Why It Matters and What You Need to Know
61 Million Adults in the U.S. Have Some Form of Disability
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 61 million adults in the U.S. have some form of disability. Of the 61 million: 5.9% have hearing issues (deafness or serious difficulty hearing); 4.6% have vision issues (blindness, serious difficulty seeing or color blindness); 13.7% have mobility issues (such as serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs); 3.7% have self-care issues (difficulty dressing or bathing); 10.8% have cognition issues (serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions); and 6.8% have difficulty with independent living (unable to do errands or live alone).
Why It Matters to Your Business Online
There are 329,276,741 million people in the U.S. (as of February 11, 2020), and roughly 20% of these people are adults with various disabilities. Given the fact that 90% of the U.S. population has access to and uses the Internet, it stands to reason that roughly 20% of all adult website users in the U.S. are potentially disabled, and therefore, potentially use some sort of assistive technologies.
In order for these assistive technologies to be effective for the user, websites need to be accessible by meeting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — considered the lone standard-bearer for website accessibility to date.
The ADA, the Web, and WCAG Compliance
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in locations open to the public. It was enacted before the Web and online business transactions became the norm. In fact, the ADA was in effect a year before the world’s very first public website was launched on the World Wide Web in 1991.
Nearly 10 years after the ADA took effect (and the Web was actively in use by the general public), the World Wide Web Consortium developed and released the first Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in 1999. The WCAG provides guidelines for building accessible, inclusive websites. WCAG 2.1 (the latest version) states that:
“Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. Although these guidelines (e.g. WCAG 2.1) cover a wide range of issues, they are not able to address the needs of people with all types, degrees, and combinations of disability. These guidelines also make Web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general.”
Potential Litigation for Non-Compliant Websites
Over the last few years, there have been several high-profile ADA Title III lawsuits filed against website owners for being inaccessible to a user with disabilities. According to National Law Review:
“In recent years, there has been a nationwide explosion of website accessibility lawsuits as both individual lawsuits and class actions. Plaintiffs have brought these claims in federal court under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, in some cases, under similar state and local laws as well. In 2018, the number of federally-filed website accessibility cases skyrocketed to 2,285, up from 815 in the year prior. In the first half of 2019, these cases have increased 51.7% over the prior year’s comparable six-month period, with total filings for 2019 on pace to break last year’s record by reaching over 3,200.”
These lawsuits have presented a real quandary as to whether or not a website must comply with the ADA. Given there is no specific legislation providing direct rules or requirements for website accessibility, it’s not clear to web developers, website owners, or even the courts presiding over these cases. In the absence of direct legislation, courts look to WCAG in making their rulings in such cases. Which is another valid reason it’s wise to follow WCAG standards.
In February 2019, Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) did a study on the “top million” websites. The study revealed that out of the top million domains, 97.8% were not ADA compliant on the home pages. This gives real merit to the accessibility issue people are facing, and how drastically it needs to change in order to make the Internet inclusive for all users.
WCAG has “levels” of acceptability for ADA website compliance:
A = below acceptable
AA = standard (and where you want to be)
AAA = exceptional
Learn More about ADA Website Compliance
Please join us on March 19 at 12 p.m. for our workshop:
ADA Compliance: How to Protect Yourself & Beat Your Competition
Take-away will be:
• If and how the ADA affects you
• Why it’s necessary, but good for your business
• Initial steps towards protecting your company
Presented by PMG Board Member, Nate Bauer, and Dr. Hoby Wedler.
We hope to see you there!