Web accessibility addresses the needs of every website visitor to achieve an optimal level of usability and ADA compliance. Many people browsing the web have a permanent disability (visual, mobility or neurological impairment), or a temporary impairment such as a broken arm, broken or lost eyeglasses, and so on. Many baby boomers have aging-related issues that make using the web more challenging, and they’re not alone–about 20% of the U.S. population has an identified disability.
As a user who, while I can use a mouse, also likes to use the keyboard, I have found your articles very interesting. I have been trying to update the design of my site http://www.jamesrmeyer.com to include accessibility as much as possible, without compromising usability for the majority of users. I would appreciate some feedback on the site design.
Two agencies within the U.S. Department of Labor enforce parts of the ADA. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has coordinating authority under the employment-related provisions of the ADA. The Civil Rights Center (CRC) is responsible for enforcing Title II of the ADA as it applies to the labor- and workforce-related practices of state and local governments and other public entities. Visit the Laws & Regulations subtopic for specific information on these provisions.
When’s the last time you thought about how accessible your website is to users who are blind or visually-impaired? Even though ADA website compliance is the law, many businesses have failed to update their websites to accommodate these users. Most recently, Winn-Dixie is in the news for failing to provide ADA compliant web design. A user who is blind was unable to use their site, filed a lawsuit, and a Miami judge ruled that Winn-Dixie violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your website is not currently accessible to the visually-impaired, it’s time to think about updating your site for compliance and user experience.
Hi Ashley, Thanks for the feedback. However, I respectfully disagree about JAWS. There was a time many years and versions ago when screen readers didn't support id attributes as targets, but that's no longer true. I just tested my site with JAWS 14 in both IE9 and Firefox 17. In both browsers JAWS identifies the link as "Same page link Skip to main content", then if I click on that link using the left mouse button I jump directly to the "main region", and a couple of down arrows later I'm on the main heading. I actually wrote an earlier blog post about this very topic.
Attitudes toward digital accessibility have evolved over time. In 2010, the Justice Dept. said they would address the topic. They said the ADA covers web sites, including companies that don’t have brick and mortar presences. They said companies can comply with the law by offering an alternative means of access, so if a web site isn’t ADA compliant, they could offer 24/7 phone access as an example of alternative access.
@Rick, I didn't specifically look at doctype, but Steve Faulkner did in his original article (see the link at the top of this post). He found that 101 of the 130 pages containing role="main" (78%) used the HTML5 doctype, which of course leaves 22% that didn't. I do recommend using ARIA even if using an earlier doctype. Validation is important, but if validation and accessibility conflict, I think most would agree accessibility should trump validation. Assistive technologies that support ARIA landmarks do so regardless of doctype, and otherwise the presence of these role attributes has no ill effects in any user agent.
Automated testing is the first step toward determining if your website is accessible to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, switch controls, and others. The free testing tools on this website will give you an idea of whether your website is compliant with laws like Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. If you find you have many violations, Level Access has experts that can help you reduce your legal risk.
In court, Netflix tried to argue that websites should not be part of ADA compliance regulations, as there is no physical structure / location. They also argued that websites should not be in scope of ADA as there is no public component (the original ADA compliance law specifically called out that ADA rules apply primarily to services, locations, and products that are supposed to be open to the public).
Until the ADA is updated to address the special case of website accessibility, or the Department of Justice releases its website accessibility regulations, complying with WCAG 2.0 Level AA is the best way to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to your website. The overview below is a great starting point about meeting the WCAG 2.0 Level AA recommendations.
A one of a kind plug-in, WP ADA Compliance Check Basic does just that – checking WordPress websites for ADA compliance. There are two ways to use it. First, you can schedule a whole-site scan to find out any ADA compliance issues. Secondly, you can set it to run every time new content is published. When set this way, the plug-in will identify and report on any ADA compliance issues found in the new content as well as recommend possible solutions. The full version even corrects some of the uncovered issues automatically.
I think it's a pretty good sample of doubtlessly accessible websites. Of course they have put a special effort in getting this label, but somehow it shows that it's possible. I also like the fact that they are pretty diverse in their purposes and target audiences, and are not visually different than the usual production. Which confirms our claims that accessible does not mean boring or not visually appealing - at least, if it's the case, then blame the designer, not accessibility!
Level AA is a little more significant, and makes sites accessible to people with a wider range of disabilities, including the most common barriers to use. It won't impact the look and feel of the site as much as Level AAA compliance, though it does include guidance on color contrast and error identification. Most businesses should be aiming for Level AA conformity, and it appears to reflect the level of accessibility the DOJ expects.
The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.
When you insert an image into a post or page, consider providing a rich description for the caption that will improve the reading experience for everyone, but especially folks who can’t see the image. Be creative. Instead of “My son on his swing,” try “My son is playing on his favorite swing. His face is filled with pure joy on a beautiful Spring day. Perfection.” The goal here is to convey the feeling of the image.
It’s most outward feature is a font size and color contract toolbar that helps users more easily read your content. But it also does a lot of behind-the-scenes work like adding skip-to-content links, implementing an outline to the link :focus state for better keyboard navigation, utilizing longdesc for images and a whole lot more. Each feature can be turned on or off through a settings page.
The Department of Justice may file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the ADA Compliance, and courts may order compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination if the Department prevails. Under title III, the Department of Justice may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation of ADA Compliance.
While the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) does not enforce the ADA, it does offer publications and other technical assistance on the basic requirements of the law, including covered employers’ obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities. For a quick overview of the ADA read “The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Brief Overview.”
You probably won't have to check your site with all of the available evaluation tools out there, but it is a good idea to do so for the most common web browsers. Just as accessibility software makes it easier for people with disabilities to navigate the Internet, these tools make it easier for developers to ensure accessibility from the start. When you think you've mastered it, go back through the Section 508 compliance checklist to ensure you've met every goal.