager.

This one-stop account allows you to manage:

All of Your Facebook Business Pages: Facebook Business Manager is built for scale. It’s easy to manage one Business Page through the Manager Account plus add more pages as your business model requires.

Your Ad Account: You’ll have access to advertising campaigns and assets created through an Ad Account managed in your Facebook Business Manager Account.

If an agency comes on board, simply assign their Facebook account to your account (they can separately assign their creative staff to work on your account through theirs). If you move on to another agency, simply remove the previous agency’s access from your account.

People (or Agencies) Who Work on All of the Above: Easily add employees and remove them when they don’t need access to your Facebook Business Page. No need to be a Facebook “friend” to provide access to your Business Page. Plus, you can regulate permission levels—not everyone needs admin-level access.

Additionally, the Manager Account provides you the functionality to track your efforts with detailed reports on Facebook visitors, ad campaigns and much more.

Given all of the benefits a Facebook Business Manager Account provides, we’ve been surprised by the number of small businesses not using one.

If it’s a time issue, delegate the task. A Virtual Assistant Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited could help you set up a Business Manager Account.

How to Create Your Facebook Business Manager Account

It’s actually a simple process to create a Facebook Business Manager Account.

The process should take about an hour (again, if you don’t have time—delegate the task).

Throughout the process, you’ll be given the option to:

  • Create or claim Facebook Business Pages
  • Create or claim Ad Account
  • Add Business Manager Admin and assign employees to work on your Page

Once you’ve completed creating your Facebook Business Manager Account, you’ll have gained more control over your Facebook presence.

Consider using a Virtual Assistant to set up your Manager Account and to help you with all your Facebook marketing. Business Solutions Unlimited has skilled staff that are happy to help you, no matter the size of the tasks.

Give us a call today at (904) 429-4588 and let’s discuss what we can do for you.