Overcoming Complexity to Create Accessible Websites

In 2018, over 2,000 lawsuits related to ADA applicability to the Web were filed, and this number is only increasing. It’s clear that there is a risk to creating non-accessible websites, but it isn’t just that someone may sue; the risk lies in closing out a substantial percentage of the population from interacting with a brand or retailer.  Many brands with existing websites write off ADA compliance as too complexopting instead to maintain outdated sites without accessible options. But what exactly makes accessibility complex? 

Lack of Legal Definition of the Demands of Compliance 

In 2018, the US Department of Justice avoided issuing digital accessibility regulations under the ADA, although this doesn’t change the stance that the ADA covers digital accessibility. Conflicting federal court rulings left lingering questions and some corporate confusion. Without clear legal outlines for companies to follow, many opt to avoid redevelopment entirely, leaving inaccessible websites in place in the meantime.  

Non-binding standards  

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative and outline recommendations, or checkpoints, to make a website accessible to those with disabilities. Each of the checkpoints is assigned a priority, with Priority 1 designation indicating they must satisfy the requirement to be considered accessible; priority 2 checkpoints should be satisfied; and priority three checkpoints may be satisfied.  While these robust standards are a great framework to follow, the WCAG aren’t legally binding, nor do they necessarily constitute legal standards of accessibility.  

Continued Evolution of Content Presentation 

Online content sharing changes quickly. Standards that would have qualified a site as “accessible” in the 90s likely wouldn’t hold up today. From new forms of photo and video to interactive webpages, accessibility standards must be fluid in order to account for the evolution of content presentation across the web.  While these hurdles can make accessibility seem like a mammoth undertaking, the reality is that accessible design is one part of an overall digital strategy roadmap. Attempting to force a legacy website to comply to accessibility standards can be extremely difficult, especially when paralaxing, carousels, hidden elements, and dynamic moving experiences are inherently inaccessible. Often a company is better served engaging in a redesign than trying to retrofit accessibility into a current site.   Looking to rebrand, refocus, or launch a new website? Think accessibility first to avoid excluding potential customers. If you’re unsure where to begin, Experience Management Practice Lead Paul Michelotti outlines the three tenants of accessibility-first thinking to guide you during redesign in his latest webinar. Watch the recording here. 

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