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.
Today, however, the landscape is completely different at the Dept. of Justice. In 2001, Target was sued by the National Federation of the Blind over its web site. Target said the ADA didn’t cover web sites but was told by a judge that they were liable because they were connected to a brick and mortar business. If a company isn’t tied to a brick and mortar business, however, the courts are still split on that issue regarding ADA coverage.
Penn in particular nearly made the cut because I really like their keyboard accessibility. It amazes me how few sites provide visible indication of keyboard focus, when it's incredibly simple to achieve (just add a style for a:focus in your style sheet). Penn did this, and consequently it's very easy for sighted keyboard users to keep track of their position as they tab through the page. They also included a keyboard-accessible dropdown menu. However, there are some dynamic features on the Penn home page that really need ARIA markup for full accessibility. They also have a few contrast problems, most notably their slideshow navigation, which is red-on-red:
Vu said that she gets one question all the time: What are the legal standards? There is no legal standard, but there are guidelines out there: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.0, with 3 levels of conformity: A, AA, AAA. They were put out by W3C. Companies can use those guidelines. The Justice Dept. uses the A and AA levels.
I’ve been able to fix the problem by changing the default-calendar-grid.php file to change the contents of the buttons that they noted above. I ended up replacing the chevron icons in the file with stylized “<” and “>” characters, respectively. This allows a screen reader to see that there is actually content within the button, and furthermore within the table header, and as a result fixes the errors it has with the calendar.
The free nationwide telecommunications relay service (TRS), reached by calling 7-1-1, uses communications assistants (also called CAs or relay operators) who serve as intermediaries between people who have hearing or speech disabilities who use a text telephone (TTY) or text messaging and people who use standard voice telephones. The communications assistant tells the telephone user what the other party is typing and types to tell the other party what the telephone user is saying. TRS also provides speech-to-speech transliteration for callers who have speech disabilities.
@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.
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."
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.
We not only referenced the ADA’s requirements while building the website, but also sat down one-on-one with users who are blind to see how they navigated the site. These individual sessions were invaluable and provided more insights than just the law’s basic requirements. Instead of making assumptions about how these users would interact with the site, we took the time to observe their real interactions and used that data to formulate new features.
Higher search engine rankings is another potential benefit of voluntary compliance with the ADA. During your migration, an ADA specialist will audit it to detect and address usability challenges. These difficulties include the inability for search engine spiders to index your site easily. When you address such issues, your site will rank highly in search engines.
An accessible and ADA compliant website has the potential to increase your sales by over 20%. The market segment of persons with a disability is very loyal to businesses and websites that make legitimate efforts to increase their quality of life. Your businesses social media presence can also be improved as visitors share their favorable interactions with your businesses. Offering your business a significant and fiercely loyal revenue stream.