Prepare to make your website ADA compliant

Reprinted from South Florida Business Journal.

It may be time to think about making your website ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant, if it isn’t already. This has been a requirement for government websites and their vendors for nearly 20 years. However, as the general public’s online lives are merging with daily physical needs for acquiring products and services, lawsuits citing ADA accessibility on consumer websites have recently cropped up in several states, including Florida. This is despite the fact that it has been reported that Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations on ADA website compliance for the private sector will not be available until at least 2018.

The good news is that, because regulations for government sites were established years ago, there are plenty of software vendors who will evaluate your site’s online compliance. Some of them are even free. And, while regulations are not yet formalized, there is an accepted standard – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – that was acknowledged in a court case against Winn Dixie earlier this year. (The case is now under appeal.)

Industry standards accommodate different needs

WCAG has a dozen guidelines that have testable criteria on three levels: A, AA and AAA. Guidelines deal with color contrast between typeface and backgrounds, size of font, sequence of information, HTML and text requirements, as well as other structural criteria. Level A generally impacts the web design the least noticeably.

Level AAA, for most organizations, will compromise a website design radically and is not expected to be required of the private sector in the 2018 DOJ regulations.

If the organization’s website is well-maintained, the cost of compliance should be reasonable, in accordance with the size of the site and the audit tool report. The goal is to ensure that all users, regardless of disabilities or limitations, can enjoy the content that is provided to the public.

There are many assistive technologies to help the disabled to use websites, and more are being developed every day. For example, some visually impaired people use screen readers, and others use voice command software, which is becoming more popular, even for people who are not disabled. The concept is accessible features make websites usable by a greater spectrum of the general public, including those with special needs.

Most business marketers have time to certify

For businesses marketing to targeted audience segments and whose websites do not have e-commerce, there may be reasons to wait for the 2018 guidelines. On the other hand, the cost of compliance will be affordable for many smaller business sites, and the effort to make this happen will be respected by employees, customers and prospects.

An additional reason for compliance and actual certification is any opportunity you may have to work with a government agency.

Early certification connotes leadership

There are a number of online software certification organizations that will do the certification for you after your web design and maintenance providers have corrected any errors in a compliance audit. Again, this is all possible because government entities have required it for years, so now these organizations are available to help private-sector companies comply, as well.

Being ADA compliant is not something to make the centerpiece of an ad campaign, but it is something you’ll want to include on your website and post on social media upon achieving certification.

While it may not be a requirement for most in the private sector yet, being a leader in maximizing accessibility on your website can definitely be a competitive advantage.

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