More than 1 billion people live with disabilities; over 57 million reside in the United States, many of whom are unable to participate in everyday activities, such as using computers, mobile phones, tablets, and similar technologies. Devices that should help to improve quality of life for disabled individuals often become a source of frustration due to the inaccessibility of websites. By making your website ADA compliant, you will gain a new and loyal revenue source, and minimize the possibility of legal action against your company.
Additionally, in February 2018, Congress passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill designed to make it harder for disabled Americans to sue businesses for discrimination. Republican lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill argue that the law will help curb “frivolous” lawsuits, while opponents have argued that this law will gut the ADA, essentially giving businesses little reason to follow the ADA guidelines at all.
Use the Outline button on the WAVE toolbar to see if the web page has a halfway decent, logical heading structure. I was pleased to see that each of the 130 sites used HTML headings, but several sites had heading creep. Screen reader users benefit tremendously from good heading structure, but if a web page has too many headings, this offsets the benefits, and some of these sites have several dozen headings. If everything is a heading, nothing is a heading.
@Rick, I didn't specifically look at doctype, but Steve Faulkner did in his original article (see the link at the top of this post). He found that 101 of the 130 pages containing role="main" (78%) used the HTML5 doctype, which of course leaves 22% that didn't. I do recommend using ARIA even if using an earlier doctype. Validation is important, but if validation and accessibility conflict, I think most would agree accessibility should trump validation. Assistive technologies that support ARIA landmarks do so regardless of doctype, and otherwise the presence of these role attributes has no ill effects in any user agent.
Regarding examples of accessible websites, I would suggest the Accessiweb gallery: http://www.accessiweb.org/index.php/galerie.html. Accessiweb is a reference list 100% based on WCAG2, and they deliver quality marks (the "Accessiweb label") upon website owners solicitation. The website undergoes a thorough manual review (on a carefully defined 10-page sample, more or less), and it gets the label only if it's flawless on every page. The level is reflective of the number of defects found and not corrected. Bronze is exactly equivalent to level A, Silver to AA, and Gold to AAA. So getting a Silver label means all A and AA tests were passed on all of the sample. Bronze, two stars: All A tests were passed, plus 50 to 75% AA tests. And so on.
The landscape of disabled access litigation related to online services has significantly changed and expanded over the past decade. Initially, the internet was an area of little concern as courts uniformly held that the ADA applied to "brick and mortar" facilities, not to cyberspace. This has changed and online accessibility is presently, and will continue to be, an area of significant investigation and litigation.
I should mention one caveat to all of this. Businesses that are required to comply but don't have the ability to bring their websites into compliance can provide an accessible alternative to provide the same information, goods, and services that they provide online, like a staffed phone line. The trick, however, is that this option has to provide at least equal access, including in terms of hours of operation. And, as we know, the internet is around 24/7, so good luck with that.
You can test specific themes for compliance with these guidelines using a tool such as the WAVE Web Accessibility tool. For sites that require 100% compliance, we recommend testing your theme of choice using the demo page for the theme, for example Twenty Fourteen. We also recommend using Header Text (displaying the Site Title), rather than a Header Image, as some WordPress.com themes will not provide AltText and therefore generate an error in the accessibility tool when a Header Image is set.
It isn’t a problem by default, a lot of it comes down to how it is built. I’d suggest either considering a highly accessible contingency option, or build those components in such a way that there is a level of accessibility baked into it. If you need help with that testing or review email us at questions at yokoco.com and we’ll be able to let you know the cost for us to lend a hand.
If you do get sued, if you immediately remediate your website, you may be able to get the lawsuit dismissed on mootness (there’s no longer anything in dispute, i.e. plaintiffs are arguing your website is inaccessible but you’ve already made it accessible). This definitely does not mean you should wait to fix your website but it does mean you may have an out.
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
Penn in particular nearly made the cut because I really like their keyboard accessibility. It amazes me how few sites provide visible indication of keyboard focus, when it's incredibly simple to achieve (just add a style for a:focus in your style sheet). Penn did this, and consequently it's very easy for sighted keyboard users to keep track of their position as they tab through the page. They also included a keyboard-accessible dropdown menu. However, there are some dynamic features on the Penn home page that really need ARIA markup for full accessibility. They also have a few contrast problems, most notably their slideshow navigation, which is red-on-red:
As I mentioned above, under each WCAG 2.1 principle is a list of guidelines, and under each guideline are compliance standards, with techniques and failure examples at each level. Some guidelines include only Level A items; others include items for multiple levels of conformance, building from A to AAA. At each stage, you can easily see what more you would need to do to reach Level AA or AAA. In this way, many websites include elements at multiple levels of accessibility.
The situation has now emboldened many people. She is dealing with tons of demand letters going out across the country. Businesses have been caught off guard because they thought they had time to deal with this and become compliant, and now the Justice Dept. basically says they have to be compliant now. As soon as they deal with one plaintiff, another comes along.
Businesses and nonprofits: in determining whether a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, a title III entity should take into consideration the nature and cost of the aid or service relative to their size, overall financial resources, and overall expenses. In general, a business or nonprofit with greater resources is expected to do more to ensure effective communication than one with fewer resources. If the entity has a parent company, the administrative and financial relationship, as well as the size, resources, and expenses of the parent company, would also be considered.
These statistics are especially important when you consider the potential spending power of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, if the website isn’t accessible, then it is excluding more than 60 million Americans14. Additionally, 71 percent of customers14 with disabilities will instantly leave the site if it does not meet their accessibility needs. Another 80 percent of customers14 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. Giving them the chance is not only right, but it is also in accordance with ADA regulations.
Federal law isn't the only consideration for businesses. Additionally, each state interprets the law differently. Consider the case against Netflix in 2012. Lawsuits were brought in federal court in Massachusetts and California. Netflix was accused of violating the ADA by not offering "closed captioning" options for its Internet streamed movies. Illustrating the complexity of this issue, the courts reached completely opposite decisions. Massachusetts held that Netflix must comply with the ADA, while the California court found that Netflix did not fall under the ADA's definition of "public accommodation."
This guidance document is not intended to be a final agency action, has no legally binding effect, and may be rescinded or modified in the Department's complete discretion, in accordance with applicable laws. The Department's guidance documents, including this guidance, do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities beyond what is required by the terms of the applicable statutes, regulations, or binding judicial precedent.
When choosing an aid or service, title II entities are required to give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service requested by the person who has a communication disability. The state or local government must honor the person’s choice, unless it can demonstrate that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that the use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration or in an undue burden (see limitations below). If the choice expressed by the person with a disability would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration, the public entity still has an obligation to provide an alternative aid or service that provides effective communication if one is available.