The world-wide-web benefits everyone differently. Students at universities use it for research, stores use it to sell products, while doctors and nurses at hospitals use it to document patient vitals and take notes.
According to Oxford Languages, Accessible is defined as:
able to be reached or entered
able to be reached or entered by people who have a disability
So, What Does Accessible Mean for Digital Environments?
For individuals with disabilities, the Internet can play a significant role in their day-to-day life. Some use it to connect with friends, stay updated on worldwide news and even use it to order supplies or to have groceries delivered to their home.
Essentially, the Internet is what allows many of these individuals to have independence. There are few privileges greater than having the ability to connect with the world and achieve tasks from the comfort of your own home. However, when digital barriers occur on the websites these individuals want or need to use, it creates a big problem – a civil rights issue.
Below, we offer resources to help you quickly become familiar with web accessibility concepts and an introduction to how ADA law is working.
Web Accessibility Can Be Overwhelming
AKEA is here to guide and empower you with information so that you are prepared to take the next steps.
Per the ADA: a person is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their ability to complete one or more major life activities.
Currently, the disabled community is one of the largest communities in the world. It makes up nearly a quarter of the population in the United States. In 2010, about 56.7 million people had a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
There are four main groups that disabilities can fall within:
Within those four groups are a variety of unique disabilities that can affect each person differently, which can make identifying the barriers they experience online difficult.
How Does This Relate to the Internet?
The ADA developed effective communication rights for those individuals and that is where web accessibility comes into play.
When a website is accessible, not only does that mean that appropriate standards were followed to comply with Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG 2.1), but it also legislates that individuals with disabilities were given the ability to have equal rights.
WCAG 2.1 standards were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that works to continually evolve those web standards and practices. WCAG 2.1 standards and ADA guidelines provide recommendations on ways to ensure web content is more accessible to all, including individuals with disabilities.
Don’t Wait – Act Now!
The best time to ensure your website follows WCAG 2.1 standards is now – before legal action or an official complaint. By being proactive, you can minimize and eliminate accessibility issues and barriers.
When it comes to your organization, due to the increase in federal lawsuits as it relates to ADA website accessibility guidelines, legal trouble can be mitigated or avoided entirely by taking proactive measures.
As web accessibility compliance is required by laws and policies in countries around the world, it is possible to be faced with a letter of complaint or lawsuit if your organization has website barriers which prevent users with disabilities from fully accessing it.
The Department of Justice
The Department of Justice is aggressively defending cases of civil rights issues regarding the lack of compliance with web accessibility standards and guidelines. If your business is faced with a lawsuit, it is not only time-consuming but costly as well.
Per an international legal firm, Seyfarth Shaw, it is expected that in 2021 the amount of web accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court to increase rapidly and continue in the years ahead. These types of lawsuits are not only targeting small businesses, but large organizations and corporations as well. Essentially, no one is untouchable and everyone is at risk.
Were You Caught Unprepared?
When evidence is being examined during litigation, an assessment will be done to evaluate whether you took proactive measures and to what extent those measures were implemented. The more proactive measures taken, the probability increases that the severity of the litigation process will be reduced. There are many ways to be proactive and reaching out to an experienced consulting firm is the first step.
If you think you are at risk, it is important to realize that you most likely are, but a consulting firm can work with your organization to verify the scope of the risks as a result of your current site. A consulting firm will assess if your organization is at risk due to a failure to comply with WCAG 2.1 standards and Section 508 standards of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
Were Any Measures Taken?
Through the use of a variety of audits, analyses and tests, they will determine if or what barriers are present. Once barriers are identified, if any, an overview is provided along with a comprehensive report. It is important to remember that even if you are one of the lucky ones who are deemed currently not at risk, that does not mean you will not be in the future. Continued proactive measures and frequent monitoring are required in order to ensure compliance in the future, as standards and web communications frequently change.
If issues were identified, it is important to address those issues immediately, especially if your organization is a public school, college, or government institution as these types of organizations are legally required to comply with WCAG 2.1. Waiting to address these issues increases your organization’s risk in more ways than one. Not only does it increase the risk of receiving a letter of complaint or lawsuit, but your reputation could also be compromised.
Letter of Complaint
If your organization has already received a letter of complaint, the good news is that no legal action has been taken yet. This provides you the opportunity to get ahead of the game and to address the issues that need to be corrected before the court takes control. It is important to engage with a consulting firm immediately to mitigate damages and to prevent the situation from progressing to a lawsuit. There have been reported cases where lawsuits were dismissed due to the active measures taken following the issuing of a letter of complaint. By allowing a consulting firm to recommend remedial actions, your organization can be protected as well.
Letter of Complaint
If your organization has already received a letter of complaint, the good news is that no legal action has been taken yet. This provides you the opportunity to get ahead of the game and to address the issues that need to be corrected before the court takes control. It is important to engage with a consulting firm immediately to mitigate damages and to prevent the situation from progressing to a lawsuit.
There have been reported cases where lawsuits were dismissed due to the active measures taken following the issuing of a letter of complaint. By allowing a consulting firm to recommend remedial actions, your organization can be protected as well.
In the event your organization is already in the litigation process of a lawsuit, it is important to have the right legal team and consulting firm behind you to help decrease the negative effects of a legal case. A consulting firm can help analyze legal risks and coordinate a process to resolve the problems quickly and efficiently through technical remediation. They can also educate you throughout the process and assist your organization with developing policies and procedures to ensure you do not fall out of compliance in the future.
Despite the circumstance your organization may be in, there are steps that can be taken to address risks and confirm compliance.
When seeking any type of provider to complete a service, you want the best. If you need a car repair, you want the best mechanic. If you need updates in your home or office, you want the best carpenter. This same standard can and should hold true for your web accessibility partner. At AKEA Web Solutions, we are the leading web accessibility experts and our well-rounded team can provide complete web accessibility (WCAG) consulting services.
If you think your organization may be at risk, or if you are already faced with a letter of complaint or lawsuit, we’re prepared to provide a comprehensive, worry-free plan to assist you throughout the web accessibility process. Contact us today to learn how AKEA can help.
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