Web Accessibility (ADA) Compliance and Why Marketers Should Care More About It

Shawn Duncan
July 05, 2017
Web Strategy , Digital Marketing , Kentico , Sitecore

If your website is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations - you may be putting your organization at risk of a lawsuit and a slew of negative PR.  In 2006, Target® fell victim to a lawsuit claiming their website was inoperable by the visually impaired; and per the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990, it states any descrimination by places of public accomodation is against the law.  Plaintiff's in the case were awarded $6 Million.  Now, this is not to alarm you.  The fact is; compliance requirements depend on your industry and the size and scope of your business.  There are segments of the ADA which contain an exemption for businesses with less than 15 employees, and other rules that apply to companies that provide specific services to the general public.

We would stress that regardless of your industry specific guidelines, it would be wise to be both compliant and even if it's not required, take it upon yourself proactively to become compliant.  Many consider regulations as a legal issue, from a web marketer's perspective this is a golden opportunity to widen your reach.  Opening your website to everyone is the socially responsible thing to do.   If you look at the numbers of Americans with a disability which is more than 57 million people - think of them as potential customers you would now have an opportunity to serve.  Not only can ADA/508 compliance provide lift in traffic,  doing this can also provide a boost to your online reputation along with obvious user experience improvements.

What's the Difference between ADA Compliance and 508 Compliance?

These compliance regulations are similar in fashion, but they are not identical.  The main difference are the mediums that are made accessible to the disabled.  508 compliance focused on improving the web for those with disabilities where the ADA would govern the same businesses for non web compliance.  508 compliance mandates that accomodations be made for any federal employees and members of the public with known disabilities who require access to any Government information and Communications Technology (ICT) are overseen by the United States Access Board.  This specifically governs websites and multimedia and promoted equality for people with a disability.

To make things more complicated there is also WCAG 2.0 Compliance.  Where 508 compliance is a required mandate for any business which generates revenue from government contracts, WCAG 2.0 are web standards for all others as an effort to establish a basic design standard with the goal of web accessibility for everyone.  The WCAG2.0 Design & Development guidelines were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Understanding these compliance measures could impact the everyday usability and design of websites for everyday users, the Government has established five requirements that must be met to be classified as WCAG2.0 compliant.

What does this all mean, and how do you get compliant?

There are many accessibility barriers to consider.  From the most basic lack of "Alternate text" which describes images for screen readers, to a complete incompatibility with modern web screen readers.  Other concerns are text size, E Commerce transaction timing requirements which may not take into account intellectual disabilities, all the way down to text transcription for streaming media (audio and video).

At minimum, to call your website accessible would mean these elements were considered:

  • Alternate Text provided for any non-text content
  • Easy to see and/or hear all content / media
  • Your content is responsive to alternative methods of presentation (screen readers)
  • Existing web functionality can be navigable with Keyboard only 
  • Light/Color options are not at risk to cause seizures
  • Includes a method for a users to always find navigation and content without assistance

What Should you do Next?

The truth is, this depends on what industry you are in and what type of website you operate.  Title III of the ADA specifies which private and public entitles are considered to offer "public accomodations".  Depending on your industry - you should seek out the official regulations for your industry, in your state, then work towards compliance.  The important date to remember for government funded entities is January 2018.  With any new technology, early adapters will enjoy knowing that they have done everything they can to ensure your online presence is open to everyone.  With any standardized regulations, doing nothing may actually cost you both financially as well as potentially damaging your online reputation.

ADA established sets of requirements for the following Categories of public-facing businesses:

  • Public Service establishments
  • Stores and shops
  • Restaurants and Bars                                      
  • Theaters and hotels
  • Private Schools and Museums
  • Medical Offices
  • Shopping malls 

Once your website is 508 compliant, make sure you routinely gather updates on any new compliance requirements.  If you are someone seeking a new Content Management Solution (CMS) for your web properties, and 508 compliance is priority for you - we would strongly recommend you consider the Kentico CMS for ADA Compliance.  Kentico has built in tools that allow you to meet WCAG 2.0 Guidelines following all US Government Section 508 requirements.

Related Roundedcube Case Study:

Read our blog article about our related article -  ADA compliance project for the City of Sacramento on the Sitecore Digital Marketing platform.

 

Related Resoures (links)

ADA.gov - Guide for Small Businesses
ADA.gov - Guide to Disability Rights Laws
How to Meet WCAG2.0 - a customizable quick reference to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Learn more about the Four Principles of Accessibility
Learn more about WCAG conformance leves
Kentico - Section 508 compliant content management system

How can Roundedcube help?

If you plan to tackle compliance and need a technology partner to assist with the planning and execution, please reach out to us at 314-692-2823 or drop us a line and we will be happy to help define a solution.

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