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.
Recent years have seen an uptick in federal lawsuits filed against businesses and governments, alleging that their website violates the ADA by being insufficiently accessible to people with disabilities. In 2017, there were at least 814 such lawsuits against organizations in a variety of industries, from banks and credit unions to restaurants and e-commerce websites. The defendants include small businesses as well as major corporations such as Nike, Burger King, and the Hershey Company.
Under Title II, publicly available videos, whether for entertainment or informational use, must be made accessible to individuals with disabilities. That means including captions on videos both in person and online so that deaf and hard-of-hearing people can access public services. Websites for public entities should also be fully accessible to users who are deaf, blind or have limited dexterity.
(emphasis added). The fact that public accommodations have “flexibility” in how to comply with the ADA’s effective communication requirement has been lost in the past eight years, even though DOJ made this point in its 2010 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for websites. In that document, DOJ stated that a 24/7 staffed telephone line could provide a compliant alternative to an accessible website. The few courts to have considered this argument in the context of an early motion to dismiss have recognized its legitimacy, but have allowed cases to move forward into discovery on this and other issues. There have been no decisions on the merits addressing the viability of having a 24/7 telephone option in lieu of an accessible website.
The need to make websites, mobile apps, and other online properties accessible to all is only going to increase as time moves on. Smart business owners will do well to get in front of this issue and make sure that their websites are ADA compliant now so that all their customers have the equal access to the resources they offer. Not just because they want to avoid a lawsuit or government action, but because it’s the right thing to do.
TAW references WCAG 1.0, 2.0 and its own set of own heuristics for mobile accessibility. Developed by the CTIC Centro Tecnólogico, TAW clearly marks the accessibility violations that it discovers by providing an annotated version of the website as well as recommendations on how to resolve them. It is available online and as a desktop application as well as a Firefox add-on.
Automated testing is the first step toward determining if your website is accessible to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, switch controls, and others. The free testing tools on this website will give you an idea of whether your website is compliant with laws like Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. If you find you have many violations, Level Access has experts that can help you reduce your legal risk.
The Department has assembled an official online version of the 2010 Standards to bring together the information in one easy-to-access location. It provides the scoping and technical requirements for new construction and alterations resulting from the adoption of revised 2010 Standards in the final rules for Title II (28 CFR part 35) and Title III (28 CFR part 36).
The most recent version 2 was released on June 1, 2010. The guidelines covered include WCAG 2.0—W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Section 508, and U.S. federal procurement standards. It assists by presenting reports of evaluation results, giving step-by-step evaluation guidance and displaying information within the web pages as well as altering the presentation of web pages. FireEyes assists by creating reports of evaluation results, giving step-by-step evaluation guidance and displaying information within the pages and altering the presentation of the pages. FireEyes checks both single web pages as well as groups of pages or sites, including those that are restricted or password protected.
The large number of people who have disabilities, coupled with the challenges that they face, is one of the reasons that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990.² As its name suggests, the ADA is designed to protect individuals with disabilities in the United States. The ADA essentially makes it illegal for any government entity or business to provide goods and services to the general public without ensuring that the entities are accessible by people with disabilities. In today’s digitally driven world, many businesses fail to follow web accessibility best practices. In fact, this is why the Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) was created by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). To ensure that they are implementing digital accessibility best practices, organizations are encouraged to use the WCAG 2.1 technical requirements.³
HTML tags – specific instructions understood by a web browser or screen reader. One type of HTML tag, called an “alt” tag (short for “alternative text”), is used to provide brief text descriptions of images that screen readers can understand and speak. Another type of HTML tag, called a “longdesc” tag (short for “long description”), is used to provide long text descriptions that can be spoken by screen readers.
Without a definitive ruling, there is room for a difference of opinion. That’s exactly what happened in 2015 in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Netflix is not subject to Title III of the ADA because it has no physical place of business. This opinion was unpublished, meaning it is not intended to be considered legal precedent, but it certainly makes it confusing for businesses that are not sure where they stand under the ADA.
