As organizations around the world scramble to bring their sites into compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), focus on other, preexisting accessibility regulations has also intensified. The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most visible and complicated pieces of accessibility legislation. Let’s look at some of the ins and outs of what an ADA compliant website means today. Or, if you're interested in seeing the nitty-gritty details of your site's accessibility, request a free website audit report using the form on this page.
Tools do exist that assist website developers in making their sites more accessible for those with disabilities. Browsers are also key in web accessibility. The challenge is designing a site and software that meets different users’ needs, preferences and situations. Web accessibility also can benefit those without disabilities, specifically those with a temporary disability such as a broken arm, aging, and slow Internet connections. The accessibility testing tool you should use depends on your site’s needs and budget among many other factors.
WCAG 2.0 is not currently mentioned within the Americans with Disabilities Act itself (although that may change), but in decisions and agreements, the Department of Justice routinely holds up WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the technical requirements for digital accessibility that should be followed. Organizations are encouraged to refer to WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA when striving for ADA website compliance.
MAGENTA is a web-based accessibility tool developed by the Human Interface in Information Systems (HIIS) Laboratory within the Human Computer Interaction Group. In addition to the WCAG 1.0 guidelines it evaluates the accessibility of websites according to their conformance to guidelines for the visually impaired and guidelines included in the Stanca Act.
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."
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.
I should mention one caveat to all of this. Businesses that are required to comply but don't have the ability to bring their websites into compliance can provide an accessible alternative to provide the same information, goods, and services that they provide online, like a staffed phone line. The trick, however, is that this option has to provide at least equal access, including in terms of hours of operation. And, as we know, the internet is around 24/7, so good luck with that.
Government Code §11546.7 – The requirement that state agency heads certify, every two years, that their agency’s website meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version 2.0 or a subsequent version, at Level AA or higher, and the requirements of Sections 11135 and 7405 of the Government Code. Created by AB 434 (Baker, Chapter 780, Statutes of 2017), and sometimes referred to as AB 434.
Many people with disabilities use assistive technology that enables them to use computers. Some assistive technology involves separate computer programs or devices, such as screen readers, text enlargement software, and computer programs that enable people to control the computer with their voice. Other assistive technology is built into computer operating systems. For example, basic accessibility features in computer operating systems enable some people with low vision to see computer displays by simply adjusting color schemes, contrast settings, and font sizes. Operating systems enable people with limited manual dexterity to move the mouse pointer using key strokes instead of a standard mouse. Many other types of assistive technology are available, and more are still being developed.
The DOJ is currently working to release new technical standards for digital accessibility. The latter updates to the ADA guidelines will be in conjunction with the latest version of WCAG 2.1, which includes the most widely accepted digital accessibility requirements across the globe. If organizations want to overcome the current limitations of ADA guidelines, then they should follow the WCAG 2.1 checklist,11 as well as the suggestions provided by the ADA. The latter two steps, combined with the help of a trusted digital accessibility compliance platform,12 can help organizations achieve digital accessibility best in class standards throughout all of their digital formats and across all media.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) established the main international standards and accessibility for the World Wide Web. The WCAG is created by the W3C to provide a standard for web content accessibility that can be shared around the world. The WCAG is meant to accompany organizations as a sort of blueprint on how to make their websites ADA compliant.
Released on January 1, 2007, the guidelines covered by this program include WCAG 2.0 — W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, WCAG 1.0—W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, Section 508, and U.S. federal procurement standards. The program generates reports of evaluation results and provides step-by-step evaluation guidance on these results.
You may have installed a ramp, increased the width of your door frames, or made other accommodations to ensure that your physical premises are accessible to all. The requirement for equal access used to only apply to physical locations and storefronts, but now the government is actively ensuring that the requirements for ADA accessibility include online properties such as websites and mobile apps.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, modern communications technologies such as the Internet were still in their infancy. The past few decades, however, have seen the rise of new channels such as websites and mobile applications, raising questions about the ADA’s original mission to make U.S. society more accessible to people with disabilities.