On July 26, 2013, the American Disabilities Act reached a milestone. It’s been twenty-three years since President George H. Bush signed the Act into law to provide millions of disabled workers in America protection from discrimination and full access to public services. Yet, the law has far reaching capabilities as the US Department of Justice is currently evaluating the ADA as it also relates to websites.
What does the ADA say about Internet accessibility?
Title III of the ADA ensures that, “places of public accommodation are accessible to people with disabilities”. (Source: Interactive Accessibility) Therefore, with a vast majority of businesses, places of higher education, and government services going online, then it only makes sense that the ADA would cover Internet accessibility too. The truly concerning aspect of this movement is that as of this article there are no specifically published technical documents or guidelines for how the ADA actually applies to the Internet as a whole.
Where can I find guidance on making my website ADA compliant?
There are some guidelines for the management of website content, as provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is the respected international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. In addition, the FCC does provide guidelines for mobile browser accessibility, stemming from billions of mobile device users. However, there are still many gray areas that involve accessibility for basic human resource and employment related websites. Rules for presenting secure content on benefit enrollment portals or access to databases are some prime examples.
Avoiding the legal traps of ADA online
Still businesses and universities are facing lawsuits over ADA accessibility. The Wall Street Journal published news about The National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf that have won in court against companies such as Netflix and Target over their content accessibility. While lawyers argue over the interpretation of the ADA, which doesn’t clearly distinguish between physical accommodation and the digital landscape of the Internet.
Steps to make your website ADA compatible
With news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) plans to roll out new ADA requirements that cover websites and possibly the way all people access information and services on the Internet, it behooves organizations to take steps now to correct any shortcomings in their websites now. Here are some suggestions to start implementing, in advance of the ADA updates that are coming as early as March of 2014.
- Make sure all images are clearly labeled with descriptive words and pop up to larger size for visually challenged visitors.
- Keep text placement and font sizes easy to read, using white space to make content more friendly to the human eye.
- Use captions for all video recordings, and offer the alternative to listen to text with an onsite reader.
- Include voice alerts for website forms and online job applications to allow the hearing challenged to complete transactions.
- Have an accessible Help menu and customer support number displayed promptly on the website home page.
While these are not an all-inclusive list of the ADA updates your company can focus on, getting a jump start on what the DOJ will be announcing later this year can help reduce the costs of hiring an entire IT team to revamp the company website. Streamlining your website and hiring practices with ADA guidelines is in your interest as an organization.
Need more information?
For more information about the ADA and updates on technical requirements, please visit the US Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division website today. http://www.ada.gov/infoline.htm