Meeting WCAG 2.1 and Section 508 Accessibility Requirements for Websites and Apps
How can I make my website accessible to people with disabilities?
Doing the Right Thing and Engaging a Massive Underserved Market Demographic
LI Tech Advisors’ staff includes employees with as much as 30 years of experience in hardware design and software programming. We understand what accounting firms need from their IT support team.
Website accessibility can be a challenge for the blind, the visually impaired, and the print disabled. Many websites only focus on the visual display, locking out those with disabilities. Making a website more accessible means coding it so that the blind and others using assistive technology, as well as people with cognitive disabilities, can understand what is being displayed.
This is achieved by providing textual descriptions for images, tables, and embedded content, as well as clear labels for form elements so that assistive technology can operate properly and allow for a robust user experience.
Human Impact – Much Larger Than You Think:
- 500,000 people in New York State are visually impaired. (Source: American Community Survey, 2015)
- 20 million people live in New York State. According to the New York Department of Health, 4 million of them have a disability (that’s 1 in 5).
- 25 million people in the U.S. have a Severe Visual Impairment.
- 57 million people in the U.S. live with a disability – more than the populations of California and New York combined.
- 20% of the U.S. population is comprised of people with disabilities.
- 350 million people worldwide are severely visually impaired.
- 1.3 billion is the estimated worldwide population of people with disabilities, constituting an emerging market larger than the size of China.
- 2.3 billion people worldwide constitute our network of friends and family that often act on their emotional connection to the disability community.
- 8 trillion dollars is what this consumer group has as a collective discretionary spending power, with 4 trillion dollars of that power here in the U.S. alone. (Source: The Return on Disability Group)
- 75% of disabled consumers will walk-away from a business because of inaccessibility. (Source: Data and Strategy Survey, Cyngal)
- Over 5,000 lawsuits have been filed so far in 2019. There is an increasing number of significant lawsuits and settlements that could have been avoided by proactive work and training.
How do People with Disabilities Browse the Internet?
Most people today can hardly conceive of life without the internet. Some have argued that no other single invention has been more revolutionary since Gutenberg’s printing press in the 1400s. Now, at the click of a mouse, the world can be “at your fingertips” — that is, if you can use a mouse… and see the screen… and hear the audio. In other words, ONLY if you don’t have a disability of any kind.
It is challenging for people with disabilities to access the information on many websites since they cannot see the words or appreciate the pictures. People with different disabilities access the internet in different ways, and they face different obstacles impacting their access to web content, communications, and information. Some use assistive technologies such as screen readers, and some use a keyboard without a mouse to navigate.
Some of the requirements that a website must adhere to:
- Content must be coded for audio translation by screen-reader software.
- There must be on-screen captions in videos for screen-reader software to read to the blind and provide descriptions for the deaf.
- Sites must include accessible drop-down menus for those who use a keyboard as an alternative to a mouse.
Accessibility issues are categorized in four distinct groups under WCAG guidelines. Conveniently, they can be summed up with the acronym P.O.U.R.
- Perceivable issues are those that affect a user’s ability to find and process information on a website (for example, providing audio descriptions for video content).
- Understandable issues concern a user’s ability to discern and comprehend all information and navigation on a website (for example, composing error messages that include a clear explanation of the error and direction for correcting it).
- Operable issues are those that impact a visitor’s ability to navigate and use a website (for example, ensuring that all site functions and navigation can be operated via keyboard-only commands).
- Robust issues involve a website’s ability to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of users with disabilities (for instance, testing compatibility with all leading screen readers and ensuring that those capabilities can be upgraded in the future).
While the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on online accessibility is likely to remain vague for the foreseeable future, there is no question that equal access is a major concern for users across America, and for the courts that serve those users. In lieu of a clear set of national guidelines, abiding by WCAG accessibility standards remains the best option for most organizations. It’s not just a smart way to avoid accessibility lawsuits and negative publicity; providing accessible solutions for all users is just the right thing to do.
