Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.
Accessibility Checker is an open source accessibility evaluation tool that was developed in 2009 by the Inclusive Design Research Centre (formerly known as the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre) of the University of Toronto. Using this tool, the user can submit a web page via its URL or by uploading its HTML file and can subsequently select which guidelines to evaluate it against, namely the HTML Validator, BITV, Section 508 , Stanca Act, WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0.
The most recent version was released on July 18, 2013. The guidelines covered include WCAG 2.0—W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Section 508, U.S. federal procurement standards, Stanca Act, and Italian accessibility legislation. Monsido generates reports of evaluation results, giving the user a step-by-step evaluation guidance, displaying the information given within the web pages themselves. The program checks single web pages, groups of web pages or web sites, including password protected or restricted pages. Supported formats include CSS and HTML, and the service is an online, hosted service. The license is commercial or enterprise, but users can also test out the program through a trial or demo platform initially.

Every year numerous lawsuits are taken against businesses that fail to follow the ADA’s proposed requirements for web accessibility. This failure occurs because organizations, including state and local government entities, fail to read the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit.8 They also do not follow the most up to date version of the WCAG.9 These two failures are not only detrimental to people with disabilities who want to effectively browse the web, but they are also inexcusable in today’s digitally driven world.
Hey OB – Disclaimer – none of this is legal advice and you’d want to check with a lawyer to know if you’re at risk for any action if you’re not ADA compliant. Based on what we’ve seen if you don’t have a physical retail or service location, and you don’t receive any funding from the government you likely aren’t required to have a website that would be considered compliant. Some people expect that to change in the next few years, but that’s what we know for now. Let us know if you have more questions or would like to test your site.
These and other types of multimedia can present two distinct problems for people with different disabilities. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can generally see the information presented on webpages. But a deaf person or someone who is hard of hearing may not be able to hear the audio track of a video. On the other hand, persons who are blind or have low vision are frequently unable to see the video images but can hear the audio track.

If you’re specifically checking website compliance with the ADA, the best tool to use would be one that tests for the technical requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A and AA.7 These are widely accepted as the most comprehensive and complete accessibility requirements for digital technology such as websites and electronic documents. WCAG 2.0has even been published as an international standard by the International Organization for Standardization, and is written into anti-discrimination laws and policies in many jurisdictions and countries.
People with disabilities are all around us. They live in every country and often experience life in a very different manner than those individuals who don’t have emotional, mental, or physical disabilities. In fact, 15 percent of the global population is classified as disabled. Of this 15 percent, an estimated 190 million people experience significant disabilities.¹
The most recent version was released March 11, 2002. The guidelines covered include WCAG 2.0—W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Section 508, and U.S. federal procurement standards. The program generates findings of evaluation results, giving step-by-step evaluation guidance, exhibiting results and information within the page and altering the presentation of web pages. It checks single pages automatically, as well as websites or groups of pages, including those with password protected or restricted pages. Supported formats include CSS, HTML, XHTML, PDF documents, and Images. Licenses are available for commercial and enterprise purposes.
Level AA is a little more significant, and makes sites accessible to people with a wider range of disabilities, including the most common barriers to use. It won't impact the look and feel of the site as much as Level AAA compliance, though it does include guidance on color contrast and error identification. Most businesses should be aiming for Level AA conformity, and it appears to reflect the level of accessibility the DOJ expects. 
The program comes in English, German and Italian formats, and supported formats include CSS, HTML and XHTML. It is an online checker and hosted service that automatically checks single web pages, as well as password protected or restricted pages. Once these are checked, reports are generated with the evaluation results in HTML, PDF, XML and EARL report formats. The API is a Web service, and licenses are free as well as open source.
Pa11y is a free, open source and self-hosted program that lets you monitor as many sites as you need and run tests automatically daily. It assists by generating reports of web accessibility evaluation results, automatically checking single web pages, groups of web pages or sites, as well as password protected or restricted pages. The license is open source, and users can test the program through the demo included on the Pa11y site. The supported formats include CSS, HTML, and Images. The service is specifically an online checker as well as server installation.
WAVE is a suite of evaluation tools that help authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content. Our philosophy is to focus on issues that we know impact end users, facilitate human evaluation, and to educate about web accessibility.
CKSource Accessibility Checker by CKSource offers a program that allows users to inspect the web accessibility level of content created specifically within the CKEditor program and then solve any web accessibility issues found. It is a brand-new feature of CKEditor with the most recent version 1.0 released on May 19, 2016. Guidelines covered include WCAG 2.0 — W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Section 508, and U.S. federal procurement standards.

