Website content should be accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Unfortunately, many people with visual, speech, auditory, physical, and neurological disabilities aren’t able to enjoy digital content in an equal fashion as those without such disabilities.
What Does Digital Accessibility Mean?
Your typical site visitor has few, if any, accessibility issues when viewing web content, but that’s not the case for everyone. While people can use screen-reading or magnification technology, these tools aren’t always available, and they don’t function properly all of the time. Videos often lack transcripts or captioning, and some users with physical disabilities can’t use a mouse.
This is why WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) were developed. Their goal is to make digital content on the Internet as inclusive as possible. In 2018, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) released the WCAG 2.1 as the most recent guidance for digital accessibility standards.
What Is An Example Of Digital Accessibility?
WCAG 2.1 does not differ much from WCAG 2.0. The key difference is that WCAG 2.1 includes recommendations for accessing web content on other platforms like mobile phones.
The primary goal of the standards is to give those with disabilities full access to website content. As an example, screen-reading technology can read aloud the text on websites, but not all non-text content. For this reason, text alternatives should be made available.
Accessibility requirements also include avoiding stroboscopic content that can trigger seizures. They also mandate that sites not rely solely on color contrast as the visual means of conveying information. For those with neurological issues, some sites can be difficult to perceive. Unfortunately, web developers often neglect to account for this when they design their sites.
How Do You Make Your Digital Content Meet Web Accessibility Requirements?
Ensuring that websites meet accessibility standards and Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires expert vendors in this field. The average website developer lacks the experience and capabilities to adequately test sites and identify accessibility issues. This makes finding the right vendor important for any website owner.
Where Do You Start Finding The Right Vendors?
If you have an iPhone, you likely started by asking Siri. Did she open your phone’s accessibility menu? A search on your favorite engine presents a lot of options. Most accessibility vendors will perform a complimentary audit of your website, then share the results and offer potential solutions. Making the right choice is critical to avoid legal problems in the future and to get the best return on your time and money. Below are some key questions to ask when choosing an accessibility solution.
What Experience Does The Vendor Have?
Choosing an accessibility vendor with experience is your first step in the interview process. To gauge your prospective vendor’s know-how, ask them:
- Why is accessibility an issue?
- What makes a website non-compliant?
- How can I avoid a website accessibility lawsuit?
- Whom have you worked with that I might know?
- What is your knowledge level around accessibility?
At the end of the day, you want to know the vendor can do the work – and do the work well.
Who Can You Count On?
The next step on your path toward digital accessibility is choosing a trusted partner. Digital accessibility is an ever-evolving landscape of compliance regulations. It’s helpful (and practical) to have an automated solution to complement your human and manual resources. Technology solutions can “crawl” through pages to solve surface-level issues. But you’ll need a real-life person with experience in website testing in order to achieve accessibility and compliance.
Beware of solutions that offer technology only. Artificial intelligence, overlays, and widgets won’t make you accessible and may not offer much legal protection, either. Human judgment and manual evaluations must be performed to validate a site’s accessibility. Without the human aspect of accessibility testing, your organization remains vulnerable to a website accessibility lawsuit.
How Do They Operate?
The depth, detail, accuracy, and quality of your accessibility guidance all play important roles in a successful outcome. For example, many website owners choose services that install a single line of code on your platform or an “artificial intelligence” scan. Automatic evaluation tools can produce false or misleading results and only assist in determining a percentage of accessibility features. At the end of the day, human judgment is required, since many aspects of accessibility cannot be checked automatically.
The next stage of your interview process is to better understand your prospective provider’s capabilities. Accessibility consulting firms pride themselves on performing a complimentary audit report and reviewing the potential project scope with you. But you may not be the one executing the remediation, and your co-founder may need an abbreviated version of the project.
Development teams need specific details that are organized and logical, while your co-founder wants a visual report addressing your organization’s bottom line. Audit reports are not a one-size-fits-all answer and may not offer an appropriate level of detail for the person reading the report.
Audit reports also need a tracking system to illustrate your company’s compliance progress over time. Since many plaintiffs demand to see this, having one handy will be a tremendous help if you do receive an ADA demand letter or website accessibility lawsuit before you’ve finished remediating.
Will They Help Implement the Recommendations?
While an audit report is helpful, you’ll want to hire a partner who can also implement the recommendations. Even if you have a competent team member to handle this work, you’ll want to know that your vendor is there to support you at all times, especially when you get stuck.
Find the Right Vendor
By now, you’ve likely narrowed your potential partners down to a few vendors and may have more questions about how accessibility works. Contact ADA Site Compliance today, and let us answer those questions. Our experts will show you how the right vendor, with a proven track record, will help you make your website truly accessible to everyone.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.