WHAT IS WEB ACCESSIBILITY & HOW TO STAY COMPLIANT.
This blog post walks you through an overview of web accessibility and compliance, how it affects your business, and how GTMA’s team of web design and development experts can assist. As litigation surrounding web accessibility continues to increase, we want to help our clients make sure their websites are compliant and allow people with disabilities the freedom to easily access and navigate the web.
Watch the video recording of our recent Accessibility + Compliance Webinar or click a link in the table of contents below to find the exact information you are looking for.
WHAT IS ACCESSIBILITY?
For a product or service to be considered accessible, it must be designed or made in such a way that all people, regardless of their disabilities, can use the product or service. That means if you’re missing a limb or need a special device to navigate the internet, you can still use and enjoy the product or service like anyone else.
“Web accessibility is a set of rules, behaviors, code standards, and design guidelines, that are meant to allow people with disabilities to effectively use websites.” – The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
“A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).” – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Common Types of Disabilities.
Something to note here is that disabilities can be temporary or permanent. A temporary disability might be a repetitive stress injury that prevents you from effectively using your mouse. But with physical therapy or some form of a brace, it heals, and you can use your computer mouse as normal again. A permanent disability is more persistent. Here are some of the most common types of disabilities:
- Visual – Lots of people wear glasses, but there are also levels of blindness to consider.
- Color Blindness – The reduced or inability to distinguish between certain colors.
- Auditory – If a person is deaf, has hearing loss, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- Cognitive Disorders – Primarily affecting learning, memory, perception, and problem-solving abilities, like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Motor & Mobility – If a person has a broken limb or disability that affects movement and motor skills (like walking or typing).
- Seizure + Vestibular Disorders – The inability to process sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
- Aging – As we get older, we all experience some type of impairment.
- + More.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled individuals as they go about their everyday lives. Title III of the ADA mandates that places of public accommodation must be provided to allow for the “full and equal enjoyment” of the related privileges, goods, services, advantages, and accommodations, like those provided to able-bodied persons. This includes digital spaces and offerings such as websites, apps, documents, digital kiosks, software, and other electronic technology. The ADA and the U.S. Department of Justice make it very clear that a business that does NOT provide for that accommodation is engaging in unlawful discrimination.
There are tons of accessibility guidelines out there, but we’re just going to briefly discuss the basics of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. Developed by the World Wide Consortium (W3C), the WCAG has three levels of compliance — A, AA, AAA — where level A covers your basic needs, double-A is the standard, and triple-A goes above and beyond.
At the time of this writing, version 2.1 AA is considered the compliance standard. However, the WCAG version 2.2 is expected to officially be released in the summer of 2021. These guidelines are always updating to reflect new findings, available technology, laws, and regulations regarding web accessibility and compliance.
Several different countries have adopted the WCAG as their basic compliance standard for legislation. The United States uses these guidelines in the ADA Title III and the Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act. Canada uses it in the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The European Union uses it in the EN 301 549 and the European Accessibility Act (EAA). Israel uses the WCAG standards in the (IS) 5568. The guidelines are also used with the CVAA, RGAA, ATAG, AUDA, UNE 139803:2012, JIS X 8341, and more…
The WCAG Basics.
The guidelines and success criteria of the WCAG are organized around four main principles, which lay the foundation for anyone to access and use web content. Remember to POUR.
PERCEIVABLE. Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it cannot be invisible to all senses).
OPERABLE. User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require an action the user cannot perform).
UNDERSTANDABLE. Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the user must be able to figure out content and operation).
ROBUST. Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE.
Because one day it could be you. We’re all aging and as mentioned above, we will most likely experience some type of impairment as we get older. It’s the right thing to do. A disability shouldn’t stop someone from living online and accessing the things other people do. It’s the law. All people have the right to enjoy the web and the things the internet has to offer, despite any disabilities they have. It offers peace of mind. Abiding by the established standard removes a lot of worries and assures compliance.
Let’s try and put things in a different perspective.
- As of 2020, the internet hosts more than 400 million active websites, yet fewer than 10% are accessible to people with disabilities.
