Person uses computer with braille computer display

Have you heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If you’re an organization with a website, this civil rights law should definitely be on your radar.

Even though the intended purpose of this law is to provide equal opportunity to people with disabilities in areas of education, government, e-commerce, healthcare, jobs, etc., there’s a growing number of lawsuits against organizations with websites that do not comply with the ADA Section 508, which requires that “federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.”

If you read that last sentence closely, you probably caught that the ADA applies to federal agencies. Even so, this scare factor has spread among businesses with websites.

While the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has placed the task of formulating website accessibility regulations and guidelines on the back burner indefinitely, businesses aren’t necessarily in the clear.

Due to the patchwork of litigation based on accessibility and noncompliance to Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 guidelines, businesses still face a legal climate that’s incredibly uncertain.

So what does this mean for businesses?

There are two initial steps to address this concern. First, don’t panic. Second, start getting your act together.

The journey to meeting accessibility guidelines isn’t simple – in fact, it’s pretty arduous.

Don’t think of website accessibility as a project, but rather as an ongoing process that requires you to shift your default mindset. Due to the complexity, ambiguity, and subjectivity of regulations in this area, absolute accessibility is not only highly implausible but also cost-prohibitive.

To set more achievable goals, aim for substantial compliance and accessibility – say 80 or 90 percent compliance, with a path to remediating issues identified in due course.

This will take you much further down the accessibility path, mitigating the risk of a lawsuit and setting you up for success if that were to happen.

Follow the steps below to begin your path of accessibility compliance.

Step 1: Get your act together

  • Establish an accessibility policy that defines what you plan to do and your objective for increasing accessibility.
  • Identify clearly defined stakeholders by assigning ownership for specific tasks.
  • Educate the team about WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
  • Start the documentation process and put a note on the website stating that you are working on accessibility.
  • Assign budget and priority – get management buy-ins and approvals to start the process.

Step 2: Choose the right toolset

  • Pick the right tools for automated testing (75 percent of the issues).
  • Pick the right tool for manual testing (25 percent of the issues).
    • Screen readers and keyboard accessibility
  • For advanced accessibility, pick assistive tools like NVDA, ChromeVox, or Voiceover.
  • Hire an educated company to remediate and help you through the process.
  • Make plans to remediate accessibility gaps.
    • Development issues (Fixed by developers in the code base)
    • Content issues (Fixed by content contributors and writers within the Content Management System (CMS))
  • Keep in mind that the individuals who sue will use automated testing to troll your site.

Step 3: Perform initial remediation

  • Perform the initial site audit, both automated and manual.
  • Segment the issues:
    • Code changes – Developer fixes
    • Content changes – Content author fixes within the CMS
    • Establish ownership to fix the issues
  • Once the report is prepared, fix at least 90% of the issues identified by the tools.
  • Once all the fix is complete, re-run the test. Perform cross-browser testing and regression testing to ensure nothing new has broken down in the process of fixing the original issue.
  • Identify any deviations (things you have a valid reason not to fix) and document them for future reference.

Step 4: Ongoing monitoring, training and déjà vu

  • Once you reach the initial threshold for accessibility that you defined, it’s time for constant monitoring for accessibility issues.
  • Monitor on a monthly or quarterly basis to ensure that no new issues have been introduced. Websites, codes, and content are in constant flux of change, so this is incredibly important.
  • Put into place a policy that constantly monitors and addresses issues on a regular basis.
  • Train the development and content team on accessibility to prevent future issues.
  • Repeat! Run through this process on an ongoing basis.

Step 5: Keep record and then keep some more

  • Keep a detailed record of all your effort beginning from day one.
  • Keep in-depth documentation and historical information about what was fixed.
  • Keep a record of all exceptions to the issues that you chose not to fix and any reasoning for it.
  • Create an accessibility calendar and schedule that includes:
    • Testing
    • Remediation
    • Document results each month or quarter
    • Monthly and quarterly accessibility review meetings with notes saved for references

What does this all mean?

The reality is, you will be spending a lot of effort, time, and money achieving accessibility compliance. But the ongoing process benefits your customers who need assistive help navigating your website. By making your website ADA-compliant, your business could see better reviews, more happy customers, and eventually more business.

Ultimately, you’ll have a major advantage in the coming years. Not only will your website support accessibility, but you’ll also avoid costly and time-intensive lawsuits. If you want help improving your site, we have good news. LaneTerralever has partnered with Siteimprove to help brand’s proactively work toward an inclusive digital presence. For more information, or to see if you qualify for a free consultation and detailed evaluation of your website, fill out the contact form below!