How Web Accessibility Compliance Matters to the Disabled

 

 

What Does Web Accessibility Mean to the Disabled?

 

Most of us are familiar with how Accessibility applies to physical business places.  However, little thought has been given to how Accessibility applies to the Internet.  Accessibility on the World Wide Web demands that we break down barriers and open a clear path for everyone.  

This means that web pages must be designed so that those with Visual, Hearing, Motor and Cognitive disabilities have an equal opportunity to navigate and access every web page.

 

 

Why Are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so Important?

 

Let’s take a look at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the Web Accessibility Initiative.  These are guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which is responsible for regulating the operation of the internet.

It sounds much more complicated than it really is.  The W3C establishes the international standards under which the Internet operates.  The WCAG are the recommendations designed to make Web content more accessible for people with disabilities.

 

Remember, These Are Just Recommendations….

 

The key word is “recommendations” because that is exactly what the WCAG is.  It is a set of recommendations, not a law which is clear and enforceable.  That’s the problem facing every website owner.  Guidelines are open to interpretation, and it will be up to the courts to decide what they actually require.  

Lawyers love this.  When something is unclear, lawyers love suing and having a court interpret whether the guidelines have been properly followed.  Lawyers are just seeking a court decision that says their clients were damaged because your content restricted their accessibility in some way.  

They just want a payday, from you.

 

How Web Accessibility Remediation Helps the Disabled

 

For the remediation process to succeed, your website audit results are most easily understood if they come as a spreadsheet.  It’s smart to hire a WCAG accessibility consultant whose reports include technical guidance.

It’s also crucial that your consultant provides tech support during the remediation process.  This can be worth the expense.  Without the consultant’s expertise, you will waste a lot of time trying to correct your issues using trial and error. 

 

A Good Content Management System Can Make a Difference

 

The news isn’t all bad.  You may save money if you segment the consultant’s report.  You need to determine which issues involve your content management system (CMS), and the issues your development team will need to address.  

Providing alternative text for your images is a good example.  This should be addressable through your CMS.  If not, you might want to reconsider which CMS you use. 

 

What Will Your Accessibility Remediation Require From You?

 

Your WCAG remediation might mean that some of your code has to be rewritten.  Remediation shouldn’t require a your page templates to undergo a full rewriting.  Your remediation might be as simple as a cleanup to eliminate keyboard traps, labeling, and making your page navigation efficient for your website.  

 

Will Testing Tools Ensure Your Accessibility Compliance?

 

You can check your remediation progress by using automated testing tools to check your progress.  These tools include Chrome’s Accessibility Developer Tools, WebAim’s WAVE tester, and even others.  If you use WordPress choose Elegant Theme’s Divi Theme to build your accessible website.  

Once you have addressed all the accesibility issues in your report, run the testing process again to verify your results.

 

Are You Responsible for Third Party Accessibility Compliance?

 

Many WCAG violations are caused by third party content contributors to your website.  Ensure that they are trained so they don’t continue to use old practices which can create problems for you.  

Simple mistakes can quickly ruin tour site’s accessibility.  It’s important that descriptive alt-text is applied to every image.  Also your content contributors need to use Headings properly.

An Accessibility issue that is often overlooked is the need to avoid flashing graphics and images that could trigger a user’s seizure disorder.

 

Ensure That Your Accessibility Remediation is Done Properly

 

  1. Use an ADA audit and remediation consultant to guide the remediation process.
  2. Get your Audit Report in a speadsheet format.
  3. Make your developers study WebAIM’s WCAG 2.0 Checklist.
  4. Divide your report between CMS and Dev issues.
  5. Use your internal resources to address the CMS issues.
  6. Be prepared to return to the design process.
  7. You may need to adjust your templates.
  8. Be sure to re-run your remediation testing to confirm results.
  9. Train your content contributors to avoid continuing violations.

 

 

Why Accessibility Compliance is so Important

 

Why You Have to Read This?

 

Read this story published in the Florida Record … The story tells how Dion Snowshoes was hit with an ADA Demand Letter from a Florida law firm.  Dion Snowshoes is a tiny mom & pop business making snowshoes that is based in Vermont.  

Without a damaged plaintiff the Florida law firm put a target on Dion Snowshoes for a shakedown.  The lawyers actions were predictable.

 

Why do You Need to Protect Yourself?

 

Consider how common ADA claims have been for accessibility issues concerning physical barriers. Those claims required a “tester” to physically go to the location and record any violations.  

Web accessibility issues are different.  All web accessibility testers have to do is use free software to test for a website’s ADA compliance.  They can create a large volume of demand letters or suits from a computer anywhere at very little cost.  

There is no intellectual property rights to this business model, they don’t even need a named plaintiff to do this.  There is no entry barrier keeping unscrupulous lawyers from churning out letters demanding compliance.  We all know how much lawyers love money.  This business model is their own money printing press.

Your first and best defense is to build your site and content using the P.O.U.R. Accessibility Principles.

 

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