FAQ: Website Accessibility

Question:

Why would I care if my website is accessible?

Answer:

Making your web page accessible is good business. Individuals with disabilities will make up about one out of five of your potential customers. Also, web accessibility often makes pages faster to load. This will benefit customers, with and without disabilities, using tablets or smart phones. Also, about 48% of Americans have a low literacy rate for various reasons. Using plain language helps make your message and product more accessible to all.

Question:

Are websites required to be accessible under the ADA?

Answer:

There is no language in the ADA that explicitly says websites must be accessible. However, Title III public accommodations (private businesses) and Title II public entities (state and local governments) are required to ensure effective communication. This means that however an organization is conveying information or offering access to services, it must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. These organizations can provide alternate ways of accessing web information, but this must be done so that it provides the same or equal access as the website. Currently, the Department of Justice is developing separate regulations for Title II and for Title III web sites. Be on the watch; these new standards may be published in the fall of 2013. Federal government agencies and contractors are required to provide accessible websites under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Also, many states have laws that require state and municipal governments to follow Section 508 compliance. You should check your state law to know for sure.

Question:

As an employer, do I have to make sure my online application is accessible?

Answer:

There are no clear regulations that cover private employers in this area, but it is wise business practice. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that employers were free to use a variety of ways to expand their poolof candidates. Also, if an employer receives a request for a reasonable accommodation to make an online application more accessible (say by providing a larger font), then the employer might need to meet that request. You can read more about this in this informal EEOC discussion letter. Federal agencies and contractors are covered by Section 508 which mandates web accessibility.

Question:

I want to check if my website is accessible, but I am not a web developer. Is there any way to do a basic check?

Answer:

Yes. One free tool to check a web page’s accessibility is WAVE, Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, available from WebAIM, Web Accessibility in Mind. WebAIM is a partnership between the Center for Persons with Disabilities and Utah State University. Keep in mind, that while WAVE will give you some preliminary information, it is important to review the results to make sure you understand what it means for your website. For example, if WAVE says that a description for a picture is missing, you have to determine if that picture is important in letting people know what your site is trying to say. It would also be valuable to reach out to users with disabilities to get firsthand feedback. One way you might try to do this is by contacting your local center for independent living to see if they have staff or consumers’ with disabilities available who might be willing to give input.

Question:

We are working to revise our town government’s website. Is there any guidance out there to help lead us through the process?

Answer:

Yes. The Department of Justice has produced a document, Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to people with Disabilities. It explains the importance of an accessible website and lays out a voluntary action plan that local governments can follow to plan out the process.

Question:

I want to learn more about making my businesses webpage accessible. Where can I go to do this?

Answer:

A good place to begin is to learn more about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. These are standards developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative, a working group of the World Wide Web Consortium; the organization that standardizes web code. If you are interested in the Section 508 standards, the federal government has many useful tools and resources at www.section508.gov