In an August 2016 case involving the University of California Berkeley, the DOJ ruled that the public university was in violation of ADA Title II (similar to Title III but it instead applies to government organizations) because their YouTube channel’s videos didn’t include captions for hearing impaired visitors. The DOJ found this to violate the ADA as deaf users did not have equal access to the online content.
The program can be run from your desktop computer, command line, or via Google Chrome or Firefox add-ons. It assists by generating reports of these five evaluation results, and reports are supported in HTML format. Browser plugins supported include both Google Chrome and Firefox. Total Validator automatically checks single web pages, groups of web pages or websites, and password protected or restricted pages. Supported formats include HTML and XHTML. The most recent version 8.5 was released on August 3, 2014, and licensing is free as well as in commercial format.
The most recent version 1.1 was released in August 19, 2006. The guidelines covered include WCAG 2.0—W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, WCAG 1.0 — W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, Section 508, and U.S. federal procurement standards. Supported formats include CSS, HTML, and Images. Licenses for the software are commercial, but trial or demo versions are available.
Adobe Acrobat DC (Document Cloud) 2019, an accessibility checking tool designed to help you better manage all of your critical documents, is now available for shipping. This version is completely redesigned compared to the initial version released several years ago. The guidelines covered in this new release include WCAG 2.1, PDF/UA, and Section 508 compliance.
Furthermore, website compliance checkers cannot possibly identify every single barrier on a website that is in violation of the ADA. Some accessibility problems can only be found with thorough manual testing. Others can only be discovered through functional testing – people who have disabilities and/or use assistive technologies such as screen readers that systematically try out core website functions, such as filling out forms. If these kinds of testing aren’t carried out, it is likely that very significant barriers could go unnoticed, and the website would still not be compliant with the ADA.
Because of this, among the greatest drivers of website accessibility are usability improvements and the reputation boost that it brings—or, alternatively, the lost business that organizations want to avoid as a result of inaccessible websites. According to a survey by the National Business Disability Council at the Viscardi Center, 91 percent of customers say that they’d prefer to shop at a website that prioritizes accessibility.
Courts have taken essentially the following position on the issue of whether websites are places of public accommodation: Website accessibility fulfills the spirit of the ADA by lowering the barriers for people with disabilities to participate in business and commerce. As such, commercial websites need to comply with ADA regulations. Judges have reached this conclusion in several high-profile cases, such as the National Federation of the Blind’s lawsuit against the Scribd digital library. As a result of this case, Scribd agreed to redesign its website to work with screen reader software by the end of 2017.
The statement that “noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA” is new and significant. It is a recognition that a website may be accessible and usable by the blind without being fully compliant with the privately developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1. The statement confirms what some courts have said so far: That the operative legal question in a website accessibility lawsuit is not whether the website conforms with WCAG, but whether persons with disabilities are able to access to a public accommodation’s goods, services, and benefits through the website, or some alternative fashion.
A few of these accessible features are provided in a checklist in the DOJ publication, “ADA Best Practices Tool Kit State and Local Governments.”5 One example in the list is written captions for online audio files, so that people who cannot hear the audio can understand what is being said. Another example is descriptive text (known as “alt text”) for all image files, so people with vision disabilities who are using screen readers can understand what’s in the images.
The DOJ is currently working to release new technical standards for digital accessibility. The latter updates to the ADA guidelines will be in conjunction with the latest version of WCAG 2.1, which includes the most widely accepted digital accessibility requirements across the globe. If organizations want to overcome the current limitations of ADA guidelines, then they should follow the WCAG 2.1 checklist,11 as well as the suggestions provided by the ADA. The latter two steps, combined with the help of a trusted digital accessibility compliance platform,12 can help organizations achieve digital accessibility best in class standards throughout all of their digital formats and across all media.