The future of the next Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website compliance deadline is uncertain going into 2020 because of the timing of the last Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act update and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 update.¹ ²
The World Wide Web Consortium issued the finalized WCAG 2.1 in June 2018; however, as of December 2019, the United States Government has not extended Section 508 requirements beyond WCAG 2.0 AA. The revised Title II and Title III of the ADA standards passed in 2010 with a 2012 deadline.³
It’s in your best interest to push for Level AA WCAG 2.1 compliance anyway, even if the law doesn’t require it. It’s likely the federal government will eventually adopt the WCAG 2.1 standards, so updating your platforms is a safe bet to get ahead of deadlines.
Your organization must stay up to date on ADA and Section 508 requirements, because your business will be held accountable for missing new deadlines as they’re set.
When civil rights laws are created and updated, they are carefully researched and planned to keep up with an increased understanding of how the rights of people with disabilities can and should be guarded. In many cases, they are also intended to address advancements in technology and include websites.
Violating the ADA can lead to legal recourse and financial penalties against your organization.
WCAG 2.1 Features Pre-Deadline
If history is any indicator, it’s only a matter of time before new WCAG 2.1 features have an accessibility compliance deadline. However, it is currently unknown when the Department of Justice (DOJ) is likely to push WCAG 2.1 compliance.
This situation presents an opportunity for businesses to get a head start on accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. The aim of WCAG 2.1 is to expand accessibility for a wider variety of people with disabilities, such as people with low vision, learning disabilities, speech disabilities and multiple disabilities, all of whom potentially have more opportunities online than ever, thanks to advanced technology.
The guidelines are also intended to enhance accessibility on small screens, touch screens and other features common to mobile devices and tablets, as these become more widely used to go online. The WCAG 2.1 update identified the following accessibility cases and technical standards:
- Screen and device orientation
- Identifying input field purposes
- Non-text content contrast
- Adequate on-page text spacing
- Content display and accessibility on hover and focus events
- Rules on interaction-based animations
- Pointer input targets should be at least 44 by 44 pixels
- And more
If the law doesn’t require your applications to follow the same level of WCAG compliance as websites, it’s still in the best interest of public accommodation to treat all digital platforms with the same level of accessibility.
A History of 2018-2020 Compliance Deadlines
Just because these deadlines have come and gone, it doesn’t mean your business gets away with failing to comply with them. If your organization is just starting to work on accessibility or trying to achieve ADA website compliance, it’s best to catch up on any deadlines you may have missed.
January 18, 2018: Section 508 Compliance
The previously mentioned Section 508 update in 2017 set a January 18, 2018 compliance deadline. This Section 508 standards update extended to all federal government electronic information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility requirements.4
One of the most significant changes was to incorporate the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0 about accessibility of websites and other digital content such as software applications and electronic documents.
The Section 508 updates addressed changes in technology since the last revision from 2000. The updated standards do a better job of eliminating most barriers in new technologies, and are more consistent with other accessibility standards used in this country and abroad.
January 1, 2018: AODA Compliance
If your organization does business with people in Ontario, it needs to follow the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). According to this deadline, public spaces must be made accessible when they are built, redeveloped or changed.
The AODA also requires large businesses and non-profit organizations to submit an Accessibility Compliance Report every three years. The next compliance report is due on December 31, 2020.5
What Does WCAG 2.1 Mean for ADA Compliance?
When the DOJ addresses digital accessibility in terms of complying with the ADA, it refers to WCAG 2.0. It’s worth noting that the current federal administration has placed the DOJ’s rulemakings around web accessibility on an inactive list.6 What this likely means is that no regulations can be expected anytime soon that will address this particular area of compliance with the ADA and spell out what is required.
However, accessibility doesn’t solely exist in a vacuum of laws and regulations. Accessibility is about how people interact with technology. Putting those regulations on hold won’t stop lawsuits and complaints of discrimination if your platforms have accessibility barriers. Your best bet is to refer to the WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines, the most up-to-date technical requirements available.
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 services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s innovative solution by requesting a time to connect with our team of experts today.
- Accessibility News: The Section 508 Update. Section 508.gov, 2017
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. W3C, June 2018
- ADA Standards for Accessible Design. ADA.gov
- Executive Summary, United States Access Board, 2017
- Accessibility rules for businesses and non-profits, Government of Ontario, 2017
- Inactive RINs 2017 Agenda Update, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 2017