Waiting to Update Your Website Until 2019 Could Have Costly Consequences

Undermining the matter of digital accessibility can cost you!

In fact, not many businesses know this, but since operating online has become more of a necessity for every business, the US government is actually on the verge of carving its laws accordingly. The worst part is that a lot of small businesses are unaware and are prone to penalties set in this regard.

It was only recently that the Department of Justice which was supposed to carve these rules, delayed its rulemaking. The DOJ had planned to write down a list of guidelines, specifically concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act. These guidelines were supposed to come out last year in April. The date got delayed to 2017, and following the same route, it has now been postponed until 2018.

Digital Accessibility

This has been a raging matter for quite some time now. It wasn’t long ago when DOJ began threatening businesses who had allegedly put up an inaccessible desktop and mobile website design, especially if the website was a public accommodation. In that case, the businesses will come under the ADA which means they have to become ADA compliant.

This is where the ambiguity lies. Businesses that fall under ADA have to make their mobile and desktop website accessible to the disabled. But which businesses are on the list?

In addition to that matter, another thing that remains unsettled is the definition of an accessible website. Even if your business lies under the ADA and you are willing to become ADA compliant, there is no well-defined way on how you can do that. As of now, the W3C voluntary guidelines are being followed on the matter.

The Unfortunate Matter

The reason why this is alarming for businesses is that although you may want to make your websites accessible and follow the ADA laws, you cannot right now, since there is yet no clear guideline. On the other hand, the DOJ continues to enforce businesses to become ADA compliant. Unfortunately, online retailers have become their prime target for now. According to the Department of Justice, such businesses will not only have to impose requirements on their websites, but also have to develop accessibility policy, and train website developers.

The Consequences

It is more than obvious that businesses don’t have the option to wait until next year for regulations to come out. Lawyers working against these businesses have aggressively been following online retailers. Companies are being forced to follow the “agreed plan”—something which does not exist. The result is that these businesses end up paying attorney’s fees in addition to the damages that apparently need to be settled.

In other words, digital accessibility is, as of the moment, a concept private litigants are using for exploitation.

In a Nutshell

The things have been unraveling, it is just way too costly to wait for 2018 for a proper set of regulations to come out. If you want to keep yourself from the undue pressures and costly measures, it is best that you make your web design accessible right now.

What is The Difference Between Inaccessible and Accessible Websites?

Research suggests that, almost, 20% of Americans face challenges when it comes to web experience. Considering the tough ADA compliance standards introduced in 2013, it’s important for websites to understand the subtle differences between accessible and inaccessible websites.

No Text Equivalents for Images
People with impaired vision, or blindness, often take the aid of technology for digital accessibility. Two, such, commonly known technologies are Braille displays and screen readers. A Braille display translates the text on a website into Braille characters, which can be read by touch. Screen readers, on the other hand, are programs that read the text on the screen, out loud, starting from the top-left corner.

Both these technologies, though wonderful, are limited in their use. For example, if the website has been designed such that it contains images, then both these technologies will be unable to provide interpretation. So, a blind person visiting the website will be unable to tell if the image is a picture, map, infographic or a blank page.

To bypass this problem, and make the website ADA compliant, text equivalents to every image need to be included in the website design.

2. Documents Are Not In Text Based Formats

Documents are often posted, on websites, in Portable Document Format (PDF). PDF formats are, at times, inaccessible to people with impaired visions for they may contain images and images, as I said earlier, cannot be interpreted by screen readers and Braille displays.

In order for websites to be ADA compliant, it is important to always provide documents in alternative text-based formats such as RTF or HTML.

3. Set In Stone Color and Font Settings

It’s understandable for website designers to have certain aesthetic preferences in mind when designing websites. For example, a website design might include text that is in a small font and colored yellow. But doing this will might make the website non-ADA compliant, for the website designer missed an important detail: he assumed that all people view websites in the same way.

Users with impaired visions need to be able to change the color schemes on the web pages. For example, people with weak visions need high contrast settings, which might not be common for websites. So, it’s important for the website design to be such that it can be viewed with the color and font sizes set in the users’ web browser preferences. Not will this provide maximum accessibility to those with weak visions, but also make your website ADA compliant.

4. Videos Are Inaccessible

It’s common for websites, nowadays, to carry multiple videos on web pages. However, it needs to be ensured that the videos can be accessed by everyone. For example, a blind person can only access the video through audio while a deaf person can access it through sight, only.

To ensure digital accessibility, provide complete audio descriptions of the images and, at the same time, provide text captions or subtitles so that videos can be accessed by, both, the blind and the deaf.

Website designers, nowadays, need to ensure digital accessibility for people belonging to all kinds of disabilities falling under the ADA. When you consider the fact that failure to comply can result into lawsuits, it seems imperative for designers to pay heed to how their website designs go with the ADA compliance laws.