Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, it wasn’t until 16 years later that the accessibility law made its way to the commercial web when Target Corporation was sued for failing to design their site to accommodate low- and no-vision users.
That was 2006. Progress can be slow, and internet accessibility barriers are still very prevalent across the web design world today. That can change if web designers and content producers make accessibility a priority from the start.
Ian Lebbern, Vice President of Technology at Wilmington-based marketing firm the Archer Group, said most companies don’t become aware of their non-compliance with ADA standards until they are forced to.
“Unfortunately many companies do not have web accessibility and ADA compliance on their radar,” said Lebbern, who will also be speaking at Delaware Innovation Week’s Dev Talks on Nov. 19. “Often, the first time they become aware of an issue is when legal proceedings are formally served.”
Sure, avoiding getting slapped with lawsuits is one reason to keep up ever-evolving ADA standards, but making sure all web users have access to the same resources should be the motivator. Lebbern gave a few examples of common ADA compliance infractions:
- The absence of explanatory text (alternative text) on website images.
- The use of images with a poor text/background color contrast.
- Website navigation, which Lebbern said is frequently cited as a compliance failure when companies fail to provide a website that non-sighted users could easily navigate with assistive technology like a screen reader.
Lebbern said Archer avoids accessibility pitfalls by ensuring ADA compliance is considered at every stage of their clients’ project processes.
“In other words, accessibility issues are not just taken into account during the construction of individual web pages, but also during the creative and usability design of those individual pages,” said Lebbern. But one problem remains: As of now, the U.S. Department of Justice has yet to clarify specific regulations for ADA compliance, meaning most of the regulation is self-assessed.
“In the absence of formal Department of Justice standards, Archer utilizes the WCAG 2.0 Level AA recommendations issued by the W3C,” said Lebbern. “These have been cited in many legal actions as the default standard and provide a decent means of benchmarking website compliance.”
— Bounteous (@thearchergroup) October 7, 2015
Lebbern writes more about those technical terms, what they mean and how to better self-assess in a recent Archer blog post.
Until specific regulations are laid out by the DOJ, Lebbern said it’s important to “stay abreast of developments” in compliance.
“Just because you are compliant today, does not guarantee mean you will be compliant tomorrow,” he said.
Archer isn’t alone in the greater Wilmington area working on web accessibility issues. Also check out the work of EvoXLabs and the group’s recent hackathon.
Knowledge is power!
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