ADA Compliant Websites from REW

I’m one of the many Florida Realtors who have received a demand letter from a law firm claiming Fair Housing Violations due to ADA non-compliance on my website.

The problems noted on my site are the missing Alt Text on links, images, pictures, etc.

Apparently a site-impaired individual would use a screen reader program that would pick up the alt text and read aloud the text to the individual.

The opinion on this demand letter ranges from “take this seriously” to “this is a shakedown”. My broker at Remax has urged that we all get our websites in compliance asap. It appears the Florida Association of Realtors as well as NAR has also given the recommendation to its members to make sure we are following the guidelines… (probably an ever moving target).

If you are curious about your site, you can run a free check here: https://wave.webaim.org/
This was a site recommended by NAR to check for compliance.

As I’m poking around some of the missing Alt Text on my site, I’m not 100% sure how to fix some of this stuff. Is there any guidance or “how to” guides from REW?

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Are IDX listings exempt from ADA website requirements? The IDX listings don’t have Alt Text for any images currently.

Also how do we add Alt Text for our header logo, footer logos and Agent photos we upload on a Vision site?

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Lys thanks for this great guidance - and I was able to complete most of my home page. Here are several places I can’t seem to find access. I think these are the ones @brianenright is looking for as well. How do I access these?

Also, do the idx listing pics / images require Alt Text to be ADA compliant?

  1. Site Logo in the header.
  2. Missing Form label
  3. Missing Alt Text for Newsletter signup image
  4. Footer Logo missing Alt Text

Hi @Lys_Glassford,

Actually I see now where you guys add dynamic Alt text to agent photos and community FC snippets on the Vision site. That’s great! So I deleted my previous comment.

But I do still have concerns about the IDX photos. The ADA is a federal mandate and applies to all websites in the US, so it’s not state by state. I can’t imagine the ADA being interpreted to exempt IDX photos from being compliant. I’ve seen other IDX vendors that are creating dynamic image alt text for IDX photos using the Title tag and/or property address. So something like “Photo #1 of the property at (address)” or “(title tag) image #2”. While those aren’t very descriptive I think they at least go a long way showing we made an effort to be compliant with the ADA. It seems like those would be pretty easy to add.

Hello all, Thanks for starting this thread.

A few years ago, there were several “Trolls” filing bogus ADA lawsuits threatening to sue companies because they were not “ADA Compliant”

Their hope was that companies would freak out, call their lawyer, realize that what the threatening party was asking for wasn’t much (maybe 10-20k) and then just settle.

Anyone who really looked into it would actually come to find out that ADA is NOT a requirement for real estate websites, in fact it is not a legal requirement for most individual business sites, it is still a “guideline”

There are some exceptions like Government institutions where general public access is required, but they don’t apply to real estate websites. So those suits a few years ago, they were a complete scam. (But they were successful in creating a lot of turmoil and freaking lots of folks out).

Recently (specifically in Florida) something that looks very similar has started to happen, except this time they are using “Fair Housing” references instead of ADA.

Now I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advise (and to my knowledge we don’t have definitively rulings on this) so please don’t take this as legal advice: But I will say, it “looks” like the same thing again. So please, consult with your lawyer.

That being said: ADA is a “good idea” anyways (I mean why not make your website more accessible right?)

We recommend (anywhere you can in your website) you make changes to make your website more accessible.

Where you can’t make the changes, or you don’t have time to do it, REW is more than happy to do a full review of your website for ADA and modify as much of it as your budget allows.

We are also doing a review of our 2 most recent sites (hybrid Vision and Sagittarius) to see what improvements to the frameworks can be made on our end, we will provide this list and likely include some of this in a patch in as a future update (pinging @Aayaam for posterity)

In the meantime, if you need help, you can always speak to your account manager, we are happy to take care of this for you using retainer time, or a custom project, but again, from our perspective this is only a “recommendation” at this time (in regards to ADA) it is not a mandate or law for real estate websites. Doing so is a choice, and it puts you ahead of the curve.

As for more advanced techniques like Brain is talking about, we have done them in the past, and you can certainly get creative. You could easily just alt tag all images "address-1, address-2 etc, but you could also get more creative and include more dynamic stats like “address-beds-bath-price-home-for-sale” for more SEO punch.

Hope that helps, I think we should start an ADA thread on here to help folks know what they can do themselves and what can be ordered.