Federal law isn't the only consideration for businesses. Additionally, each state interprets the law differently. Consider the case against Netflix in 2012. Lawsuits were brought in federal court in Massachusetts and California. Netflix was accused of violating the ADA by not offering "closed captioning" options for its Internet streamed movies. Illustrating the complexity of this issue, the courts reached completely opposite decisions. Massachusetts held that Netflix must comply with the ADA, while the California court found that Netflix did not fall under the ADA's definition of "public accommodation."
Furthermore, if your organization has developed a mobile app – as many companies have – to make it easier for customers to interact with your brand, then this, too, must be free of barriers in order to comply with the ADA. Online grocery delivery service Peapod and tax preparer H&R Block are two examples of companies that agreed, after ADA complaints were launched, to improve the accessibility of their mobile apps.
Justin is the founder of UsabilityGeek and has extensive experience with creating usable and memorable online experiences. He is primarily a consultant specialising in several core areas. Justin is also a visiting lecturer with the University of Hertfordshire and an expert reviewer at Smashing Magazine. You can reach out to him via his LinkedIn Profile.
Disabilities covered under the ADA can be physical (e.g., muscular dystrophy, dwarfism, etc.), sensory (e.g., blindness, deafness, deaf-blindness), or cognitive (e.g., Down Syndrome). In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act broadened the scope of how disability is legally defined: psychological, emotional, and physiological conditions are now included.
If posted on an accessible website, tax forms need to be available to people with disabilities in an accessible format on the same terms that they are available to other members of the public – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without cost, inconvenience, or delay. A staffed telephone line that sent copies of tax forms to callers through the mail would not provide equal access to people with disabilities because of the delay involved in mailing the forms.
People with disabilities are all around us. They live in every country and often experience life in a very different manner than those individuals who don’t have emotional, mental, or physical disabilities. In fact, 15 percent of the global population is classified as disabled. Of this 15 percent, an estimated 190 million people experience significant disabilities.¹
Talk to your web designer about other techniques that will make your site more user-friendly for people with disabilities. Worried that’s not in your budget? Consider the fact that DOJ fines start at $75,000. And it's still yet to be determined if a non-compliant website is liable for one fine or will be charge per page for each violation. As the recent lawsuits illustrate, though, settlements quickly add up into the millions.
Develop a plan for making your existing web content accessible. Describe your plan on an accessible webpage, and encourage input on how accessibility can be improved. Let visitors to your website know about the standards or guidelines that you are using to make your website accessible. When setting timeframes for accessibility modifications to your website, make more popular webpages a priority.
Aloha Tatiana! I wish your questions had straightforward easy answers – and if you are government funded it kind of is. (See here: https://www.ada.gov/websites2_prnt.pdf) if you are not government funded, this is something that is currently being debated in the legal system. That being said, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are a good set of guidelines to help protect yourself if you feel you should. (You can see more on WCAG here: https://www.yokoco.com/find-out-how-to-make-your-website-compliant/)
COMPLYFirst Professional, a program offered by Odellus Corporation, works specifically as a desktop application and is not server based. It provides Automated and Manual DOM interface web accessibility testing and provides reports to management and QA analysts, as well as remediation code samples to developers. The company does provide training classes as well as evaluation of your site’s current web accessibility.
In some circumstances, longer and more detailed text will be necessary to convey the same meaningful information that other visitors to the website can see. For example, a map showing the locations of neighborhood branches of a city library needs a tag with much more information in text format. In that instance, where the map conveys the locations of several facilities, add a “longdesc” tag that includes a text equivalent description of each location shown on the map – e.g., “City Center Library, 433 N. Main Street, located on North Main Street between 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue.”
When you’re thinking about ADA web compliance, remember that it applies to more than just the desktop computer environment. Mobile devices are growing in popularity every year, and mobile commerce has gained a foothold in the economy. If your website is accessible on a computer, but barriers intrude when it’s viewed in a mobile environment, then it is still considered discrimination, and it’s a violation of the ADA.
Automated compliance checkers may, however, flag some accessibility barriers that don’t actually exist (false positives). Or they may flag barriers as “potential barriers” or “likely barriers” without stating definitively whether or not they are indeed barriers. That’s not too helpful for the accessibility novice. A person with expertise in digital barriers would be needed to determine whether these are actual barriers or not.
The Department of Justice may file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the ADA Compliance, and courts may order compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination if the Department prevails. Under title III, the Department of Justice may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation of ADA Compliance.
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