Is your website accessible to ALL users? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability. Legal precedent has now evolved to include new forms of technology and communication under the act – like websites. ADA compliance for websites will be federally regulated come 2018! Find out more about the new ruling and what you could be doing to prep your website for these accessibility requirements.
This particular lawsuit amounted to nothing more than a shakedown for cash, as the current laws would make it difficult to win the suit in court (more about this later) but it prompted me to dive deeper into the issue of ADA compliance. Through my research, I discovered there are some new laws on the horizon that could make ADA compliance mandatory, which means web designers and digital marketers need to know how to prepare.
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.
Courts have taken essentially the following position on the issue of whether websites are places of public accommodation: Website accessibility fulfills the spirit of the ADA by lowering the barriers for people with disabilities to participate in business and commerce. As such, commercial websites need to comply with ADA regulations. Judges have reached this conclusion in several high-profile cases, such as the National Federation of the Blind’s lawsuit against the Scribd digital library. As a result of this case, Scribd agreed to redesign its website to work with screen reader software by the end of 2017.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also enforces Title II of the ADA relating to access to programs, services and activities receiving HHS federal financial assistance. This includes ensuring that people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have access to sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids in hospitals and clinics when needed for effective communication.
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.
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.
Not to be outdone by their Southern neighbors, the Canadian government site is highly accessible. The home page is a simple page, beautiful in its perfect symmetry between English and French. The default language as specified on the element is English (lang="en", hey they had to pick one) but all French content is marked up with lang="fr". It's actually quite pleasing, and very Canadian, to listen to this page with JAWS as it alternates between the two languages.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces regulations covering telecommunication services. Title IV of the ADA covers telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services that allow people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.
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.