Types of Assistive Technology:
- Screen ReaderScreen readers are software programs that allow users who are blind or visually impaired to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen by transcribing text into an audio output with a speech synthesizer or braille display. In short, screen readers allow a person who is totally blind to navigate a website or software program as adeptly as someone with full sight.
- Speech to Text TechnologyThese are programs that are voice prompted allowing people with a mobility impairment, learning disability or a person with limited keyboarding skills to consume digitized communications and information by dictating or listening to an audio output because reading text on the screen or using a keyboard is difficult or not possible.
- Screen MagnifiersA screen magnifier is a software program that interfaces with a computer’s graphical output to present enlarged screen content. It is a type of assistive technology suitable for people who are legally blind, but who may have some functional vision or loss of visual acuity.
- Braille DisplayBraille displays, often used exclusively or in combination with other assistive technology, provide access to information on a computer screen by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins in braille cells. Information displayed changes continuously as the user moves the cursor around the screen by using either the command keys, cursor routing keys, or Windows and screen reader commands. The advantage of braille display over synthetic speech is direct access to information, allowing the user to check format, spacing, and spelling.
Are there laws about website accessibility?
Making information accessible to the visually impaired and other people with disabilities is covered by law. This is especially the case for public organizations and government agencies. Section 508, an amendment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, addresses the legal compliance aspects.
Laws and Guidelines
Providing accessible digital platforms is mandated under Federal Law and State Policy
- Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO/IEC 40500:2012
- Sections 508, 504 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Best practices and protocols as outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Although private websites and apps are not mandated to comply, they will have to do so if they are working with federal agencies. Moreover, commercial best practices utilize W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help people with disabilities access websites. Websites have to be accessible even though the ADA doesn’t specify a particular set of standards. Because of this uncertainty in the law, litigation is now thriving.
The ADA applies to both Websites and Apps
This can’t be stated enough: the ADA applies to both websites and apps. The confusion for some stems from the fact that the ADA was created before the modern web and hasn’t been updated to mention specific rules for web accessibility. The ADA does, however, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. As accessibility lawsuits continue to highlight, these places don’t need to be physical locations.
Accessibility Lawsuits on the Rise
ADA web accessibility lawsuits hit a record high in 2018 with 2,285 cases, a 181 percent increase over the 814 cases filed in 2017; 96 percent of the 2018 lawsuits came about in New York and Florida. New York took the lead, with over 1,450 lawsuits and an average of about 120 cases filed per month. 2019 has already seen an explosion of lawsuits and has already exceeded the number of lawsuits in 2017 and 2018 combined.
While all businesses are open to possible litigation, the primary targets have been the following: retail businesses, food services such as restaurants, travel, hospitality, banking, financial, entertainment, leisure, healthcare, government, and educational institutions.
- A blind customer filed a suit in 2016 against the pizza giant Domino’s since their website was not accessible.
- Target department store was sued for $6 million, and it’s estimated to have cost them $21 million to fix their site.
- In January 2019, dozens of New York galleries, including Marian Goodman, David Zwirner, and Gagosian, have been hit with lawsuits alleging they are violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because their websites are not equally accessible to consumers who are blind or visually impaired.
- Other companies facing lawsuits include: Winn-Dixie, Hobby Lobby, Five Guys, Blick’s, and many more.
- Many educational institutions have been sued, including: Arizona State University, California Community Colleges, Florida State University, Fordham University, Harvard, MIT, Mesa, New York University, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pace University, Pen State, Princeton, Berkeley, and many more.
- Even a small shoe store in Clearwater, Florida was sued for having an inaccessible website.
The larger lawsuits can go into the millions of dollars. Experts say the lawsuits for small businesses are typically settled at around $20,000 but could cost much more if defendants make the choice to fight in court.
5 Steps to take in New York or Florida if you have been served with an Accessibility Lawsuit
If you operate a business in New York or Florida, you might have noticed an alarming trend: there’s been a rise in website accessibility lawsuits against businesses. It could only be a matter of time until your business is hit with such a lawsuit. Perhaps you’ve already been served and need to know what your next steps are.
