The legal side of things

Website ADA compliance has become a larger issue than it once was: since 2018, the number of demand letters and lawsuits increased a thousand-fold. And while inclusivity and equal accessibility compliance are important criteria for making the web a better place for all, some people use the confusion about this issue to their financial advantage. That being said, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a strict liability law, which means there are no excuses for non-compliance. Strict liability means the only saving grace is compliance, which means that any websites which are not designed with ADA compliance in mind are sitting ducks. This law is also enforced on a federal level because ADA is a federal claim, and the settlements in ADA website compliance cases typically range from $5,000 to $35,000+ depending on the size of the entity.

 

The technical side of things

This part has to do with remediating any non-compliance issues, especially if the lawsuit/demand letter was already received. You will find below a link to a lengthy WCAG 2.1 AA (web content accessibility guidelines) document, currently consisting of 50 accessibility success criteria. (Note that the future standard WCAG 2.2 is in the works and is scheduled to be released some time before the end of 2021.) To understand the scope of it, and how technically involved the full compliance procedures are, we invite you to glance over the WCAG source documentation as set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) under their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/. Not all web designers are aware of these guidelines… or want any part in reading this material 🙂

 

The word of caution

Some online vendors claim, in some form or fashion, that they have a magical overlay widget that can instantly make a website accessible / ADA compliant by injecting JavaScript code into your website or installing a plugin. These claims are an outright lie and vendors are taking advantage of the confusion and ambiguity on the subject to sell worthless widgets. In reality, there are no instant fixes to website accessibility.

What you can find are automatic website accessibility scans, which are able to flag about 20% of WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria. These are typically not scams, but keep in mind that these accessibility scans are very limited and there is no substitute for a proper Accessibility Audit: a formal evaluation performed by an accessibility expert, who manually evaluates and tests a website against WCAG 2.1 AA.

 

Long story short…

Website accessibility is a project, and it does take some time, but it is doable. As some of these 50 to-dos are much more critical than others (both in terms of accessibility and legal risk), what good web developers go for is trying their best in meeting as many of the WCAG success criteria as possible. In many cases, full compliance is not possible (unless you are ready for a full redesign of the existing non-compliant website), but even partial compliance is usually enough to keep serial lawyers at bay; what most want is to quickly settle with sufficiently frightened and overwhelmed business owners while trying to avoid a lengthy litigation over a few thousand dollars.

 

The SFMade staff can recommend web developers to help with your website; don’t hesitate to reach out to our Director of Advising and Education, Pierre, to learn more and get connected: [email protected].

The content above is a slightly edited version of the information provided by SFMade volunteer advisor Eugene Trak of Webstrim Design Group LLC.