Is your website WCAG compliant?
WCAG2-AAA. Compliance Validator
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines outline the requirements websites must abide by to be deemed accessible to the disabled. These guidelines were first published in 2008, but have been updated several times since. The current standard is WCAG 2.1, which includes 60+ guidelines. The Federal government did not create these guidelines, but they are generally accepted as the standard for accessible sites.
Accessible websites must include features that allow online visitors with disabilities to access information, with the help of supporting technology. Additionally, sites must be equipped with a user agent, such as a screen-reading software, to convert words to audio. Other accessibility features include descriptions of videos to accommodate people with hearing loss. Similarly, all interactive functions on a website need to be navigable with keyboard commands, so visitors unable to use a computer mouse can access every feature on the site.
Update to WCAG compliant website
To save money, some business owners attempt to update their websites without hiring an expert. The result of such is usually less than desirable. The best way to move forward is to hire an experienced web developer to update your content.
Hiring any web developer to improve your content is not enough to stay out of harm's way. Not all developers are trained to make websites WCAG and ADA compliant. Unless the web developer you hire specializes in those areas, you are still at risk for violations and lawsuits that could impact your bottom line. Stay safe by enlisting a WCAG auditor to review each page on your website, and who can give you a valuable evaluation. An experienced web developer will then work on that feedback to make your website WCAG compliant.
Consequences of Violating the Guidelines
The news over recent years has highlighted the new wave of lawsuits targeting businesses with websites that are not WCAG-compliant.
These lawsuits allege that websites that do not have certain accessibility features violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Companies that have faced lawsuits for ADA website violations include Hooters, Domino's Pizza, Winn-Dixie, Harvard, MIT, and many others. The plaintiffs are usually successful with these lawsuits. In 2017, H&R Block had to update their website and apps after losing their case. The National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. were also required to fix their site. Hulu reached a settlement with the American Council of the Blind to make their website and app more accessible for blind users.
The lawsuit against Winn-Dixie was the first case to go to full federal trial. The plaintiff argued that people with visual disabilities could not use the supermarket's website with a screen reader, and the judge agreed. Although the company did not have to pay damages, the judge required them to set aside money to update their website. Thousands of smaller businesses have faced similar lawsuits.
California has had more lawsuits than any other state, which is probably because they have a minimum amount for damages of $4,000. Suing is more lucrative with this mandatory minimum, so plaintiffs are more likely to file a lawsuit. However, business owners and defense lawyers complain that plaintiffs can demand massive payouts without first giving business owners the chance to make their sites accessible.
The cost for business owners to make their website meet these accessibility standards can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the content and complexity structure of the site. For those business owners delaying the decision due to cost, the costly consequences of non-compliance should be significantly considered. With that said, not only will it cost more for damages, it could severely impact a business's reputation. Along with the decline in reputation, business productivity will drop. Not to mention the potential harassment involved could also contribute to the fall.
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People who are blind or have other vision impairments might want to visit your website. Under the standards set by the WCAG, your website must accommodate people who have trouble seeing. The best way to make that happen is to ensure the code on your site is compatible with the text-to-speech software. Those with difficulty seeing can use the software to translate the text on your site to an audio format that plays over their speakers or headphones. If the software can't read your text content, you are at risk for lawsuits and other legal action.
When people who are deaf or have impaired hearing navigate to your website, it's essential you have systems in place to accommodate their unique needs. This part of the guidelines only applies to you if you have video or audio content on your website. To stay on the safe side of the law, make sure you include text transcripts of all audio content.
Many internet users have issues that make it hard or impossible for them to use a standard mouse. The only way they can use the computer is by taking advantage of the keyboard to enter commands.
Websites that don't allow keyboard commands to perform the same functions as the mouse are violating WCAG standards, exposing the owners to lawsuits related to ADA regulations. Testing your website to verify that you can do everything with the keyboard that you can do with your mouse is smart. Complying with this regulation should not be too difficult if you have a simple website.
There are several levels of compliance of the WCA guideline - from the minimum conforming standards that render a webpage accessible to a user with disability, to higher standards that ensure a user with disability has an easier time navigating through the content on a webpage.
Level A of WCAG Compliance
Level A is the basic requirements needed for a webpage to be considered accessible by website users with disability.
Level AA of WCAG Compliance
Level AA requirements offer a greater degree of accessibility to website visitors, and is the recommended level for most websites.
Level AAA of WCAG Compliance
Level AAA includes some advanced requirements which enhance those established in Level AA, as well as offer finer enhancements.