Check out the FAQ at the bottom of the page if you just want a refresher on ADA Guidelines and Accessibility.
Valet is an Online ADA provider. This allows us to provide scanning and remediation for accessibility issues to reduce or eliminate legal liability. Our partner agency provides audits and protection for those with greater legal concerns.
Website Accessibility is the “practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.”
Website Accessibility is also a legal requirement for all website owners since 2010.
There is a great article here that chronicles the legal roadmap of how we got from the original 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act to the current laws. TLDR; It’s been a long road to try and define lows that make the internet inclusive. The how of the law is not incredibly clear, but there is indeed a law requiring all websites to be publicly accessible.
In addition to the ADA Titles, there is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794d). This act was amended in 1998 and requires federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities – regardless of whether or not they work for the federal government.
The US Access Board established Section 508 standards for accessibility that are not provided by the ADA.
What does this mean to me?
If you have a website and have read the previous paragraphs you might be coming to the conclusion that you should learn a bit more about this topic. You are absolutely right.
As with any ruling or law, you have an intended benefit and unintended consequences. In this case, the laws want to make sure that anyone with cognitive, financial, physical, or other disadvantages can enjoy the same benefits of the internet as everyone else. This is fair and warranted.
Creating an accessible website means opening up your content, services, or goods to as many people as possible. So being accessible is not just a good idea for society but it’s also great for business.
Most people focus on disabilities like blindness or wheelchairs when they think of limiting use factors, but the scope of internet usage is so much broader. Think color blindness, any eye complications at all, folks limited to public machine use to access the internet and more.
The guidelines for accessibility also promote best practices among web developers and designers. This, in turn, creates a clean infrastructure that benefits your SEO and crawling results. If search engines can clearly read what your source code contains they will be friendlier to it.
Display times and loading are enhanced because code is thoughtfully laid out to be easily digestible and translated through screen readers. Speedier sites that load for a variety of interfaces on mobile and desktop is something even Google is pushing for.
The unintended consequences of this law, however, come from predatory sources that realized because of these laws and regulations, anyone with a website is subject to legal action based on accessibility guidelines and laws. Anyone. You.
How concerned should I be?
One of the most prominent legal cases on this subject started about 3 years ago when a blind man sued Domino’s Pizza. He found he was unable to order a pizza when trying to use screen reader software on the website or the company’s app.
Eyes are following this case closely on the heels of other lawsuits against known names like Winn-Dixie and even Beyonce.
Based on a 2019 mid-year analysis the number of accessibility based cases filed were on pace to exceed those filed in 2018. Trends suggest that complicated websites are the most targeted, think retail or food service, but they are only a portion of the list of industries.
Valet’s own experience has seen clients approached over sliders and image galleries. Any website with functionality that exceeds strict content publishing should probably take note.
So what do I do about it?
If this is the first you’re hearing about accessibility, the first thing you should do is not panic. Yes, the prospect of getting sued is scary, but with a cool head and a plan, you can reduce your liability to little or nothing.
The thing to remember is that the guidelines for what makes a site accessible are hazy. That’s why there are so many eyes on the thousands of court cases that pop up regarding accessibility. Everyone is watching the rulings for indications on how to determine and declare themselves accessible.
Web Accessibility requires that multiple complex elements come together, including elements out of your control like browsers and design platforms. This makes defining lines of liability hard. But what we can do is learn from the thousands of settled cases that have already passed through the courts.
These cases put forth a narrative when reviewed that awareness and action are key to the courts. If you know what you need to work on, and you document your work on it then you’ve already escaped the majority of your liability.
Is the Valet scan enough?
In the majority of cases, our scan will be enough to serve as an analysis of your website for accessibility. We decided to offer this as an alternative to the cost-prohibitive analyses that start in the 10k range. These deep dives are thorough and, in my opinion, should be considered by larger government and education institutions.
As Valet keeps a record of all work history we can also easily meet the documentation requirement with a regular plan of work for remediating accessibility issues.
If you’re considering a full audit, please reach out to us. We have a partner who supplies this work and an ongoing, legally binding remediation service with additional legal benefits. Valet can help you reduce your liability significantly with the scope of our current services, but if you are in an industry that is experiencing the aggressive approach to website owners you should consider a plan with litigation support. Our partners at ADA Online provide these more aggressive audits and programs.
The Origin of Accessibility
In 1990 legislation was approved and passed that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. Known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law also made it illegal to interfere with the right of the differently-abled to access public accommodations. In 2010 the federal Department of Justice determined that websites were also in the purview of the law.
What are the Guidelines?
There are many guidelines and regulations around the world that govern digital accessibility. Here are the major ones.
Title III of the ADA:
This legislation says basically that all organizations working with the public need to be equally accessible by all people.
Section 508 of the American Rehabilitation Act of 1973:
This governs accessibility requirements for digital communications with the federal government. This was “refreshed” in 2019.
Federal Acquisition Regulations
The government has put all federal contractors on notice that the next release of the FAR will require them to be digitally accessible.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Established but the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) these guidelines establish best practices for meeting digital accessibility requirements.
Who is required to have an Accessible website?
Existing U.S. federal regulations all federal government agencies and anyone receiving federal funding are required to be compliant. This includes state and local governments, non-profits, and federal contractors.
More recently the Domino’s case in the Supreme Court made clear all websites in the public domain need to be compliant or be susceptible to lawsuits based on Title III of the American’s with Disability Act.
Based on the continuous court filings and rulings in recent years it’s become obvious that anyone is now susceptible to litigation and predatory filing.
What’s the best course of action to avoid predatory litigation?
Getting your website update, fully compliant, and certified is the best way to limit the risk of litigation of all types related to digital accessibility.
What if my team doesn’t have enough time to get my site accessible right now?
We can audit your site, resolve any issues with it, and get your website certified as compliant. Doing so doesn’t need to be a burden to your internal team and we can manage a majority of these tasks on your behalf.
The law requires you to be aware of and working on compliance, if not fully compliant. Accessibility targeted scan and a steady record of work, even if it’s slow paced, is a good strategy for approaching a fully accessible website.