What is Web Accessibility Compliance and Why Does it Matter to Me

Web Accessibility is an issue that's growing more mainstream as we become a society more and more dependent on the internet and technology as a whole. Many people don’t even know what web accessibility is or who it affects. Fret not! The good folks here at Red Shark Digital want to make sure you stay informed and keep your website compliant while making sure you won't have a lawsuit on your hands.

What is Web Accessibility?

There are many things that attribute to your website being accessible so let me break down it for ya. In simple terms, it means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with your website. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities including physical, visual, speech, auditory, cognitive, and neurological. This also includes members of our population such as the elderly who have changing abilities due to aging.

Many countries and international organizations require web accessibility compliance. The United States Department of Justice announced in 2010 that it would be issuing regulations that will determine how to make a website compliant with the American Disabilities Act but will not be issued until 2018. This is the perfect time to get ahead of the curve and get your website compliant because let's be honest, no one wants a lawsuit on their hands.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

Unfortunately, most websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the web. With the internet becoming a vital component of being a productive member of society, it is now more important than ever that the web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. An accessible website can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society. Your website not being web accessible compliant could result in drastic consequences and nobody wants that!

In recent years there have been a number of web accessibility lawsuits filed throughout the country. Notably is a case that was brought up against Winn-Dixie. In June of this year, Florida Federal Judge Robert Scola, of the Southern District of Florida, decided that Winn-Dixie’s website was so heavily integrated into the company’s physical store locations that it should be held to the standards of the ADA. While the lawsuit did not result in a settlement for the plaintiff, it did require Winn-Dixie to update their website to be web accessible compliant, costing the company around $40,000. So why wait and have to pay more to get your site accessible when you can just have an ADA compliant website built by the best?

Hobby Lobby also found itself in hot water for this same reason. Following the judgment of against Winn-Dixie in Florida, a California federal judge allowed a blind plaintiff to continue his lawsuit about the accessibility of a public accommodation website under Title III of the ADA. Judge John Walter found that this case was a “relatively straightforward claim that Hobby Lobby failed to provide disabled individuals full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered by its physical stores by not maintaining a fully accessible website.” Judge Walter reserved judgment on what Hobby Lobby would have to do to make its website accessible until after a decision on the merits.

How can I Evaluate if my Website is Web Accessible?

There are simple things you can do to test that your website is web accessible compliant, such as changing settings in a browser. A comprehensive evaluation is much more difficult and complex, however. There are tools to assist in your evaluation, but no tool alone can determine if a site meets accessibility guidelines. Human evaluation is required to truly determine if a site is accessible. If you're worried that your site is not meeting the guidelines, we are more than willing to help you avoid being sued.

The easiest way to address accessibility issues is to catch issues while developing or redesigning a site. Evaluating accessibility early and throughout the development process can identify accessibility problems early when it is easier to address them. Don't sleep on having an accessible website!

Making your Website Accessible

Okay, now that you know what web accessibility compliance is and why it is so important I know you’re wondering how you can make your site accessible! Making your website accessible can be simple or complex depending on multiple factors such as the type of content featured on your site, the size and complexity of your site, and the development tools and environment. We here at Red Shark Digital are fully loaded with an arsenal of tools to ensure your site is compliant!

Web Accessibility Compliance is measured at 3 levels; A, AA, AAA.

Level A: Level A is the minimum level of conformance. It includes items such as ensuring that color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element, and audio control settings on a web page.

effective and non-effective web compliance

Level AA: For a website to reach Level AA compliance the Web page satisfies all the Level A and Level AA Criteria. Level AA includes contrasts and font size details. The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 with the exceptions of large text, incidental text, and logotypes. There are tools to aid in checking on the contrast ratio on a specific website. With the exception of captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200% without the loss of content of functionality.

Level AAA: Level AAA is the most extensive level of compliance that a website can reach. While including all the criteria from levels A and AA it also includes enhanced criteria for contrast, background audio, visual presentation and images of text. For a Level AAA compliant site the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1. The website must also have low or no background audio. The visual presentation, such as foreground and background colors must be customizable by the user and text can be resized without assistive technology. Also, the images of text must be purely for decoration.

Web Accessibility

If I haven't convinced you yet of the importance of Web Accessibility consider that web accessibility not only benefits those with disabilities, but also makes your site more flexible to all who use it. A key principle of web accessibility is designing websites that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with temporary disabilities such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging. Plus, you want to make sure you aren't going to be vulnerable to the potential consequences if you are not compliant. If you're interested in getting your website Web Accessibility Compliant contact us at Red Shark Digital for more information!