Legal Considerations – Does Your Website have to be Accessible?
Although there have been no rules or regulations added to the ADA regarding websites, the Department of Justice has started interpreting the law more broadly.
On March 18, 2022, the Department of Justice published guidance on website accessibility required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOJ Guidance provided high level, plain language guidance of existing standards, rather than providing new details or clarifying content, and covered the importance of website accessibility, common accessibility barriers, when web content must be accessible, and how to make web content accessible. Their guidance mentioned flexibility. “Flexibility” will be subject to interpretation and doesn’t provide a safe harbor that would lead a site owner to ignore accessibility issues on a website.
The number of website-related ADA lawsuits has increased rapidly in the past few years with over 4,000 cases being filed in 2021 as estimated by the Wall Street Journal. Prominent entities affected include Winn-Dixie, Target, Amazon, Bank of America, and many colleges and universities. There have been various outcomes to the lawsuits, but in general a common result was that the website under scrutiny had to be made to be accessible whether or not legal expenses were incurred.
It is reasonable to conclude that the safest legal course of action is to take the steps that are economically feasible to make your website accessible and to anticipate future regulation mandating accessibility, likely to the WCAG guidelines. While there are a number of approaches to addressing website accessibility, doing nothing is not one of them. Being proactive to make your content as accessible as possible for all of your site visitors is the most effective way to reduce legal risk regarding your website accessibility.
NOTE: We at Moore Tech Solutions, Inc. are not attorneys. Please use our comments only for information and consult your counsel for particular recommendations for your business.
How to Check Your Website for Accessibility
You may consider utilizing various methods to evaluate your website’s accessibility. These may include but not be limited to:
- An automated accessibility checker
- A manual review to replicate user experience
- Implementing a means for the public to report accessibility problems
- WAVE browser extension – The WAVE Chrome, Firefox, and Edge extensions allows you to evaluate web content for accessibility issues directly within your browser. Because the extension runs entirely within your web browser, no information is sent to the WAVE server. This ensures 100% private and secure accessibility reporting. The extension can check intranet, password-protected, dynamically generated, or sensitive web pages. Also, because the WAVE extension evaluates the rendered version of your page, locally displayed styles and dynamically-generated content from scripts or AJAX can be evaluated. (This is a very cool tool!)
Each of these items by themselves may not provide a complete picture and flag all accessibility issues but taken in concert should give you a good picture of the accessibility status of your website.
What to Do About It?
If you find that your site’s accessibility is not up to standards and would like to do more to improve how it displays to those who may have a difficult time accessing and enjoying it, then read our full post on what you can do to improve it!