Stories can be found throughout the news: brands seeing some pretty serious repercussions from the lack of ADA Title III compliance. One of the most recent instances involves a number of wineries in New York that are currently facing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of individuals who are blind or whose vision is limited. The website accessibility standards have been in place since the Obama administration, but there are few hard standards in place that the Department of Justice can point to for enforcement of the regulations. In general, organizations must provide reasonable accommodation on their websites for disabled individuals.
The WCAG 2.0 standards help define how organizations need to appropriately tag their content and structure their websites and mobile apps to support blind individuals, but determining the technical requirements for individuals with other forms of disability can be more challenging.
Why Does My Website Have to Become ADA Compliant?
Individuals with limited sight are often able to use screen readers, that translate the text and images on a website to a bank of text that is then shared audibly by the software. There are several requirements in terms of website structure and tagging of images and other information that are required before a screen reader is able to make sense of a website. Websites can be extremely complex, and if the flow of information on the site is not fully structured, it is all too easy to become confused about how to find information or take action. Even simple things like images can be difficult to translate if you are not using descriptive terms when identifying the image in your website metadata.
What is the Difference Between Technical Accessibility and Use of Your Website?
Technical accessibility is only the first hurdle to creating a website that is useful for individuals with disabilities. You will also need to ensure that humans can interact with the content. This is often accomplished through testing that simulates individuals with a disability, or with disabled individuals directly. You can find the standards that you should follow for ADA compliance in the ADA Best Practices Toolkit here. Websites are considered functional for those people with disabilities when they are able to successfully navigate the site, place an order or perform other actions without external assistance.
Technical Requirements for Website Compliance
There are four key concepts to be covered for ADA accessibility:
- Perceivable: Information on your website must be available to all individuals — with or without disabilities.
- Operable: Individuals with disabilities are able to perform all of the actions on your website.
- Understandable: Simple, clear instructions are required so individuals of all abilities are able to interact with the information and the user interface.
- Robust: Your website must maintain these standards across all browser versions and must work with all screen readers and other accessibility devices.
As you can imagine, there are significant costs and challenges involved in ensuring that your website is fully compliant with the government’s accessibility guidelines.
While the wineries in New York are one of the most recent examples of poor compliance resulting in a lawsuit, there have been many others in the recent past. Websites are becoming a larger target for lawsuits as organizations invest in their digital presence. It will require ongoing diligence on the part of both your technical and marketing teams to ensure your website meets all the recent standards and provides an exceptional user experience regardless of the skill levels or abilities of the visitors to your website.