Internet and digital accessibility is being seen more and more as a basic legal right. As a result, there is a overall rise in legal challenges claiming that various websites and mobile apps are in violation of the ADA.
In 2020, the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) for ADA compliance became substantially more stringent. With the arrival of a new administration in Washington, this trend is expected to continue in 2021 — including a reversal of the previous administration’s ban on “rulemaking” for the DOJ and other agencies.
If you’re wondering whether your website is ADA-compliant, it probably isn’t. To satisfy the current WCAG 2.1 AA standard for compliance, you need to implement an initiative for specific design/interface improvements to that end.
The four key pillars for website accessibility.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of public accommodations. This includes private businesses that are open to the public, or who provide public goods or services. The current WCAG defines four basic pillars to eliminate accessibility hurdles for people with disabilities:
Site visitors with sensory impairments must be presented with accessible information and user interfaces (UIs). These include:
- Machine readable alt-text for images and graphics
- Onscreen or captioned devices for multimedia content
- Interfaces that facilitate assistive technologies
Users with disabilities must be able to operate the UIs and navigation. Requirements include:
- All functionality being available via a keyboard
- Disabled users are given ample time to review and use content
- Avoiding content that can cause seizures
- Features that help users prevent and correct mistakes
Both UIs and the information they communicate must be readily understandable — while maintaining maximum compatibility with current and future devices and tools for users. Requirements include:
- Text that is readable and device-readable
- Content that is presented and operable in predictable ways
Content must be robust enough for reliable interpretation by assistive technologies, along with a wide variety of other user tools — whether current, evolving or in the future.
So where do you start?
For companies and entities geared toward audiences with a substantial percentage of disabled persons, a detailed WCAG audit may be necessary to identify current deficiencies and suggested ACA-compliant improvements. A number of automated tools are also available to make incremental improvements — if major UI and infrastructure upgrades are not immediately feasible — and to audit/adjust new content as it is added.
Whatever the current status is for your website in terms of overall accessibility, the time is now to begin thinking about the increasing regulatory emphasis on ACA compliance — and the potential risks inherent in not taking action.