Many deaf-blind individuals use support service providers (SSPs) to assist them in accessing the world around them. SSPs are not “aids and services” under the ADA. However, they provide mobility, orientation, and informal communication services for deaf-blind individuals and are a critically important link enabling them to independently access the community at large.
Case law has been the most helpful in illuminating the implications of the ADA for websites.There have been lawsuits involving companies like Expedia, Hotels.com, Southwest Airlines, and Target as defendants and primarily featuring accessibility organizations as plaintiffs. These cases had mixed results, but each helped clarify the ADA's jurisdiction on the web.
For discussion’s sake – while I don’t know the specific nature of your videos, my guess is that they might be demonstrating various techniques or other content in which simply hearing the audio of the video wouldn’t deliver the full context of the content. If making that content accessible is something you’d want to do, you’d likely want to start with a written description of what takes place in the video. Beyond that, high contrast vector images or diagrams showcasing specific parts of the technique would certainly help.
The pressure is mounting to implement technology that more directly connects with residents, but balancing the shift to enable all citizens – including the approximately 19 percent with disabilities – can seem insurmountable. Beyond ensuring your organization is doing right your community, being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 508 standards is daunting – especially with the threat of a fine or lawsuit for non-compliance.
Federal law isn't the only consideration for businesses. Additionally, each state interprets the law differently. Consider the case against Netflix in 2012. Lawsuits were brought in federal court in Massachusetts and California. Netflix was accused of violating the ADA by not offering "closed captioning" options for its Internet streamed movies. Illustrating the complexity of this issue, the courts reached completely opposite decisions. Massachusetts held that Netflix must comply with the ADA, while the California court found that Netflix did not fall under the ADA's definition of "public accommodation."
A critical and often overlooked component of ensuring success is comprehensive and ongoing staff training. Covered entities may have established good policies, but if front line staff are not aware of them or do not know how to implement them, problems can arise. Covered entities should teach staff about the ADA's requirements for communicating effectively with people who have communication disabilities. Many local disability organizations, including Centers for Independent Living, conduct ADA trainings in their communities. The Department’s ADA Information Line can provide local contact information for these organizations.
Luckily, the international nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) brings together smart people who develop open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. They produce recommendations for making websites fair and equally accessible for the highest number of people possible. Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 offer clear guidance for web developers to achieve ADA compliance.
The situation has now emboldened many people. She is dealing with tons of demand letters going out across the country. Businesses have been caught off guard because they thought they had time to deal with this and become compliant, and now the Justice Dept. basically says they have to be compliant now. As soon as they deal with one plaintiff, another comes along.
In many situations, covered entities communicate with someone other than the person who is receiving their goods or services. For example, school staff usually talk to a parent about a child’s progress; hospital staff often talk to a patient’s spouse, other relative, or friend about the patient’s condition or prognosis. The rules refer to such people as “companions” and require covered entities to provide effective communication for companions who have communication disabilities.
Both sites support multiple languages (English and Spanish), and both include lang="es" on the element of the Spanish pages. However, on the CDC site, in addition to lang="es" the element has xml:lang="en". This potentially sends mixed messages to screen readers (is this web page in Spanish or English?) JAWS 13 seems to honor lang rather than xml:lang but I don't know about other screen readers.
For most people, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) conjures up pictures of physical accommodations such as wheelchair ramps near building entrances, handicapped parking spaces, and the use of braille writing on signs and placards. These measures have been tremendously valuable in helping the 56.7 million Americans with a disability function and thrive within society.
Every year numerous lawsuits are taken against businesses that fail to follow the ADA’s proposed requirements for web accessibility. This failure occurs because organizations, including state and local government entities, fail to read the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit.8 They also do not follow the most up to date version of the WCAG.9 These two failures are not only detrimental to people with disabilities who want to effectively browse the web, but they are also inexcusable in today’s digitally driven world.
I should mention one caveat to all of this. Businesses that are required to comply but don't have the ability to bring their websites into compliance can provide an accessible alternative to provide the same information, goods, and services that they provide online, like a staffed phone line. The trick, however, is that this option has to provide at least equal access, including in terms of hours of operation. And, as we know, the internet is around 24/7, so good luck with that.