Is your company meeting the website accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? The ADA doesn’t specifically mention the web – the law was written before internet use became part of everyday life. However, numerous court cases and indications from the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA, have confirmed that digital accessibility is mandatory for businesses in the United States that use websites to engage with the public.
Aside from meeting your company’s legal obligations under the ADA and other laws, there are more great reasons to improve your website’s accessibility. Perhaps the most compelling is that you’ll provide better customer service to people with disabilities, an enormous market of more than 60 million Americans (plus their families and friends) with considerable purchasing power.
Too often, when people with disabilities go online to find information and buy tickets for shows, concerts, sports matches and other events, they encounter frustrating and unnecessary barriers that prevent them from using a website. For example, web portals may time out too quickly, not giving people with disabilities enough time to complete a purchase.
To avoid customer complaints, it’s prudent for companies to invest in accessibility upgrades as soon as possible. This will also reduce the risk of lawsuits. Hundreds of businesses and organizations – including major entertainment brands such as Netflix, Disney1 and Hulu – have been sued or threatened with legal action because their websites were not accessible2.
Individuals and law firms are taking companies to task for lapses in web accessibility. These “surf-by lawsuits”3 pose a significant risk to companies that have fallen behind in implementing website accessibility features. Now is the time to get caught up!
What’s Involved in Web Accessibility?
Making your website accessible will ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to your entertainment services and merchandise. Although the ideal time to adopt and implement accessibility requirements is in the design stages of a website, retrofitting accessibility once a website has been launched can also be accomplished.
Examples of web accessibility features include: alternative methods of viewing or accessing words and images on websites, for people who are blind or have low vision; transcripts and captions for audio and video recordings, for users who are deaf or hard of hearing; and different methods of interaction for people with physical disabilities who use devices other than a keyboard and mouse.
The ADA doesn’t include web accessibility standards, but the DOJ has advocated, on numerous occasions, for conformance to a set of technical requirements known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The current version, WCAG 2.0, is the most accepted web accessibility standard around the world.
The Three Conformance Levels of WCAG 2.0
WCAG is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international network of accessibility experts whose goal is to make the internet as inclusive as possible. WCAG is part of W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which develops strategies, guidelines and resources to improve web accessibility for people with disabilities.
What do the guidelines include?
WCAG 2.0’s requirements make content (including text, images, sounds, code and markup) on websites and in applications more accessible. There are 12 guidelines, each with a list of testable success criteria.3 WCAG 2.0 has three levels of conformance: A (minimum, basic accessibility), AA (addresses the major, most common accessibility issues) and AAA (highest standard).
Businesses should achieve level AA to equal the playing field for all of their customers and ensure compliance with standards such the ADA and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
The W3C is working on an update to the guidelines, WCAG 2.1, but entertainment companies shouldn’t wait for its release later this year before getting started on accessibility upgrades. Delaying will expose your business to unnecessary risk and meeting the requirements of WCAG 2.0 will ensure compliance with the ADA and other laws even after version 2.1 comes out.
To get started, read our tips about creating a website accessibility strategy, and download our Must-Have WCAG 2.0 Checklist to learn more about the guidelines and track your progress towards compliance. If you are not able to make changes to your website yourself or in-house, it’s best to have a thorough accessibility evaluation done by experts. They will perform a variety of checks, not just automated testing. They can also provide remediation services and ongoing monitoring.
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.
- The High Cost of Digital Discrimination: Why Companies Should Care About Web Accessibility, The Guardian, 2015
- No End in Sight: ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits Continue Unabted in 2017 Lexology, 2017
- Surf-By Lawsuits: Is Your Company’s Website ADA Compliant? Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, 2017
- WCAG 2 at a Glance W3C, 2011