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ADA Website Accessibility Requirements and Guidelines

ADA guidelines for web accessibility

People with disabilities are all around us. They live in every country and often differently experience life compared to people who don’t have emotional, mental, or physical disabilities. Around 15 percent of the global population is classified as disabled. Of this 15 percent, an estimated 190 million people experience significant disabilities.¹

The sheer number of people who have disabilities is one of the reasons that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990.² As its name suggests, the ADA is designed to protect individuals with disabilities in the United States. The ADA makes it illegal for any government entity or business to provide goods and services to the general public without ensuring that the entities are accessible by people with disabilities.

In today’s digitally driven world, many businesses fail to follow web accessibility best practices. The rules of the ADA apply to more than physical locations: it also includes websites. This is why the Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) was created by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). SANPRM ensures groups are implementing digital accessibility best practices. Organizations are encouraged to use the WCAG 2.1 technical requirements

What Organizations Are Covered Under The ADA?

The ADA applies to a wide range of organizations, including:4

  • State and local governments.
  • Public accommodations, such as businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public and are fall under “Title III Regulations.”
  • Other Title III of the ADA Regulations, including restaurants, theaters, and schools.

The ADA is meant to protect disabled individuals as they go about their daily lives. These regulations generally require that people with disabilities are not denied entry into the above places or denied services by a company due to their disability. It is important to note that these regulations are now applicable to services that are provided online or through other digital formats.

For example, if a company accepts job applications online, then it must ensure that a person with a disability can also apply for the job online to comply with the ADA. It is illegal to have barriers on the website that would keep the disabled individual from completing their application.

Fortunately, the ADA guidelines help to remove barriers and ensure that the Internet remains a space that people of all backgrounds and disabilities can use.

How Can Digital Accessibility Make A Difference?

Over 4.33 billion people are active Internet users.5 In the U.S. alone, consumers spent an estimated $517.36 billion online.6

These statistics are especially important when you consider the potential spending power of people with disabilities. If the website isn’t accessible, then it is excluding more than 60 million Americans.

Additionally, 71 percent of customers with disabilities will instantly leave the site if it does not meet their accessibility needs. Another 80 percent of customers with disabilities have stated that they will spend more on a website that has improved accessibility features.

Fortunately, if you follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)7, then you can appeal to millions of individuals who want to enjoy the same online experiences as their friends, family, and neighbors. ADA website accessibility requirements are not only a legal requirement, but following them extends how many people your business can reach.

Aside from the legal and business angles, making websites accessible is just the right thing to do.

What Are The ADA Requirements For Online Accessibility?

Every year private citizens and organizations file numerous lawsuits against businesses that fail to follow the ADA’s proposed requirements for web accessibility. More than 10,000 lawsuits filed in 2018 were related to ADA Title III.8 The Supreme Court is often the gatekeeper in which of these lawsuits proceed.

Failure to follow the law occurs when organizations, including state and local government entities, fail to read the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit.9 They also do not follow the most up to date version of the WCAG.10

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.

The ADA guidelines are often updated so that businesses can better understand how various disabilities can affect the way that people will interact with websites and digital content. The guidelines also explain why certain barriers can prevent disabled individuals from using or even accessing a website.

With these goals in mind, it is important to note that organizations need to review the guidelines yearly. New technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, are being used to help people with disabilities get the most out of the digital world.11 The guidelines may also make changes to proven assistive technology like screen readers.

If organizations fail to read the latest ADA guidelines, then they will soon discover that their approach to web accessibility is outdated, and they might violate digital accessibility laws.

What Are The Limitations Of Current ADA Guidelines?

The ADA guidelines provide the foundation that organizations need to achieve digital accessibility best approaches. However, the guidelines are not exhaustive. They do not provide direction for all accessibility challenges that people with disabilities face. They also fail to provide detailed technical instructions.

This can often leave businesses feeling like they can identify accessibility issues, but don’t have the right tools to fix the problems. With these limitations in mind, there is a ray of hope.

As of December 2019, the United States Government still considers WCAG 2.0 Level-AA the required standard.12 The last Title II and Title III of the ADA standards passed in 2010.12 The DOJ is expected to release new technical standards for digital accessibility to keep up with new technology.

However, the government is likely to embrace WCAG 2.1 standards eventually. The latter updates to the ADA guidelines will reflect 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, as well as the suggestions provided by the ADA.13

The latter two steps, combined with the help of a trusted digital accessibility compliance platform, can help organizations achieve digital accessibility best in class standards throughout all of their digital formats and across all media. Following WCAG 2.1 also helps your business follow accessibility laws passed by the city, state, and foreign governments.

The DOJ Enforces Web Accessibility

According to the Department of Justice, “Being unable to access websites puts individuals with disabilities at a great disadvantage in today’s society.” With these words in mind, the DOJ has adopted the role of web accessibility enforcer. A failure to make digital content, including websites, accessible to people regardless of their emotional, physical, or mental disabilities, can result in hefty fines and class action lawsuits.

The DOJ is dedicated to making sure that individuals with disabilities have the same equal access to the benefits that are available online. Creating equal access is only possible if organizations:

  1. Understand the requirements of web accessibility.
  2. Know that web accessibility is an obligation under the ADA
  3. Make web accessibility a priority.

The value that awaits when organizations adhere to digital accessibility laws can be measured in more than dollars and cents.

Discover An Innovative Solution To Web Accessibility

eSSENTIAL Accessibility is proud to offer organizations a comprehensive web accessibility solution. As a digital accessibility compliance platform, eSSENTIAL Accessibility is uniquely positioned to help organizations follow the latest WCAG and ADA guidelines.

Learn how to achieve and maintain compliance with the latest digital accessibility laws and web accessibility standards and regulations with the help of the eSSENTIAL Accessibility team by requesting a demo today.

References

  1. World Report On Disability, World Health Organization, 2019
  2. ADA Guidelines and Compliance, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, August 2019
  3. W3C Makes It Official: WCAG 2.1 Is Ready, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, June 2018
  4. Communications & IT, United States Access Board, 2019
  5. Global Digital Population As Of July 2019, Statista, July 2019
  6. U.S. eCommerce Sales Grow 15% In 2018, Digital Commerce 360, February 2019
  7. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: What Is WCAG?, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, July 2019
  8. Number of ADA Title III Lawsuits Filed in 2018 Tops 10,000. Seyfarth ADA Title III, January 2019
  9. ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments, ADA.gov, March 2017
  10. WCAG 2.0 – Why It’s Time to Turn to the Current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Updated), eSSENTIAL Accessibility, July 2019​
  11. How People With Disabilities Are Using AI To Improve Their Lives, PBS.org, January 2019
  12. ADA Standards for Accessible Design. ADA.gov
  13. A Practical Resource Guide for Digital Experience and Accessibility Professionals, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, 2019​

 

Editors Note: This post has been updated as of January 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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