There were 2,258 website accessibility lawsuits filed last year in federal court, up 177 percent from 2017. This year we’ve already seen a prominent suit filed against Parkwood Entertainment for inaccessible content on Beyonce.com; a significant ruling against Domino’s; and scores of suits brought against small businesses.
While many of the organizations in these actions made no attempt to comply with ADA requirements, others faced complaints stemming from inadequate or overzealous screening services, poor planning, and inadequate remediation.
As technologists committed to digital equity and helping our clients achieve their goals, we see some important lessons emerging from these trends. Since today is the eighth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the importance of digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion for people with different disabilities.
Minimal compliance is not enough to avoid legal action
Organizations that treat accessibility only as a simple technical checkbox on their web properties are significantly more likely to receive an ADA Demand Letter and are less able to respond effectively. Some compliance service organizations recommend that when you get a demand letter the first thing to do is contact a lawyer, then plan, communicate with staff about the plan, scan, audit, remediate, train and monitor. These actions are just some of the things an organization should have done before the demand letter arrived.
While you can sometimes avoid a suit by reacting quickly, technical remediation usually involves a lot more than a few front end tweaks. Usually when there are accessibility problems, a site or application structure needs to be completely rethought and reengineered. Here are just a few examples of how this issue might happen:
- Brand guidelines can run completely counter to accessibility best practice around colors and color contrast.
- Thousands of PDFs are missing the meta data assistive technologies require.
- Videos have no subtitles or spoken audio track.
Without an internal culture that fully understands and supports digital inclusion, organizations that attain a minimum standard quickly fall out of compliance the next time a feature set is added or even the next time a new hire posts new content on your site.
Embracing digital inclusion advances customer experience
Digital inclusion means many things to many people. To us it means establishing a culture of proactivity. Committing to following best practices around usability and customer experience lets anyone easily use your site or application, regardless of their physical abilities.
Committing to accessibility pays dividends far beyond the savings of an accessibility judgement. Having inclusive hiring practices can make your organization better as well. Teams that hire or contract with individuals that use assistive technologies are much more likely to prioritize accessibility.
An inclusive team improves all of the decisions made around branding, technology purchases, and digital practices. And it’s not just good karma or avoiding lawsuits: prioritizing accessibility makes good business sense. People with disabilities are the largest single minority population on the planet. Ten percent of everyone alive today, or 650 million individuals, live with a disability. That is a very large market.
Choosing the right technology is critical
Drupal is unequivocally the best platform to support accessibility and inclusion. Because the Drupal community is committed to full compliance, Drupal 8 ships with features that make it accessible out of the box. With smart architectural practices, Drupal 8 can help ensure ongoing compliance across enterprises. Some Drupal highlights include:
- More semantic HTML5 elements that assistive technologies can use to make content accessible
- WAI-ARIA landmarks, live regions, roles & properties
- Aural alerts for screen readers
- Controlled tabbing for non visual and non mouse users for better navigation
- Better CSS alternatives
- Better forms with Fieldsets
- Better autocomplete and modal dialogs
- Required alt text
- Better default theming
- Accessible inline form errors
- … and nearly a dozen contributed modules that support accessibility
For more information about Drupal’s commitment to accessibility and its advantages, visit Drupal 8's accessibility page
Avoid the most common mistakes
The top accessibility violations are easy to avoid if you have begun to embrace digital inclusion. For a good starting place, consider the following easy fixes:
- Alt Tags - Either give an image a description or use aria-hidden elements for decorative icons that can't be described.
- Contrast - Foreground and background colors need to create more contrast. Not sure if you’re in compliance? Use a color contrast tester on your entire brand guide.
- Quick Jump Links - People who are using visual assistive technologies can’t scan a site quickly for the information they are looking for. Make sure your site or application has both a skip header/skip to main content button AND a "go to the top of the page" button.
- Keyboard Accessibility - Correctly label form fields to enable this technology properly.
- HTML5 Semantics - Use tags. Assistive technologies use header tags (also known as “h tags”) to convey the structure of a page, not for aesthetics. Go from “h1” to “h4” and use appropriate elements. A telephone should go in "<tel></tel>" tags and an address should go in "<address></address>" tags, etc.
Make the most out of Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Global Accessibility Awareness Day was conceived to help individuals and organizations understand and support the needs of the disabled community. Embracing accessibility can reduce the isolation of people with disabilities, increase their participation in the workforce, and improve customer experience for all. The Global Accessibility Awareness website is a terrific resource for more information. Please visit this page to learn how your organization can participate in the effort.
FFW and Digital Inclusion
FFW has an extensive accessibility strategy and remediation services program. We also collaborate with the nonprofit organization My Blind Spot to provide additional consulting, manual testing and other services. We are working together to ensure digital equity and authentic inclusion for all.
Take advantage of our accessibility webinars
Ready to learn more about accessibility? Visit our training channel on GoToStage for these accessibility webinars and others:
- Customer Experience and Accessibility in the Banking Industry with My Blind Spot
- Practical Accessibility Compliance and Remediation
- Accessibility Audit Strategies to Ensure Continuous Compliance
Are you ready to embrace accessibility? Contact us.
There are groups and tools that can perform accessibility audits, and at FFW, we have the experience to help organizations surpass current ADA requirements. For a brief overview of some of the ways you can ensure your site is accessibility compliant, watch the webinar: Building Digital Trust in 2019: Security, Accessibility, & Privacy. For help running an audit, or to learn more about how we can help you ensure that your site is accessibility compliant, contact us. Our digital experts are here to help you begin the process of improving the accessibility on your site.