The “How not to get sued for inaccessibility” Q&A

Are you worried about 508 compliance? Do you have questions about how to meet web accessibility guidelines? Do you wonder what "ADA" and "WCAG" stand for? Here is a set of questions and answers that may help. I am commonly asked these questions.

Everybody likes this

Making websites that people like accessible

Question: Are there certain types of websites that people with low-vision prefer that should be made accessible? (The implication here is that there are other websites this group would not prefer, so we can ignore those).

Answer: The best way to determine this is the following: Gather a group of random people. See if they can come up with a consensus on types of websites they all prefer. You will likely discover that there is no certain type of website they all prefer. Likewise, there is no type of website that all people with low-vision (or any other disability) would prefer. Let's make all websites accessible so that we are not barring anyone from our content.

To-do list that has "Be awesome" crossed off of it

In search of the bare minimum

Question: Which guidelines can we meet so our clients don't get sued, but which are easy to meet?

Answer: Start small if you must. I would rather you add a few accessibility features than none at all. Make the main user journey through the site work with a keyboard alone. Test your pages with a web accessibility tool like the WAVE toolbar and fix what you can. But the key word here is "Start." Please don't stop there! Web accessibility compliance is a journey that never ends. Once implemented, it must be maintained.

Keep calm and automate everything

Automate everything?

Question: Which tool can I use that will tell me if my website is accessible?

Answer: Many tools available can measure your website against code-related accessibility guidelines. These include the WAVE toolbar and aChecker. But there are many guidelines that are not related to code that cannot be found with these tools. These include: Keyboard functionality, accessible copy, and usable forms. Start with tools, but also try accessing your site with the keyboard alone. Try it with a screen reader (see my tutorial for VoiceOver here is you use a Mac).

Different types of candy in a bin

Something for everyone

Question: Why not make an accessible version of a website that is bare bones? Then we wouldn't have to make the overall website accessible.

Answer: Here are a few reasons why it is preferable and more efficient to focus on a single version of a website:

  • It is easier and cheaper to design a single website. Otherwise you will need to design two sets of templates: The accessible and inaccessible versions.
  • What is an "inaccessible" website? It is a poorly-designed and/or badly-coded website. Why invest in making one of those at all?
  • It doesn't take much longer to make an accessible website if you know how to do it. And it doesn't take long to learn.
  • Many users perceive that if there are two versions of a website, the "regular" version will have more content.

Okay, okay. What do I have to do?

Question: Which level of guidelines do companies generally need to meet?

Short Answer: Aim to comply with WCAG 2.0 level AA. In Canada, level A is required until 2021, when level AA will be required.

TL/DR: Most companies are striving to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to level AA. The American Disabilities Act (ADA), Title III currently recommends voluntary compliance to WCAG 2.0 Level AA for websites of companies that can be categorized as "private entities whose operations affect commerce." They have deferred a proposed rulemaking on this topic until 2018, but in the meantime, companies still have received complaints.

"While there is no binding law from any federal Court of Appeals that supports these claims, DOJ’s delay could encourage these groups to resort to litigation to establish that Title III applies to all websites, and that WCAG 2.0 Level AA is the law, despite DOJ explicitly stating that it will issue standards at a later date." 

-Ann Marie Estevez, Morgan Lewis Law Firm

Question: Is there a place where I can see the guidelines?

Answer: Yes! The actual guidelines are on the W3 site.. I prefer to look at WebAIM's WCAG 2.0 Checklist, because I find it easier to read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *