In June, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would issue Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance Standards that will have an enormous cost impact on millions of businesses with websites.
The Department will issue separate sets of proposed website regulations for state and local governments and for private entities that do business with the public. The recommendations for ADA Compliance for private entities won’t be issued before April but may take effect as soon as May 1, 2017.
While we anticipate the Department to also issue a “safe harbor” exempting or grandfathering certain websites from ADA Compliance, the impact of the new law is expected to be nearly universal on private business and educational sites.
For a preview of what these laws might entail, look to the guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium called “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA” (the WCAG). The Department has previously intervened in website accessibility lawsuits and secured defendant companies’ agreements to adopt the WCAG.
This may signal the Department’s intention to require WCAG compliance for most sites. The WCAG standards assist vision- and hearing-impaired users to easily navigate through websites via special software and equipment. WCAG-compliant sites accommodate the use of such software and equipment. Rules govern how links can be tagged and arranged, and images used as links must include alternative text so vision-impaired users know where they’re going.
The standards apply to both desktop and mobile sites.
The official WCAG guidelines can be found here. A checklist to help website owners comply with the standards here. Any website can be tested for accessibility by entering its url here.
Business owners – especially those offering online entertainment, online services, or online sales – should start the process of becoming ADA compliant. Content creators, web designers, and app developers should consider the impact these rules will have on their products and services.
Carlos Carbonell, CEO, Echo Interaction Group
Rob Henlon, Fierce Entertainment
Michelle Widmer, Founder & Director of Events, The Empress Table
Rodney E. Luke, President, Luke Brothers Custom Homes