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We are having this same issue. On June 9th, we submitted a customer support request on this matter and still don’t have a response, which is disappointing. It looks like @Lys_Glassford had some helpful guidance on how we, as the client, could take care of some of these items ourselves but it looks like that comment was deleted. It would be great if that could be re-posted. It also looks like Bofficer was able to correct most of his homepage but was looking for guidance on how he could address those areas that he could not access. It would be great to have that information as well.

While I agree with @Morgan that the motives for the letters are primarily to receive a settlement rather than compliance, the websites should be in compliance with all applicable federal and state requirements. Furthermore, REW should be building and providing websites to their clients that are in compliance with these requirements and or the means for the client to make a website compliant without having to pay for custom work. Otherwise the “shakedown” for money is just shifting from the attorney to REW. Morgan’s response addresses ADA requirements but not Fair Housing. I would hope and expect that REW, as a developer of real estate websites, is consulting with their lawyers to see if the websites they are developing are in compliance with these regulations rather than delegating this responsibility to their clients. The bottom line is that no custom work should ever be necessary to have a website that is compliant with federal or state laws.

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Hello Jason,

As Parks account manager, it is on my plate to follow up with you however I had to convene with my main contact Jenni first and wait for a response. I got one last night, so I will be reaching out to you on your specific set of requests.

As for your comments on who should be responsible:

First of all: Most of this is not a web development (or developer) issue, it is an education issue. The vast majority of things that get called out are things that are related to the customers implemented content and can be adjusted by the customer (things like implementing alt tags in your images, scripts or captioning for your videos etc). Education is important, and we do our best to ensure we have content available for customers to educate themselves (including these forums) example https://www.realestatewebmasters.com/blog/ada-compliance-for-real-estate-webmasters-clients/ however ultimately it is the consumers responsibility to know and adhere to the laws of their country, state, MLS board rules etc.

2: ADA Guidelines: As you have no doubt read, while being “accessible” is law, there are no clear guidelines (And thus no enforcable policies) for ADA and thus it is not reasonable to expect or demand a web developer to adhere to a set of guiidelines, when in fact guidelines are not defined. WCAG 2.0 is certainly a good set of “recommendations” but it has nothing to do with actual ADA law or Fair housing.

3: Fair housing: This is a new one and there is no precedent. We understand that there is a new law firm trolling Florida real estate firms. We understand that this is stressful, confusing and frustrating. We do not appreciate any kind of legal trolling or ambulance chasing of any kind but it does happen, and being harassed or threated never feels good. We are here to be your partners in this, we support you, and we will help educate you etc but please know, this is a new and evolving situation and we do not have all the answers for you right now.

4: Customizations required: In the meantime, if you don’t have the expertise or time to do the work being asked, or if you have a custom site and would like to request our professional services do this work for you, we are happy to do it, but we are a fee for service company. Assisting individual customers comply with legal demands is not part of our SLA or mandate nor are we a party to any actions in any of these lawsuits (imaged or legitimate). It can be a lot of work (depending on how much content you have or how much you have customized) and professional web developers are expensive. We’ll do the work, but hopefully you can understand, that auditing, updating your content or custom site must be on your retainer time. It is not something we can pay for. For more on our TOS when it comes to custom work, please refer to https://www.realestatewebmasters.com/termsofservice/terms-conditions/

And finally, as a note (and a go forward) it is important you understand we are taking action.

Steps taken so far:

Consult with colleagues in the US (including legal colleagues, brokers, and team owners). Please keep in mind, we are an international client base company and HQ in Canada, so these issues are regional and complex.

Consult our own legal team to review our TOS and any obligations we may have in these matters.

For our own products that we are currently selling (Vision and soon to be Sagittarius) we have hired an ADA consulting firm to do a full audit of the front end of our products and produce recommendations. We will be providing these recommendations to our clients, as well as updating our sites where it makes sense to do so. This is again, not because specific ADA requirements exist, but because it is a good idea to do so (why not make ourselves more accessible and be able to provide a better user experience and something our cleints can brag about, right?)

Again, this is all very new, and I appreciate your frustration. Please understand, we are here to support you (we are not the troll lawyers coming after you, we’re the good guys). It sucks that you’re going through this, and we will do what we can to help you.

None of what is said here is legal advice and we do recommend that all clients get their own legal counsel to advise them.

We will provide updates as we have them (in the coming weeks) but in the meantime, if you do require updates to be made to your website, you can order them through your account manager.

Jason, I will reach out to your directly, as I am the Parks account manager.

Thank you.

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Wanted to provide an update as to where we are at with the current ADA and Fair Housing Topic, you can read about it here: https://www.realestatewebmasters.com/blog/ada-and-fair-housing-compliance-in-real-estate/