Last week, the Kardashian’s store DASH - along with several of other retailers including H&M, Hugo Boss and Payless Shoes - was sued for website inaccessibility. With such large names wrapped up in the accessibility conversation, it is becoming clear that this is an issue that businesses can no longer ignore.
Website accessibility laws protect users by ensuring sites can be accessed and used by people with a wide range of limitations. Visual impairment, sensitivity to visual treatment and navigation for those with a limited range of motion are just a few considerations included in nondiscriminatory laws on the books in the UK, EU, United States and other parts of the world.
If your organization hasn’t addressed accessibility in your website’s design and content, consider the following steps to form a successful accessibility plan.
1. Find out which regulations you’re obligated to follow.
A seemingly obvious first step is for organizations to familiarize themselves with current accessibility laws and consider which apply. This is also an opportunity for corporate law firms to build out recommendations for their clients, so becoming familiar with the below legislation options is especially important for any PSO connected to the legal field.
There are no legally recognized global regulations, and the applicable laws vary by region. As you approach your firm’s general counsel, you will want to familiarize yourself with:
- The American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a comprehensive piece of United States legislation that has recently been applied to the digital realm. While it’s true the ADA was passed before the proliferation of websites and their commercial use, it has recently been used as a tool to measure accessibility of sites, so companies operating in the United States must consider Title III regulations when auditing their websites.
- The European Accessibility Act. This was created as a uniform regulation for all countries within the EU. This legislation covers a variety of products and services, including e-commerce and banking services and is relatively broad, leaving individual jurisdictions to create more specified laws.
- Additional UK Rules. The United Kingdom has its own set of accessibility laws as well. The Equality Act of 2010 replaced the Disability Discrimination Act of 1990 to add further guidance to previous discrimination legislation.
Companies that function internationally will need to identify the applicable laws and regulations before creating an accessibility strategy and discussing if changes need to be made.
2. Choose a standard.
Most of the laws associated with discrimination and accessibility don’t actually define standards to adhere to, so getting to know the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a useful tool to measure your website’s accommodation level. There are 12 guidelines based on four principals: perceivability, operability, understandability and robustness. The WCAG uses those guidelines to grade sites between A-level, AA-level or AAA-level, from lowest to highest success grade.
Five years ago, most professional services firms stopped at A-grade level. Recently, many have been working toward a AA-grade, which is the advised standard by the EU.
While very few professional services organizations pursue a AAA grade, it is important to consider all of your options when examining your site.
3. Create a strategy.
Now it’s time to think about how you’ll actually go about fixing your website so it adheres to applicable legislation.
Try to time accessibility updates with other updates on your site. Whether you’re applying a light content refresh or working on a bigger project, tactical timing can reduce redundancies, make your project manager’s life simpler and lighten the budget. Keep in mind that accessibility requirements effect not only site structure and code, but can also change the content itself.
We also recommend using a third party vendor to give an independent perspective on your adherence. A third-party assessor will provide not only an unbiased view, but also have access to the specialized skills and tools needed to analyze accessibility properly. Depending on the goals of your company, you may even want to apply for accessibility certifications.
Website accessibility is important to adhere to, not just because it is morally the right thing to do, but because there are real legal repercussions for breaking accessibility laws. Consider which laws apply to your business and what level of adherence you’d like to meet. Be smart about website updates and don’t be afraid to pull in vendors to help your projects along. Be prepared to rethink your content and enhance your site layout.
With these recommendations in your arsenal, earning your success grade should be easier than spelling the word “Kardashian.”