Written by guest blogger: Matt Herzberger
Matt is an executive consultant in web strategy and interactive marketing at Ruffalo Noel Levitz in Cedar Rapids. He has worked primarily in higher education, helping major colleges and universities to better utilize their websites. Matt has had the opportunity to work on several web accessibility projects throughout the years and is passionate about removing barriers to web access.
Meeting Web Accessibility Standards for Website Content.
Whether you’re a publicly traded or privately owned company, you need to make your website ADA compliant. All websites need to meet web accessibility standards. Why you ask? There are many good reasons. First, it’s best practice. It can also affect a business’s bottom line. And, well, it’s the law.
“Web for All.” That’s the first design principle set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (the governing body of the internet, led by internet co-founder Tim Berners-Lee).
There is a common misconception that Americans with disabilities make up a small fraction of the population. If it’s only for a few people, why bother, right? Actually, there are more than 53 million Americans with disabilities. Do they have your attention now?
Web accessibility is the law.
You might say, “I run a small business. This doesn’t apply to me.” That’s where you would be wrong. A simple Google search for “ada web lawsuits” will net a number of results. All businesses are subject to ADA/ 508 rules, which on a yearly basis grow more robust.
There are laws governing web accessibility at the state, federal and international level. In the U.S., Sections 508 and 504 are the key governing laws. But, most governments reference the guideline standards outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline WCAG 2.0.
Non-compliance can come with a cost.
Over the past year, more than 240 lawsuits, most of them class actions, have been filed against companies. Defendants ran the gamut from large national retailers to small mom-and-pop operations. The allegations cited violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failure to maintain websites that are accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The trend is likely to continue into 2017.
One particular suit in 2006 involved Target. The national retailer was made to pay a $6 million settlement, and the court ordered Target to make their website accessible.
The suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind charged that Target’s website is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as California state laws.
Target unsuccessfully sought a dismissal of the action in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. They argued that disabilities laws cover only its stores. The court disagreed. They ruled instead that all services provided by Target, including its website, must be accessible to the disabled.
Take steps to make your website accessible.
Whether you’re just looking to do the right thing or you’re worried about your business’s bottom line, it is advisable for you to make your site accessible.
Through a relatively small investment and simple best practices, you can remove barriers. Today, there is greater access, greater tools and lower costs to make these changes.
So, where to start? Try testing your site to see how it fares using one of these free web accessibility testing tools:
These tools will give you clear guidance on known issues that you could possibly fix today, such as adding alt text to your images. I ran these tests for Ervin & Smith’s website (here) and found a few things that can be cleaned up.
If you’re ready to get serious, I suggest you start with this web accessibility checklist from WebAIM. The WebAIM website is probably one of the best web accessibility resources on the internet. You’re sure to find answers to any of our questions there.