Although accessibility in web design is a fairly new concept for many businesses and website owners, it has long been an important issue for the 1 in 5 Americans who live with disabilities. Due to the lack of website accessibility awareness, many websites are non-navigable for disabled Americans; and it has been noted that 71%* of web users with disabilities will simply leave a website that is not accessible. On top of that, many of those same individuals have started turning to their lawyers for help in making website accessibility changes happen across the globe.
Accessibility in web design has become a major point of contention in the U.S. As individuals with disabilities continue to pay closer attention to web accessibility standards than ever before, the number of website accessibility lawsuits continues to rise – thanks in part to both the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Section 508 standards of the Rehabilitation Act (which requires all federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities), both of which were updated in 2018. As such, Section 508 accessibility remediation services are becoming more valuable than ever.
WCAG Areas of Coverage
Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – which was signed into law in 1990, before the Internet as we know it existed – does not explicitly name websites and/or apps as part of its jurisdiction. But the law prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations” offered by places of public service, and the Department of Justice has taken the position that websites are, indeed, considered places of public service.
Using the DOJ’s interpretation of the law, adopting an ADA compliant website design is a requirement for three main types of organizations:
- Businesses that exist to benefit the public, including education, transportation and telecommunication
- Local or state government agencies
- Private employers with 15 or more employees
Another way to think about it is, if the physical location of your business is required to comply with ADA standards, you should assume that ADA and 508 compliance are a necessity for your website as well. But even if it’s not, abiding by WCAG standards – which covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible – is always a good idea because it ensures that all visitors to your website are able to experience the full scope of the site, and no one is left feeling alienated or confused by what is happening on the screen.
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According to the latest WCAG guidelines, known simply as WCAG 2.1, accessibility involves a wide range of disability types, including:
Ensuring accessibility in web design can be an intimidating undertaking, but you can’t have a website that is just “a little bit compliant.” You either do it right, or you don’t do it at all. Fortunately, many 508 accessibility remediation services exist to help make the process easier.
For the most part, the requirements for an ADA compliant website design are technical in nature and include steps like implementing alternative text (or hidden code) that can be read by third-party assistive technologies, or removing time limits, limiting media from automatically playing, and making sure the site is fully navigable by only a keyboard. Some website owners may find that a number of WCAG requirements are already in place on their sites just by chance, or that the updates that need to be made to ensure WCAG compliance are pretty simple in nature. But full Americans with Disabilities Act website compliance could also lead to major, sweeping changes to the look and feel of your website if not properly implemented from the start.
Some of the more design-heavy requirements include maintaining a particular contrast ratio between your text and background colors, and ensuring that the text on your website can be scaled up to as large as 200% without leading to viewing issues, such as horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layouts.
Ensuring WCAG Compliance
While there are many tools around the web that are designed to help ensure that your website is ADA and WCAG compliant – including the Web Accessibility Evaluation (WAVE) tool, which highlights the areas on your site that need to be improved or changed – these instruments are not recognized as effective by the government, and their use will not hold up in court. At Paradigm, we partner with ADA-certified auditors who have entire test teams comprised of people with disabilities, and they are dedicated to thoroughly evaluating the sites we develop to ensure compliance, support any necessary remediation efforts, and constantly monitor the website accessibility environment for any changes that may affect our sites. These partners are strictly vetted by our team, and they will stand by you in court if an accessibility lawsuit were to be brought up against you.
Creating an ADA compliant website design, or utilizing 508 accessibility remediation services to update a site that is out of compliance, should be a priority for any business – but don’t let the requirements overwhelm you. Contact us today and we’ll help you get your site on track to WCAG compliance.