By now, you’ve likely heard about the fines and penalties being handed out to businesses that have failed to comply with current website accessibility standards. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 56 million people are living in the United States with a disability. The U.S. Census Bureau’s reports also showed that about 8.1 million people have difficulty seeing, including 2 million people who are blind and unable to see and around 7.6 million people had difficulty hearing, including approximately 1.1 million people whose hearing difficulty level was considered severe. The rise of legal cases being brought to organizations, whether public accommodations or privately-held businesses, will only increase as web accessibility issues become more apparent.

If you are unsure if your website complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), now is the time to hire an ADA consulting firm to confirm your compliance with these critical standards and guidelines.

What is the ADA and Why do We Have to Comply With It?

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, to guarantee equal opportunity for all people living in the United States, including those with disabilities. Under the ADA, it is illegal for any public or private organization serving the public to discriminate against anyone with a disability. As a result, the ADA requires that an organization’s facilities, systems, technologies, and communication be fully accessible to all people.

Additionally, the ADA is not limited to an organization’s physical premises, such as wheelchair ramps and automatic door openers. With digital technology growing at a rapid pace, businesses are obligated by law to ensure that their digital properties are not excluding those with disabilities.

In January of 2001, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published the first public draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Since that time, it has undergone several revisions, and was updated to WCAG 2.0 in December of 2008. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the recognized standard for website accessibility. These standards are what govern the best practices for creating and publishing content on the web that is accessible to all.

At AKEA Web Solutions, we provide complete web accessibility consulting services and help organizations ensure that their websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, the recognized standard for website accessibility.

What is an ADA Consultant?

An ADA consultant is able to evaluate your premises, properties, and/or services to determine whether they do or do not comply with the ADA web accessibility requirements. Often, they are able to assist you in the remediation process, as well as provide ongoing support and maintenance for your website moving forward.

What is the Cost of an ADA Website Accessibility Consultant?

The cost of an ADA compliance consultant is variable, depending on the content and scope of your website, as well as if its a one-time service or ongoing monitoring. Typically, businesses should expect to budget several thousand dollars for this important partnership. Fees often reflect the level of expertise and time a consultant will provide for your business, so it is critical to select a consultant who is a qualified ADA compliance expert, with the appropriate knowledge and skills. As there is no nationally recognized ADA consultant certification licensing or course, it can be a challenging and time-consuming process to select the right consultant for your business. However, time spent upfront to find a qualified partner will save you from costly penalties down the line.

Do I Need an ADA Consultant?

Ensuring the compliance of your digital properties with current ADA website accessibility standards is not possible without a qualified ADA consultant. Only an experienced web accessibility consultant will be equipped to help you navigate the complex regulations regarding accessibility, and will be able to implement a full-service review and remediation process.

In particular, for institutions such as a public school or university, or state government, WCAG Compliance is not only a good business practice, but it is also the law. Working with a web accessibility consultant will ensure that your online services, websites, and apps are fully accessible and free of barriers.

Here are Six Reasons You Need to Hire a Web Accessibility Consultant.

1. Web Accessibility Consultants Know More About Online Accessibility Than You Do.

The world of web accessibility is highly technical and full of specific requirements that can be challenging to navigate for someone unfamiliar with the regulations. From path-dependent inputs to non-modal popups, a qualified web accessibility consultant will have the necessary expertise to cover your website from front to back. A qualified consultant will have extensive technical training, as well as certifications by organizations such as the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). They will take their vast knowledge and put it to work for you in a way that is efficient, effective, and will confirm full accessibility.

2. One of our Web Accessibility Experts has Firsthand Experience with Disabilities.

You now know that your website needs to be accessible for all customers, but you might not understand the specific needs of all people.

Disabilities are as complex as the regulations put in place to protect the individuals with them. A credible web accessibility consultant will work with a disability expert who can provide first-hand knowledge of the way that people with disabilities use the internet, how they use assistive technology, and how severely they are affected by barriers on the web.

3. Web Accessibility Consultants are able to Perform Functional Testing.

Accessibility testing tools are online tests and software programs that search for various accessibility attributes, such as whether or not your images have alternative text (captions with a description of the picture for the blind and people with visual impairment) in place. However, these automated tools are not perfect, and typically find only 20-30% of accessibility errors, in addition to producing false positives. .

Web accessibility consultants therefore use a variety of automated, functional, and manual testing for a comprehensive evaluation of accessibility issues. They will thorough review each and every part of your site, to ensure that is a barrier-free and accessible at every step.

4. Consultants Can Make Judgment Calls Based on Experience.

Being able to make a judgment call is a crucial part when checking a website for accessibility. While an automated tool might return a result of “compliant” when evaluating whether or not the images on your website have alternative text in place, that does not mean that the alternative text is correct or accurate, in which case the images are not truly accessible.

When a website is evaluated by a web accessibility consultant, they will be checking both for the use of alternative text, as well as whether or not the text is accurate. These deeper insights are critical to determining whether your website is truly compliant, or simply appears that way on the surface.

5. Web Accessibility Consultants Stay Up to Date.

Staying on top of the latest developments and most current technical requirements for digital accessibility is an evolving process. However, web accessibility consultants are dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of the current laws and requirements so as to keep their clients safe and consistently compliant. They also have thorough knowledge of various accessibility legislation, such as  Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as the most recent updates of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, compliance deadlines, and new requirements.

6. Consultants Offer a Worry-Free Comprehensive Package.

Websites and content are constantly changing, and it is essential to make sure your site continues to be compliant. Web accessibility consultants work with you in a prioritized and systematic manner. They do this to ensure that the remediation process is thorough and continuous, often checking your site multiple times per year. These repeat reviews will determine whether any new disability barriers need to be addressed in your newly added or modified content.

Are You Ready for Web Accessibility Consulting?

At AKEA Web Solutions, we specialize in providing complete web accessibility consulting services, remediation services, and leadership. Our team has been consulting in web accessibility for over a decade.

We can help you begin the process by performing a web accessibility assessment and audit, resulting in an overview and documentation of significant issues found on the website, a comprehensive analysis of your site, and a detailed report on all web accessibility issues. We will also provide our recommendations on how to best proceed.

If you choose to follow through with our remediation process, we will work with your team to set up a plan and timeline for your website to become compliant. Based on this plan,we will aid you in resolving the web accessibility compliance issues found on your site.

After your website is set to compliance standards, it’s important to make sure it stays that way. At AKEA we also offer a website accessibility (WCAG) assurance plan to review your website one to two times annually so that you can be confident that your website continues to be compliant.