Zoey, like most people, relies on the internet for many things: navigation help, looking up movie times, renewing insurance plans, and so on. She has her favorite websites, go-to brands and all the rising expectations of a modern consumer. Just one thing sets her apart in this brave new digital world: she’s visually impaired.
It’s a story that she, and countless others like her, know too well—simple web tasks quickly turning into frustrating, futile attempts. Luckily, tech advancements have made going online easier for the impaired, disabled and handicapped communities. But companies must do their part. From legal peace of mind to prioritizing customer experience, updating your website for ADA Compliance should be a chief concern in 2018.
Guidelines around ADA Compliance are developed through WAI, The Web Accessibility Initiative. These technical standards are known as WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guide 2.0). When evaluating the accessibility of a website, four categories are considered:
Within these categories, a three-level rating system exists:
A: bare minimum level that won’t provide much benefit to users or hold up well in court should you face a lawsuit.
AA: an acceptable level that remedies common issues and sets a standard for most businesses to aspire to.
AAA: highly demanding level with significant design changes and dramatic benefits to those with disabilities.
Sounds simple, right? Kind of. Assessment and updates are nuanced efforts best handled by an agency who knows the ropes. With proven experience comes a unique take on the future of ADA Compliance. Check out three trends we’re thinking about this year.
Over the last few years, tensions around ADA Compliance have been growing. Many corporate leaders were forced to confront the grave nature of these lawsuits when Winn-Dixie, one of the country’s top supermarket chains, was forced to pay $100K over their non-compliant website in 2016.
Verdicts like this won’t go away, either. For years, companies have eluded compliance thanks to some pretty murky waters. Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act determines a standard of accessibility for public spaces. But how exactly do we define a public space, and is it confined to the physical? We don’t think so. Neither does the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2010, they’ve been proposing that websites should be considered a public space.
With Winn-Dixie serving as the shining example of consequence, it’s clear that real cases can and are being made against everyone. There were more than 240 lawsuits in 2016 alone. ADA Compliance should no longer be thought of as the it-would-be-nice-to-have part of your annual budget.
Despite loud industry chatter around the legal pitfalls of ADA Compliance, there’s something equally big at stake these days: your customer’s trust (and we all know it’s easier to lose that trust than regain it). You should never approach compliance updates solely as a “cover you’re a**” solution. They’re an opportunity to refine the customer experience for everyone—to affirm your commitment, your empathy and ultimately your gratitude to those who choose you.
Think of someone like Zoey, who may come to your website and find herself unable to access even the most basic info. Her visual challenges require alternative text and audio options for multimedia. When that content is presented, it should allow her ample time and clear directions for what to do next. Even colors and spacing on the page can vastly improve her experience. The examples below will help you understand how users might struggle on a deeper level.
Remember, there are more than 54MM Americans living with disabilities. Compliance upgrades have a widespread impact, plus they create a positive ripple effect. You want to be known as the company who puts their customers first—no questions asked—and one who doesn’t skirt the line until being forced into action. This year, ADA Compliance becomes a customer experience issue just as much as a cautionary legal tale.
Once your website has been assessed and recommendations have been made, a crossroads appears for your team. Understanding all those subtle guideline specifics took time, creative solving and expertise. Handing them off to developers without enough knowledge or training on the subject can find you right back where you started. No good.
Mishandled implementation might end up crashing your website for all users—the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. When in doubt, it’s best to leave the job to the pros. In the past, companies who haven’t completely left ADA off their radar have put it in the hands of the unqualified. That’s a gamble few can afford to take these days.
We’re staffed with ADA Compliance specialists who can follow through on upgrades and monitor your site for future compliance errors. To kick things up a notch, we even created a real-time dashboard that tracks problems and presents simple fixes. An always-on monitoring tool as valuable as this didn’t just poof into existence; it was the culmination of continuing education and implementation experience (throw some curiosity and scrappy spirit in there, too).
Contact us if you want to learn more about WCAG 2.0 guidelines, or if you’re ready to get started on the assessment process. Our team will work closely with you to manage immediate needs and priorities.