The Only Guide You Need To Attain Digital Accessibility

  • 3.05.2022

Technological advancements have come a long way to make life simpler for people with disabilities. Now the disabled population can independently communicate with others and read and write via technology. In the modern world, where almost every business, organization and institution is focused on structuring a digital presence, the disabled population is facing quite some barriers in accessing information.

One in every 4 US adults is dealing with some sort of disability. In other words, more than 25% of the adult US population is unable to interpret the information available on the internet. For instance, if a disabled user wants to order food online or pay utility bills via online banking, the process may involve a lot of reading, navigation, form filling and information interpretation. Unfortunately, the World Wide Web was not designed by keeping the challenges of users in mind who are suffering from hearing, visual or other sorts of disabilities.

Digital Accessibility is the Law

The US Government has been working constantly on providing an ethical structure to all digital entities to develop barrier-free access. Failure to achieve that may result in legal actions and stiff penalties.

The civil rights law ADA (Americans with Disability Act) mandates that technology and communication offerings be accessible to every individual regardless of their disability.  The governing bodies now promote digital accessibility as a vital component and outline the best practices that one can follow to ensure barrier free access.

The Government also enforces compliance with Section 508 which was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The US Law ensures that the web works for every individual despite their disabilities.

The standards set by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) are applicable to every entity that is available to the public. For instance, a college website, a banking website, an online shopping platform or a healthcare portal, the content available on all these platforms must be made accessible by adhering to the W3C standards.

What does it mean to have a digitally accessible product?

W3C sets a roadmap to make the web available to everyone. The technical standards are known as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These standards are constantly revised to make the web effective and efficient for every individual. WCAG compliance can be attained with three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA. The current version of WCAG is aimed to make the internet experience easier for users who have low vision or those who are dealing with cognitive disabilities.

When a website adheres to Level A of WCAG, it is compliant with the least suggested standard for digital accessibility. Level A conformance also makes a website almost compliant with Section 508. Level AA is the most desired level for entities with commercial websites in the US. AAA is the highest conformance standard which leaves no chance for accessibility barriers or lawsuits.

Who is at the risk of lawsuits?

The US Government aims at prohibiting discrimination and companies are targeted when they fail to confirm barrier free access. Domino’s, Target, Nike, Amazon and Blue Apron are some of the known names that have faced legal penalties.

Prominent US laws apply to every business vertical with a digital presence. Be it a publicly funded entity, private business firm, or an NGO, if there is a website that is made available to the public, compliance with the law is expected.

Your commercial website should be compliant with the revised standards of Section 508 and Title III of ADA. Federal lawsuits are filed against brands and industry leaders that failed to meet the above-mentioned legal statutes.

How to develop ADA compliant ecommerce?

The data provided by the US Department of Commerce revealed a boost in ecommerce popularity. The rising competition, rapidly changing buyer behavior and the risk of lawsuits make it essential for businesses to get proactive.

A smart solution is to attain digital accessibility. ADA compliance is not just helpful in protecting from the risk of stiff penalties, but it also augments the customer reach and increases their satisfaction levels.

Online businesses are exposed more to the legal statutes than retail entities. Accessibility audits and automated scans are the best practices to boost ROI and mitigate legal risks. A detailed guide can be found in this post about digital accessibility in ecommerce.

What are the accessibility solutions for the healthcare sector?

The US remains at a disappointing place in the ranking of quality healthcare around the world. Accessibility barriers are one of the key measures that lowered the ranking.

ADA accessibility in healthcare has to be the motive of every entity because quality care is a basic human right. Besides, healthcare entities are legally obliged to adhere to the technical guidelines mentioned by W3C. A user with visual impairment should be able to access the information with the help of a screen reader. While filling out a form for patient sign-up, there should be assistive inputs to make the process easier. Hospital websites should be designed with acceptable contrast ratios in mind.

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that doctors, hospitals, health care centers and companies providing health care should make their website, software application and hardware ADA compliant. A compliant entity attracts funds from the government and increased accountability works best for reputation management and expansion. Hire technicians to test your websites or run a software test to identify the barrier issues. Healthcare digital accessibility practices are discussed in more detail in this post.

Is there a way to avoid ADA lawsuits in banking and finance?

Online banking is timesaving and convenient. The rising popularity of digital mediums puts financial establishments at risk of ADA lawsuits. The websites and digital products (forms and PDFs) of banks and financial institutions are required to be non-discriminatory.

Banks and financial institutions are at a higher risk of exposure. The digital properties should be addressed responsibly with help of an accessibility expert. Section 508 compliance in finance can be attained with the help of a trained technician. With the help of manual audits, you can identify the areas for improvement and attract disabled users. Easily accessible products are more likely to be approachable by a wide range of key demographics. Detailed information on avoiding ADA penalties can be found in this post about digital accessibility in finance.

Why is digital accessibility crucial for the US education system?

Digital platforms have become an inevitable part of the education system. Abiding by the guidelines for digital accessibility in education is beneficial in many ways. Information access becomes easy, disabled students can attend online classes and the risk of lawsuit exposure can also be minimized.

Hundreds of OCR (Office of Civil Rights) complaints are pending at schools and most of the cases are related to web accessibility. Accessibility violations are bad for the reputation of the school and it also affects the capability of students to attain education and improve their employability scores.

The most common digital barriers to the education system can be managed with targeted remediation. The latest framework of WCAG 2.1 involves a wide range of disabilities. Read here to learn more about how the issues of screen readers, keyboard navigation and contrast ratio can affect the quality of the education system.

Accessibility solutions to steer in the right direction

To start your accessibility journey, you need to identify the barrier issues and the level of compliance required for your business. A full manual review in adherence to WCAG 2.1 is recommended. To get the needed support, you can contact our digital accessibility specialists. Book your free website scan today and get proactive to avoid legal pitfalls.