How well does your website work for people with disabilities? You may need to know these terms sooner than you think. Website accessibility is not a new requirement. It was made a law in 1990 when the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibited discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. This new law affected employers, government services, public and commercial facilities, and transportation services. In September of 2010, the ADA published final regulations and standards requiring buildings, elevators, sidewalks and public businesses to comply with the ADA rules to be accessible to people with disabilities.
The web was very fresh and new. Most businesses and governments didn't have websites at that time. In 2003 the Department of Justice recommended a voluntary action plan for businesses and government entities including not-for-profit to include compliance. Not many sites that were being developed at that time were compliant. Many were fortunate to even have a website or a developer who knew how to develop the site let alone the compliance task list.
All that has changed. Websites now are responsive, mobile and adaptive. There are so many tools, browsers, devices and options that now is a great time to revisit this requirement. If you do not comply with the standards, you can be sued by a person, group or government entity. If you are receiving funding from the government or monies indirectly you are already required to be compliant. No one or group has caught up with you yet.
Who is required to comply?
The ADA specifies the following businesses to be compliant:
- Private employers with 15 employees or more.
- Any business, non-profit that receives government funding, benefits, and 501c3 status.
- State and local and federal government agencies.
For those entities that receiving funding or benefits, there are additional compliance rules under the Section 508 Rehablitation Act (1973).
Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from this law. While you may have never heard of any group or organization being penalized for non-compliance for websites, the DOJ will be cracking down on violators who have not made an effort to be compliant. Not only that, but a diligent group or person could sue you for non-compliance. It has happened to larger companies, but the rules apply to any business or public entity. Read this insightful articles by the Sun Sentinel.
These are the types of problems that no business, agency or company needs. Compliance, whether it is fully adopted or in the preliminary stages, will be a requirement that cannot be ignored. The sooner that you address the requirement, begin a campaign to resolve and implement a plan moving forward to fix, the better.
What are the compliance requirements?
There are many resources available to test and plan compliance. An online tool: http://wave.webaim.org/ is one resource available for testing. Though each page will have to be manually tested, it will give you the tasks that need to be completed, and the areas that also pass.
Dependent on the current framework of your website, tools are readily available to help with compliance. Many plugins like a screen reader that is WCAG compliant, high-quality audio reading, high contrast with HTML 5, high performance, support 30+ languages, font sizing, access key compliant. Other tasks will be manual development like alternative text for images, descriptions on multi-media, table heading and data descriptions. Also, be looking for tools that allow navigation without the keyboard being used. This is a basic start. Not only are there federal requirements, but look also at what your state's requirements are as well.
New healthcare regulations are continually changing and evolving. According to The Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights Blog, the New Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Regulations will require covered entities providing health care programs and services have accessible electronic information technology, including accessible websites.
Milestones affecting these requirements include:
WCAG 2.0 AA is another standard to use for developing accessibility for websites.
These standards are rigid and many were developed by a private consortium of experts named the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) and are the website standard in all USDOJ settlement agreements. There is a proposed rule the feds have issued that the existing Section 508 outdated standards be replaced with the WCAG 2.0 AA.
We have the resources to help your site become compliant. Contact us today for an assessment.
Call 815-223-1052 and ask for the Website Services Department.
Resources for Compliance:
- Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) current status