Are you ready? Are you sure?
ADA is the law of the land
The frequency and volume of ADA-based, web-accessibility demand letters, complaints and lawsuits have increased recently. Both public and private sector organizations have been sued for inaccessibility under the ADA. Even though rules governing the accessibility of websites and the digital media and documents served from those websites, have not explicitly been described in the ADA, they are being interpreted as subject to Title III: Public Accommodations.
Title III of the ADA applies to websites. Now.
Title III: Public Accommodations of The Americans with Disabilities Act, covers access to businesses and requires that businesses and not-for-profit service providers make accommodation for the disabled public to access the same services as patrons who are not disabled. By extension, and as evidenced in settlements thus far, applicable services include those communicated and delivered by websites, digital media and documents.
The significance of WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance
Unambiguous ADA rules, specifically governing website and digital document accessibility, will not be formally codified until sometime in 2018. This has resulted in business owners and organizations facing some uncertainty as to exactly what the ADA requires for full compliance and whether they may have missed something and be vulnerable to prosecution. Meanwhile, the United States DOJ seems to be asserting in its investigations and settlement agreements that WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines and success criteria provide a preview of essential ADA requirements for website and digital document accessibility. It can be inferred from DOJ settlements that validating for and passing WCAG 2.0 level AA success criteria will be a baseline expectation for ADA compliance and that is why accurately assessing whether your organization fully conforms is critical. A comprehensive review that includes code validation and manual checking to ensure all success criteria are passed, will identify problem areas, potential compliance exposures and can provide a road map to full conformance.
Automated code validation is not enough
Passing success criteria for WCAG 2.0 Level AA with automated code validation, alone, is not enough for either making a WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance claim or meeting the requirements for ADA compliance. To ensure every WCAG 2.0 level AA success criteria is passed requires additional manual, visual and auditory tests for items such as closed captioning for video, minimum contrast ratios in text and graphics with text, consistent navigation, appropriate descriptions, screen reader rendering and more. If those success criteria are not manually verified as passing and undetected problems exist, the website will not conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA nor comply with the intent of the ADA. Moreover, deficiencies in these areas will be obvious to those who need accommodation.
Lack of full ADA compliance can be very costly
Organizations whose websites are found not to be fully compliant with the ADA are currently subject to a maximum penalty of $75,000 for a first violation. The penalty for subsequent violations increases to $150,000. That doesn't include the potential size of a penalty in a civil settlement which can be much higher. To avoid this exposure, your organization must ensure its website and documents are truly accessible per the intent of the ADA.
Make sure it all adds up
It can be said that your website is only as compliant as your least accessible content, feature, or hosted document. If you're going to go through all the planning, effort and expense of making your business or organization accessible per the ADA, make sure you have all the bases covered.