If website accessibility is not on your radar, experts are suggesting that it should be. While there’s no government agency checking sites, lawsuits against companies large and small have nearly doubled in the past few years, resulting in court fines and settlements.
Accessibility includes text, images and documents, including PDFs, being readable by software, using contrasting color schemes, using larger text and menus that are keyboard accessible, not just touch-screen enabled. While businesses may have some breathing room to get everything from the “front page to the back end” in order, municipalities and government agencies are already expected to meet a higher standard. With that in mind, the NH Municipal Association included the topic in its recent conference.
Presenter Dale Graver, regional director for business development at VC3, a managed IT services firm, says he heard “a lot of angst” from session participants. “Local government entities are required by law to have everything public and available, not necessarily online, but they like to put stuff there because it’s easy,” says Graver. “But if it’s online, it needs to be compliant. From council minutes to meeting notices, however they are choosing to make it available, it has to be available to disabled citizens as well.”
Graver says the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines require government agencies to provide disabled employees and members of the public comparable access to information. An update to the rules in 2017 incorporated newer technology, such as closed captioning and text transcripts for audio files. David Collins, director of marketing at VC3, says compliance is a two-part process. “The first step is getting a website professionally developed,” he says. “The second step is understanding that every time people add content it must be done in a certain way.”
According to Graver and Collins, since there are no commercial acts, laws or standards that apply directly to business, the courts are using the ADA as guidance in corporate actions.
“There is no enforcement body or ADA compliance officer going around checking,” says Graver. “A citizen or employee can go to court and seek action.” He adds the courts are being reasonable, often allowing 90 days to make a site compliant.
Graver says “there’s a slew of off-the-shelf products that you use to make a compliant website relatively easily.” The pair also recommend a third-party compliance evaluation every two years.
For more information, visit vc3.com.