- Speak to an attorney that is familiar with these types of cases.
- Create a Remediation Plan.
- Carry out the remediation as quickly as possible.
- Train your staff on how to understand and properly interact with People with Disabilities.
- Contact us at LI Tech Advisors to assist you with all these steps.
What should I look for when hiring someone to make my website accessible to the blind?
Many web designers and developers are unable to make websites accessible to those with disabilities. This is mostly due to a lack of knowledge on how people who are visually impaired and individuals with other disabilities browse the internet. Many developers are also unaware of the guidelines provided.
Developing an accessible website and certifying its compliance to law requires CPACC (Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) certification from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). This covers knowledge on disabilities, accessibility and universal design, as well as accessibility-related standards, laws, and management strategies.
LI Tech Advisors has CPACC certified accessibility experts on staff. Through our partnerships, we also have the access to over 200 people with disabilities who can test and certify that a website is accessible.
How much do I need to invest to be compliant?
Making a business website accessible to the disabled should not break the bank. Although different companies will charge differently, the cost will be in line with the complexity of the website or app in question. Please note that it is always more cost-effective to build WCAG compliance into a site from the beginning than it is to revamp a site for WCAG compliance. We can assist you with all stages of your website design cycle; however, it’s strongly recommended that we be brought in as soon as possible.
Why should I choose LI Tech Advisors for the job?
LI Tech Advisors experts are CPACC certified and offer the latest WCAG 2.1 accessibility testing. Led by Anthony Buonaspina, an accessibility expert recognized locally and internationally, they have provided solutions directly and through their partnerships for clients such as Peapod, Carnival Cruise Lines, American Airlines, Toyota, SUNY, DMV, IRS, and many others.
Working with LI Tech Advisors also provides the benefit of their partnerships that allows working towards a barrier-free and independent access to all digital platforms by having usability testing performed by people with disabilities resulting in a comprehensive report certifying a website accessible and usable.
Accessibility Engagements Options
- Automated Test:An automated test just gives you a cursive review of the issues found. This test will be performed on the main page of the website. This test will yield an Accessibility Grade utilizing our proprietary Accessibility Maturity Matrix (AMM) ranging from A to F depending upon the number and types of failures.Investment: FREE
- Quick Test: This is a quick manual test performed by a CPACC certified accessibility expert that encompasses up to 5 core pages of a website. The result of this test will give you an outline of the major blocks and issues that might be a cause of concern and litigation. The result of this test can be given to an accessibility-trained website developer who can then address and remediate the issues found in this report. Investment: $2,000
- Presentations/Keynote Speaking Engagements:We offer enterprise-level speaking engagements and have done presentations for Fortune 5 companies.Investment: $2,500 plus expenses
- Accessibility Certification Seal: We offer an accessibility seal of approval that demonstrates that your website is undergoing periodic accessibility testing from CPACC certified accessibility experts and testers from the disability community. This seal is like a “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval that establishes your commitment to creating and maintaining an accessible website.Investment: $1,000 to $15,000
- Staff Accessibility Training:It’s very important that your staff and any customer facing representatives of your company or organization be trained on how to properly manage questions and challenges from someone calling from the disability community. This is the point where most lawsuits start, when untrained customer representatives mishandle a customer’s questions and concerns. We can help you ward off potential problems by properly training your staff.Investment: $2,500
- 4×5 User Journey Test:This is a detailed manual test performed by utilizing 4 members of the disability community who will test a set of 5 user journeys or flows defined jointly by our CPACC certified accessibility experts and the client. This report can be used to certify a website as not just accessible, but also usable.Investment: $7,500
- Remediation Support:One of the major challenges is integrating accessibility testing properly into your sprint cycles or development processes. We are able to assign CPACC certified accessibility experts that can work directly with your team and within your timeline to help build accessibility into your processes. We do this without impacting schedules. We are also able to assign testers from the disability community that can work alongside your development team and offer direct feedback on tests. We can work up a solution that fits your schedule and your budget.Investment: Between $500 and $8,000 per month – call us to work out a plan for you.