Is digital accessibility compliance one of your organization’s goals in 2019?
Digital accessibility means that all of your digital properties – your web pages, your mobile pages, your blogs, your downloadable apps, your digital products, your electronic documents and your multimedia – can be used equally and independently by people with disabilities.
Digital accessibility is generally achieved through one of two ways. If your web developers and other contractors have expertise in accessibility, then your digital properties can be built from the ground up to be barrier-free. But if your sites and apps have already been developed, then your best approach is to have all of your digital properties professionally evaluated for accessibility, and then remediate any barriers that are identified through this process. In either situation, any additional technology that’s procured or new content that’s added should be carefully monitored to ensure no new barriers are introduced.
Barriers aren’t always obvious to people with no disability experience. In our client training sessions, we often say: “Focus on the barrier not the disability.” Barriers can be technological, policy, attitudinal, financial, resources, etc. Many things can be a barrier towards achieving accessibility. That said, it is never the person’s fault because they have a disability. For example, the average individual might not notice that not all pages on a website have meaningful titles, or that the text captions in a video are missing key information. People who rely on screen readers or captions to understand content will certainly be affected, however!
So will your compliance status. There are several laws that require covered entities to provide equal service to people with disabilities, or that ban discrimination against people with disabilities. Some examples of these laws are:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Rehabilitation Act (Section 508)
- The Air Carrier Access Act
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557)
- The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
- EN 301549
Besides these laws, there are also state and local laws and regulations that protect the rights of people with disabilities.
If you’re not sure which parts of which laws apply to your organization, you may feel a bit overwhelmed, and unsure about how you can possibly comply with them. Fortunately for you, the solution is the same no matter who or where you are: it’s WCAG 2.0 (or 2.1), level AA.
WCAG is an acronym for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This list of technical requirements for digital accessibility is generated through consensus by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Experts all over the world have input into WCAG, which provides for three levels of accessibility (A, AA and AAA, from basic to better to exceptional). Over the years, WCAG has been updated to reflect changing technology; the 2.1 version was released just last year.
In striving for digital accessibility compliance, you can’t really go wrong by adhering to level AA of WCAG 2.0 (or WCAG 2.1). Here are a few reasons why:
It’s mentioned everywhere you look.
Digital accessibility is a relatively recent concept in information and communication technology (ICT). But today, wherever digital or web accessibility is discussed in American legislation, it typically either mentions level AA of WCAG 2.0 or lists standards that mirror it, or else the court decisions and settlements in the context of that legislation specifically mention level AA of WCAG 2.0.
As an example, when the ICT standards in Section 508 of the Rehab Act were refreshed not long ago, a set of accessibility standards written into the law was replaced with a requirement that organizations adhere to levels A and AA of WCAG 2.0. Level AA of WCAG 2.0 (now WCAG 2.1) is even written into EN 301 549, the new Standard for Digital Accessibility in Europe, in the sections that cover web content, electronic documents, and software.
It will improve your service to customers with disabilities.
Your primary goal may be digital accessibility compliance, but don’t ignore the fact that people with disabilities spend billions of dollars per year. They also make buying decisions for their households. A new report from the American Institutes for Research demonstrates the significant buying power of this segment of the population and notes that the majority of businesses are not paying enough attention to this consumer group¹. The fact is, if people with disabilities can interact with your website easily because you’ve adhered to WCAG 2.0, you’re more likely to get their business. They’ll also feel welcomed and included by your organization. Research shows that people with disabilities tend to be loyal to brands over the long term².
It will improve your service to other groups of customers.
Websites and apps that comply with digital accessibility laws are more user-friendly for everyone, whether or not they have diagnosed disabilities. That’s because when you remove barriers, you’re actually fixing issues that a wide range of people struggle with or complain about, such as timeouts or tiny blocks of text. Groups who will find it easier to function on a barrier-free site include baby boomers and seniors, people who have a temporary setback such as carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain, people who are less experienced using technology, and people for whom English is not their first language.
It will make your digital properties easier to use in more situations.
Everyone’s on the go these days, and they’re bringing their devices with them. As a service provider or business operator, you can’t predict the various places your clients and customers will be when they’re trying to go on your website. However, when you follow the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0, you’re not just achieving digital accessibility compliance. You’re also making it easier for people to interact with your site or app when they are in noisy or quiet places, when they’re multitasking, when they’re trying to use their device with just one free hand, when they’re passengers getting jostled in vehicles, or when they’re outdoors on a bright day.
Digital accessibility is a worthy goal. By adhering to the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0 level AA, you’re achieving more than just compliance. You’re also providing better service to many more individuals. Let your accessibility partner help you reach your goals in 2019!
Get started today by downloading our WCAG 2.1 Checklist—an interactive resource guide for digital experience and accessibility professionals.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities American Institute for Research, April 2018
- Nielsen’s first dive into households with disabilities finds poorer but loyal consumers AdAge, October 2016