Reha asked Vu if companies are obligated to comply? Vu said that unlike the physical access world, where any new building has to be compliant no matter what, there’s no such thing in the web world. The Justice Dept. hasn’t said that that’s the default, but they have said that the current regulatory regime requires it anyway. Equal access has been around since 1990.
Leading web developers have been pioneering accessibility and publishing standards since 1994. In 1999, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In essence, the people who determine how the internet is written came together to advise web developers on how to make websites accessible not only to people with disabilities, but to all web users, including those with highly limited devices.
A language picker at the top of the page. When users select a new language, the page is reloaded with all text translated. The lang attribute on the element also changes to reflect the new language, so screen readers will pronounce the text correctly. This is a very cool feature, and makes the site accessible to millions of people who would otherwise be excluded due to language. However, it's a little buggy. Selecting some of the languages (e.g., " Slovenčina") does not result in translated text on the home page, but does result in a changed lang attribute, so screen readers that support the selected language will pronounce the English text using the new language's speech engine, which is not likely to be intelligible.
The ADA statute identifies who is a person with a disability, who has obligations under the ADA, general non-discrimination requirements and other basic obligations. It delegates fleshing out those obligations to federal agencies. The agencies issue regulations and design standards. The regulations have the details on the rights of people with disabilities and responsibilities of employers, state and local governments, transportation providers, businesses and non-profit organizations. The design standards specify how many entrances need to be accessible, how many toilet rooms and the design for those elements. To know what the ADA requires, you need to read the law, regulations and design standards.
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.
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For people who have speech disabilities, this may include providing a qualified speech-to-speech transliterator (a person trained to recognize unclear speech and repeat it clearly) , especially if the person will be speaking at length, such as giving testimony in court, or just taking more time to communicate with someone who uses a communication board. In some situations, keeping paper and pencil on hand so the person can write out words that staff cannot understand or simply allowing more time to communicate with someone who uses a communication board or device may provide effective communication. Staff should always listen attentively and not be afraid or embarrassed to ask the person to repeat a word or phrase they do not understand.
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.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first passed in 1990. Twenty years later, the US Department of Justice released an update called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These standards cover the design of physical spaces and have been interpreted to include web locations as well, so it can be difficult for the would-be accessible website designer to use them.