A first step on the path to web accessibility and litigation avoidance is to publish a Web Accessibility Statement to your website. How you do this can dramatically influence your risk. This statement linked from the footer of every page speaks to two audiences: legal trolls looking for easy money, and legitimately, those with disabilities.
To the potential plaintiff firm trolling, a this statement (placed prominently in the footer) serves as a flag to say "we're on this, move along". There is so much ripe low hanging fruit, that most trolls will simply skip to the next website on the list.
For the people that count: our disabled visitors, you want to communicate your intent, your commitment, and how to reach you so that you can help.
Web Accessibility Policy / Statement Examples and Best Practices
As an example, one that I like is Capital One's accessibility commitment statement. Its very simple. In reviewing many of these statements, too often companies get into the nitty gritty of spec versions, testing tools used, frequency of auditing, and such. Don't do that. That may increase exposure.
Here, Capital One simply starts by saying that they're committed to following WCAG and ARIA specifications. Note they don't get into even what version or level. Then, how to get in touch with them. Finally, they show off their goodwill toward people with disabilities - actions speak louder than words. Simple.
Now, in Capital One's case, they have already been through a full audit and remediation process. That is likely not your situation, else you wouldn't be reading this.
If you are at the front-end of this process and your site has not been fully audited and remediated, then to start you're going to want to instead express your intent.... "we are in the process of.... our goal is to..."
I recommend simply making sure you've included two things: the goals you're striving for, and how to reach you for assistance. If you engage with the disability community and have accolades to show, then great.
Announce Your intent and commitment.
- Your wish is to make your website accessible to all visitors. Its not yet.
- Your goal is to provide universal access to your website by following WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines. But this will be a work in progress.
- Its ok to publish this before you reach conformity. That said, it might be good to first do a thorough audit (software + manual + assistive technogy testing) and at least check off some of the basic items before publishing. It depends on the nature of your brand and audience.
provide Clear Path for Communication
Its important to enable a person with a complaint or need of assistance to contact you.
- Phone number - bonus if toll free manned 24-7
- Chat service (that is accessible)
- Form (that is accessible)
Now, its through this path that any legitimate claim will likely begin. So, its very important that this path be monitored and responded to carefully. Your customer service reps on the receiving end, should have a script and document any interaction. Better yet, use a unique number, email, chat, form that directs to a trained manager.
Now. About the 800 number. In the Dominos case last spring (2017) the 9th circuit judge in California did accept the argument that providing a toll-free number manned 24 hours by a qualified person to assist to guide a blind user through the website did satisfy the law. Now, this decision is under appeal, and this is by no means, a solution. However, its not a bad idea and would serve as a legitimate stop-gap measure while remediating your website.
Final best practice for web accessibility statements: location location location.
We are guiding this very process for a very prominent ice cream manufacturer who is known for their socially consciousness, so perhaps we can guide you as well. Learn more about Propeller's web accessibility consulting services.