An increasing number of lawsuits are being filed against organizations whose websites are not accessible to disabled users. Sites that do not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA guidelines are at risk of litigation and investigation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Two recent settlements spotlight why web accessibility matters:
Miami University of Ohio: A consent decree on Dudley v. Miami University was finalized after a multi-year lawsuit. As a result, the university must overhaul its web content so that it is accessible to people with disabilities.
Netflix: The DVD-rental and video-streaming service has entered into an agreement with the American Council of the Blind, the Massachusetts-based Bay State Council of the Blind, and a blind individual to add audio descriptions to many of its programs. Settled in 2016, this ruling will also require the Netflix website to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines.
Nearly every business and organization is at risk of litigation since nearly all of them host a website and have dedicated mobile apps on the iOS and Android platform. To avoid situations like those encountered by Miami University of Ohio and Netflix, these businesses must meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines, the expected DOJ standard for web accessibility.
Great Accessibility Is a Public Relations Home Run
Since more than 7 million blind and visually impaired consumers live in the US, firms who embrace accessibility and even go above and beyond will quickly build loyalty, benefit from word of mouth, and see their business performance rise.
Great Accessibility Means Great SEO
WCAG 2.0 AA–compliant websites must have clean HTML5 with CSS3 code and current code libraries. A benefit to clean code is enhanced SEO performance, as clean code allows the Google spider to index content easily. While a company should still engage the services of an SEO firm to ensure maximum performance, meeting accessibility requirements is a good start.
Given the current legal environment, the lack of clear statutory guidance, and the DOJ’s aggressive enforcement actions, organizations of all kinds should make sure their websites and apps conform to the WCAG 2.0 AA standards.
Unfortunately current software systems miss common accessibility problems; examples include:
Links do not have a visual focus indicator (due to outline: none in the CSS). Using the keyboard to navigate the page, you cannot see what link is in focus, which makes the page unusable.
Real world examples include the ability to mouse over a section of a site and click on it while not being able to navigate to this area using the key-board.
Missing <H1> and other header tags
Sites are often missing HTML5 tags like <header> and <main> as well as ARIA landmarks, both of which are common ways to enable users to jump to important sections of a page, in addition to the “skip to content” link.
Our team at iFactory is able to support the accessibility needs of our clients, with a process designed to ensure WCAG 2.0 AA compliance and reduce the risk of litigation.
As you’d imagine, this process includes a number of steps to ensure your site makes the cut, including auditing, implementation and ongoing scanning to ensure the site stays up to date. We even help provide usability testing, Mobile App testing, and testing with users with disabilities.
Sean Sweeney is an RDW Partner and a member of the iFactory leadership team. He works out of the Boston office and is responsible for managing RDW’s Accessibility Offering.