Commit to Digital Inclusion & ADA Compliance in 2023
If you’re wondering what web accessibility or digital inclusion even is, people with disabilities are frequently blocked from websites, apps and content that are not designed and built to be accessible. These are rights protected by both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Digital accessibility is a civil right that most businesses fail to provide.
And in case you’re assuming that your company’s website and other digital properties are accessible, you should not.
96.8% of the top one million homepages failed the Utah State University’s Web AIM Million 2022 audit. For the past 3 years the organization has tested the top million homepages against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which serves as the standard for ADA and 508 in the US, and most worldwide. Not only does this reveal the breadth of but also the depth. Each homepage had an average of 51.4 errors.
If your company claims to be committed to DEI, yet lacks a commitment to digital inclusion, they are missing a key component.
If you’re saying to yourself, well, “the website’s not in my department”, realize you do have a voice and it is your responsibility to look out for people with less of a voice. And selfishly, realize that as we all age, disability isn’t an if, it's a when.
Unfortunately today many companies eager to check the box are fooled by short-cut providers that offer “overlay” widgets. These claim to “guarantee ADA compliance” with a plugin or widget. Not only do these fail to provide actually accessibility to actual people with disabilities, but they’ve also been shown to now be a bullseye for trolling lawyers looking for easy money. Avoid widget scams and only rely on qualified digital accessibility consultants (hint) who follow best practices that augment the limitations of automated testing sofware with experienced human testers to audit your site and provide remediation guidance to achieve ADA compliance for your website, apps and content.
What should your company be doing?
First, there should be a digital accessibility policy and public statement posted to your website. This policy and plan of action should begin with proper audits of the company’s digital properties to include its website, web apps, mobile apps, Saas and/or public facing digital content. Such audits should not rely heavily on automated software. Such software can only detect 30-40% of compliance issues. Therefore, human testing is essential and should be performed by a qualified third party consulting company that specializes in digital accessibility and ADA compliance. Once remediation is complete and your properties are then verified by the accessibility experts, a Volunteer Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) and its subsequent Accessibility Compliance Report (ACR) is an excellent method of expressing your level of compliance.
Digital inclusion is not just DEI, but also smart business.
Besides reducing exposure to ADA litigation and brand tarnish, its an opportunity to reach a massive market that includes 61 million people with disabilities, plus consider the 70 million baby boomers carrying $548B in pocket change who share the same challenges - and who are very digital.
So please, take the challenge. Inform your colleagues and pressure your powers that be to make Digital Inclusion a priority for 2023.