- 1 in 4 Americans has some type of disability, so if your website is not accessible, then it’s excluding more than 61 million people.
- In the U.S. alone, consumers spent an estimated $861.12 billion online in 2020.
This information is helpful to note when you consider the potential spending power for the 61+ million Americans with disabilities.
- The total disposable income (or potential spending power) for U.S. adults with disabilities is estimated at $504 billion.
- 69% of customers with disabilities will instantly leave if a site doesn’t meet their accessibility needs.
- However, 80% of customers with disabilities say they would spend more on a website that has improved accessibility features.
Now, let’s look at a more legal perspective.
- 60% of ADA lawsuits filed in federal and state courts in 2018 were made against small and medium businesses.
- 265,000 web accessibility demand letters were sent to businesses in 2020.
- 93% of demand letters settle outside of court for $20,000 – $150,000 on average.
[Total number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Each Year January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2020: 2015, 4,789 8% increase over 2014; 2016: 6,601 38% increase over 2015; 2017: 7,663 16% increase over 2016; 2018: 10,163 33% increase over 2017; 2019: 11, 053 9% increase over 2018; 2020: 10,982 1% decrease from 2019. SOURCE: Seyfarth Shaw LLP, 2021.]
The chart above shows the upward trend of ADA Title III lawsuits year-over-year. You can see that the numbers peaked at 11,053 federal lawsuits filed in 2019 and fell slightly in 2020.
But don’t be mistaken, 2020 was an outlier due only to the COVID-19 pandemic. It could have been the adjustment to working from home, watching children during the workday, or just plain shock, but as Seyfarth Shaw LLP addressed, the plaintiffs’ bar reported far fewer lawsuits in April and May 2020.
[Total number of ADA Title III Federal Lawsuits Filed Per Month January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020: January: 971; February: 927; March: 886; April: 572; May: 538; June: 857; July: 954; August: 1,079; September: 1,049; October: 1,072; November: 983; December: 1,094. SOURCE: Seyfarth Shaw LLP, 2021.]
The number of lawsuits filed fell during the height of the pandemic in April and May 2020 but has been steadily increasing ever since. We can expect this trend to rise throughout the coming years. Especially so because the number of people with disabilities in the world will double from 1.1 billion to 2.2 billion by 2030, due primarily to a rapidly aging baby boomer population.
But enough about that… Let’s talk about how your business can achieve compliance and avoid litigation!
COMPLIANCE TOOLS + SOLUTIONS.
Types of Compliance Tools.
There are several different types of tools available on the market that can help your site achieve compliance. These are some of the main tools and features we offer in our compliance suite:
- COOKIE CONSENT MANAGER.*
- TERMS + CONDITIONS GENERATOR.
- REFUND + RETURN POLICY GENERATOR.
A refund, shipping, and return policy, generated for eCommerce sites, including SaaS products and other online stores.
A privacy statement that is designed to meet the guidelines of laws like the GDPR, CCPA, and CalOPPA.
- DISCLAIMER GENERATOR.
A legal disclaimer made for your business that’s customizable to the look and feel of your site and with a simple addition of a link, the disclaimer stays current.
Driven by the power of AI, GTMA’s accessibility and compliance service uses automated tools to ensure your site is available and in line with existing and future legislation.
Whether you run a blog, eCommerce site, or a mobile app, our compliance suite has your business covered on any platform. As a part of our service, we implement our AI tool which consistently scans your website for any alerts or errors and dynamically updates and fixes those issues accordingly.
Plus, our tools come with a dedicated team of attorneys that create your legal policies for free! Whenever there are new laws or amendments to current privacy regulations, our lawyers automatically update your policies to remain compliant, which are then dynamically updated on your website.
We used this customizable tool on our own website and discovered 72 errors.
After implementation, our site was down to just a single error.
Let our web development experts make your website accessible and compliant within seven business days! Fill out the form below or reach out to your Account Manager to learn more information about our Accessibility + Compliance service.
Contact us to schedule a demo or request a free quote!