In 2019, the web accessibility lawsuits that were filed against website owners hit eight in a day — that’s 40 lawsuits per week.
The primary cause for the lawsuits is their non-compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — which requires that all electronic and information technology should be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The figure gives web design agencies added responsibility of making sure that the websites they produce for their clients aren’t just professional-looking and aligns with their clients’ brands, but the sites should also be ADA compliant. Otherwise, their clients could end up facing legal issues.
Unfortunately, there are still web design service providers that fail to comply with the ADA — putting their customers at risk of facing accessibility-related lawsuits.
Understanding ADA compliance
In September 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) published the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
The standards require that all electronic information and IT — including documentation, software, and hardware — must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The ADA standards apply to public and commercial entities — which includes the internet.
Although the DOJ is still working on the specific regulations, web services are already covered by the ADA standards through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG).
Aside from impacting the Americans with disabilities, the ADA also covers the families, caregivers, and friends of disabled persons, all local and state government agencies, businesses operating for public benefit, and private employers that have 15 or more personnel.
This means that whether the entity is a tech company moving into healthcare or a web design agency, their websites should provide accessibility features that allow disabled users to browse the site effectively for them to be ADA compliant.
Plus, it’s the right thing to do to help provide equal access and services for people with disabilities.
Legal Battles Ensue
There have been some notable lawsuits due to ADA violations. These legal battles happened in different industries, which more than proves that non-compliance in whatever sector can result in potential lawsuits.
For instance, Beyoncé’s website faced a class-action lawsuit filed by a visually-impaired woman who claimed that she was unable to access key features of the site because it failed to maintain WCAG 2.0 standards.
Some of the web elements that failed to provide accessibility and were highlighted in the lawsuit included the lack of alt-text or tag on images to give descriptions for screen readers, no keyboard tab access, and no accessible drop-down menus to allow web page click-through.
Another well-known web accessibility lawsuit is Robles versus Domino’s case.
The claimant, a blind man, filed the lawsuit against the pizza chain claiming that he was unable to order food through the mobile app and website despite using a screen-reader software.
All these lawsuits point back to the lack of accessible website features for people with disabilities, which make ADA compliance a vital aspect of web design.
Designing for Web Accessibility
Because ADA compliance is about allowing PWDs equal opportunities, accessibility should be one of the primary focus of web design agencies when offering their services.
Sadly, the challenges of designing websites with web accessibility in mind isn’t exactly a hurdle that can be addressed easily.
Not only is it time-consuming, labor-intensive, and requires quite a lot of resources, but the whole endeavor can be very complicated.
The good news is, there are guidelines that the web design service providers can use to make websites that comply with the ADA standards and the WCAG 2.0 requirements.
One of the essential accessibility design principles that web design agencies should use is providing alternative text for web images and non-text content.
Users with visual impairments use screen readers to “hear” the web, so when image context through alt text is provided, disabled persons will get accurate descriptions of the website’s content.
Another critical aspect of designing for web accessibility is keyboard navigation. Blind people relying on screen readers and users with motor disabilities and impairments rely on a keyboard to navigate through websites.
This makes it crucial that agencies design a website that offers an intuitive and logical order of interactive elements to provide accessibility for disabled users.
For instance, the tab order of the web design should follow the page’s visual flow — top to bottom, left to right, and header to the main navigation. Next would be the content inputs and buttons, and lastly, the footer.
When users can navigate through a website using only a keyboard, then it’s an indication that all the interactive components are in order, predictable, and accessible.
These are just some of the components/guidelines that web design agencies ought to consider to make the website they’re creating compliant to the ADA standards.
Addressing issues that hinder ADA compliance
One factor that prevents website owners from complying with the ADA standards is the cost — since redesigning sites to include accessibility features comes with a hefty price tag.
Depending on how big and complex the site is, a website owner might have to pay over $5,000 to make their website compliant through manual methods.
Sadly, when a website undergoes an update, there’s a good chance for compliance gaps to occur — making it impractical, and needlessly costly to go with manual accessibility services.
Automated web accessibility solutions such as accessiBe, however, can make the life of web design agencies a lot easier. Through the platform, they can design their clients’ websites however they want to design it — and still ensure that the site is ADA compliant.
The platform provides an accessibility adjustment interface that disabled users can use to adjust the website according to their disabilities and preferences.
Because accessiBe is an automated and AI-powered solution, there is no need for agencies or website owners to write a single code to make their websites compliant manually.
They have only to integrate the platform into their website ones, then accessiBe will start scanning the site to make sure it is ADA compliant. It also keeps on rescanning every 24 hours to make sure that the website remains compliant even if new adjustments have been made to the site. accessiBe’s AI also performs a deeper role by running in the background to allow for keyboard navigation functionalities and screen reader optimization for websites.
This functionality allows users to browse through the entire website using Shift+Tab and Tab keys, trigger links and buttons with the Enter key, operate dropdowns using the arrow keys, and more.
The platform also optimizes websites for screen reader software by using AI to “learn” all of the site’s components and assign an ARIA set of attributes to provide meaningful data for screen readers.
Plus, accessiBe’s AI will scan all of the site’s images and uses ALT text tags to give meaningful and accurate image-object-recognition-based descriptions.
An AI-powered accessibility platform like accessiBe presents a highly useful solution that makes the process of making ADA compliant websites easier and faster — but it also offers more.
accessiBe offers a partnership program for agencies, web developers, and designers for client referrals, reselling, affiliate schemes, or event and course collaborations that can earn referrers 20% commission.
Web designers, developers, and agencies who purchase accessiBe for clients and charge afterward can also get a built-in 20% discount for all purchases.
The Yucatan Times