I have received numerous inquiries about the new WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) that went into effect on June 5, 2018. The specific questions are about lawsuits that are being filed against those that have websites that have serious accessibility problems for those with visual and sensory challenges. All federal institutions’ websites must meet AA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0 by January of 2018. The general consensus right now is that any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA compliant web presence. “Public Accommodation” is open to interpretation, but generally this refers to businesses that deal directly with consumers, (ie. retail, restaurants) or any business the general public should be able to access information about easily.
Full compliance with the all of the 61 guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level. This is a daunting task and can require significant expense that is beyond the scope of what most small to medium sized businesses can afford. The vast majority of websites that have been built in the last 2 to 3 years probably comply with most of the rules, and frankly, most of the websites on the internet are not in full compliance with the all 61 guidelines. The major guidelines that can be difficult to comply with are listed below (Note: this is not a exhaustive list of guidelines, just some of the more common sticking points):
- Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes things like skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tabindex everywhere.
- Your site should be navigable with screen reader software.
- Text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
- Your site must accommodate text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout problems.
The resources below are easy to use and can help you to understand how your website can become compliant. Please be aware that compliance with the scans and information received from these resources will NOT guarantee that you cannot be sued for non-compliance, but they provide a good start. The only way to ensure compliance with screen reader software and key board navigation is manual testing, which can be extremely expensive and time consuming, but is necessary the majority of the time to ensure full compliance with the applicable laws.
- WAVE is a good scan but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues and picking up code like Google Tag Manager as positives.
- Lighthouse can help generate a report on potential issues.
As a practical matter, it is important to let those that visit your site know that you are working to comply with ADA requirements, and that you are completing all that you can do given your time and financial resources. We have used the follow information page on a number of websites to explain our position on the matter. We have created a footer link entitled “ADA Compliance” We have set this page to “do not index” and link to an interior page that has the following message:
(Name of your Business Here) is committed to making its website usable by all people by meeting or exceeding the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA (WCAG 2.0 AA). We have conducted an accessibility review of this website and has remediated any issues identified during that review.
Please be aware that our efforts are ongoing as we incorporate the relevant improvements to meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines over time. If you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of this site or need assistance in using the processes found within this site, please contact us through our website contact form. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the page of our site and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page accessible.
ADA Compliance is not only about mitigating risks of complicated and expensive litigation for your business, but also about creating solid communication with those that have challenges in accessing your business information. Look at this as an opportunity to be a leader in a market that is currently underserved instead of just another government regulation designed to complicate your business. Please also remember that these guidelines are complex and sometimes subject to interpretation, (Full Disclaimer: there is never a guarantee that you cannot be sued for non compliance) and while most websites do not currently comply with the full regulations, a good faith effort should be made by every website owner to comply with as many guidelines as possible.
Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California Digital Marketing Agency Specializing in SEO and Paid Marketing Management.