WCAG and ADA: The Letters You Need to Know About Website Accessibility | ODEA

WCAG and ADA: The Letters You Need to Know About Website Accessibility

If you subscribe to our weekly email roundup, Feed Your Brain, full of the articles our brains are munching on or follow current happenings in the news, you likely read about a legal case that’s been working its way through the court system. This case has been in the media for the past few months, and brings a lot of uncertainty to business owners who now must ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible to all.

Domino’s feels the heat

The case involves Domino’s Pizza and a blind man named Guillermo Robles. In 2016, Robles sued Domino’s after he was unable to order food from the pizza chain’s website using screen reading technology. Robles attorneys argued that the website failed to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Domino’s challenged that and argued that the ADA didn’t apply to websites and apps. Because the ADA was established in 1990, Domino’s argued that there are no firm rules that businesses can follow to ensure their online assets are accessible to those with disabilities. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the pizza chain, ruling that since Domino’s is a place of public accommodation, it must provide “auxiliary aids and services”. Domino’s tried to appeal the federal ruling, but the Supreme Court declined it, upholding the lower court’s ruling.

Many businesses are now wondering, what does this mean for my website and mobile apps?

Better to be compliant than sorry

In 2018, there were more than 2,000 federal website accessibility lawsuits according to ADA Title III. That’s three times the number filed in 2017. The ruling in the Domino’s lawsuit could potentially encourage advocates to file more lawsuits against businesses that aren’t compliant with the ADA. And this doesn’t just affect restaurants, your business is at risk too. How much? It is hard to tell. But our friends at Burke Law are encouraging all website owners to, “meet at least Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA criteria.”

What is WCAG?

While there are currently no clear guidelines on what businesses can do to be ADA compliant, a good place to start is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. While the courts have not specifically stated that complying with the WCAG 2.0 means a website has met ADA standards, it appears to be the current best practice. WCAG guidelines are based on four main principles that content must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

At minimum, that means content must be presented in ways that those with impaired vision can perceive it. For instance, there needs to be text alternatives for non-text content such as alt-tags or descriptions for photos. That content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies like site readers. Designers must ensure content is readable and usable, especially when it comes to contrast. And website navigation must be operable for those with limited mobility, including the ability for a visitor to navigate your site via keyboard functionality only. Those are just a few of the guidelines WCAG covers.

If you’re unsure on what the next step is, our recommendation is to reach out to us or your web developer. We’re working closely with our friends at fjorge Digital, one of our dev teams, to stay up-to-date as these guidelines and regulations evolve. We will make updates to this blog and send out e-blasts as we receive new information. If you would like to speak with us about what you can do to make your website more accessible, reach out to us at [email protected].

To listen to our latest Brain Lava episode featuring Joe Barsness of fjorge Digital, find it here. Joe explains WCAG, shares best practices we are using with fjorge and gives us some tools to use to determine the accessibility of your website.