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What Not to Include In Your Web Accessibility Statement

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Is your website accessibility statement accurate, trustworthy, and readable?

web accessibility statement policy

A web accessibility statement isn’t just something obligatory that you need to put up on your page: it’s a necessary and informative statement that needs to reflect the status of your site. According to Seyfarth Shaw, the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits tripled in 2018 — accessibility is something that needs to be addressed.¹

More and more organizations are beginning to understand the importance of web accessibility – that is, ensuring that their internal and external digital properties and mobile apps are free of any barriers that would make it difficult for people with disabilities to use them. They realize that digital as well as physical accessibility is a right, and that when you are inclusive of people who have disabilities, you’re actually putting out a virtual welcome mat for over 62 million people in the U.S. alone.

Web accessibility can be intimidating, but it is easily achievable. It includes aspects like sufficient color contrast between the text and the background, subtitles and transcripts for videos, adequate descriptions for clickable links, and good-sized touch target areas. These requirements and more are listed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, developed and published by the World Wide Web Consortium.²

As web accessibility is becoming more widespread, more organizations are creating and posting their own web accessibility statements.³ It’s a great idea to showcase an accessibility statement not only because it helps your customers understand your commitment to accessibility, but it communicates the steps you’ve taken to eliminate online barriers as well as your plans to further improve access. It also provides users with important information on how to get the most out of your site. In many cases, a web accessibility statement may also be required in order to comply with legislation.

We’ve written in the past about the importance of posting a web accessibility statement 4 and what to include in it. This time, we want to talk about what your web accessibility statement should not include. Here are six mistakes to avoid:

1. Exaggerations about your web accessibility

Don’t say your website is “virtually barrier free” or “almost fully accessible” if this isn’t actually true, or if the site hasn’t been properly evaluated (so you don’t know for sure). Your users with disabilities will quickly pick up on these overstatements as they use the site and will be left with a poor impression of your organization.

This is actually a common mistake. A team of Norwegian researchers conducted a global analysis of government websites in 192 United Nations member states and reported, among their findings, that “Web accessibility conformance claims by Web site owners are generally exaggerated.”5 Why risk harm to your reputation? Instead, be up front about the areas where you’re still working to make improvements and include a timeline.

2. Too much technical jargon

Don’t overwhelm your visitors with highly technical specifications that only web developers would understand. Visitors with disabilities may not have extensive knowledge about designing data tables and working with HTML frames, but they will know if they can’t easily navigate a page using their screen reader. A better idea is to name the laws or standards that your website complies with, such as the technical requirements of WCAG 2.1, Level AA, or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.6

3. General help information

An accessibility statement does not belong on a help page. A help page often includes general contact information or FAQs about the site or service your company offers. Thus, this is not necessarily where someone with a disability would go straightaway to find out about web accessibility. Give your web accessibility statement its own dedicated page and make it easy to find. It’s appropriate to include contact information that specifically pertains to accessibility – for example, you can explain how people with disabilities can provide feedback on the website’s ease of use.

4. A boatload of legalese

Likewise, this is not the place to write about trademarks, intellectual property, privacy policies, permissions and indemnity obligations. Think about your audience, why they’ve landed on this specific page and what information they’re looking for. Your web accessibility statement should be focused, and straightforward. Have a separate section called “legal information” to include these other statements.

5. Statements about corporate social responsibility

One more time: A web accessibility statement should focus on web accessibility. Don’t turn this into a catch-all section for any and all activities connected to your corporate social responsibility. This is not a platform for you to convince your customer base how much you care about the environment, where you list all of your sustainable practices, or where you describe the generous support your company gives to the community’s local wheelchair basketball team. Those may be commendable activities, but they shouldn’t be included alongside your web accessibility statement.

6. Don’t make this mistake!

If you haven’t yet completed an accessibility evaluation7 of your website, or you’ve identified barriers but haven’t yet addressed them, you may feel it’s more appropriate to hold off on creating and posting a web accessibility statement. But if you refrain from saying anything at all to your online visitors with disabilities, you’re actually speaking volumes: You’re telling them that you haven’t thought of them – or, worse, that their needs don’t matter.

Go ahead and publish your statement. Use it as an opportunity to let your customers with disabilities know that you value them, that you’re aware of the importance of accessibility, that your goal is to be inclusive of everyone, and that you’re in the process of assessing and removing web barriers. It’s also a great time to invite feedback about the accessibility of your website. You may not be able to offer – yet – a fully accessible digital experience, but at least your customers will know that your organization is making a commitment.

When done correctly, accessibility statements can help you project a disability-friendly image and deliver a great customer experience not only to the 1.3 billion individuals who comprise the People with Disabilities market, but for all. Learn 4 simple steps to creating your perfect accessibility statement in our accessible on-demand webinar, available to watch today.

References

  1. Number of Federal Website Accessibility Lawsuits Nearly Triple, Exceeding 2250 in 2018, Seyfarth Shaw, 2019
  2. W3C Makes it Official: WCAG 2.1 is Ready, eSSENTIAL Accessibility
  3. Web Accessibility 101: A Beginner’s Guide, eSSENTIAL Accessibility
  4. The Importance of an Accessibility Statement, eSSENTIAL Accessibility
  5. Global Web Accessibility Analysis of National Government Portals and Ministry Web Sites Taylor & Francis Online, 2011.
  6. The Refreshed Section 508 Standards: How They’re Different — And Better, eSSENTIAL Accessibility.
  7. Web Accessibility Testing — Why It’s Necessary and How It’s Done, eSSENTIAL Accessibility.

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