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Web Accessibility: Does my website need to be accessible?

Written by Iris García García August 17, 2023

Nowadays, web accessibility goes beyond ethical issues: it is also a legal matter. But does your private website have to be accessible? We know that ADA can be a bit tricky to understand.

The first law that took into account the needs of disabled people was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and just after that, the Americans with Disabilities Act came into action. Tittle III of the ADA, as can be seen in our article that addresses the matter, prohibits discrimination against people with disability in services of public accommodation. Does this mean that websites must be accessible to people with disabilities? We find the answer in the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Section 508

Originally, Section 508 of this Rehabilitation Act, added in 1998, required only federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, including both employees and public users.

In 2017, it was revised with requirement that by the beginning of 2018, all federal government agencies and contractors needed to comply with WCAG 2.0 A/AA. This means that, speaking of federal websites, WCAG is formalized under law as the accessibility standard.

The problem is that, apparently, there was no mention of private business and whether they should comply with WCAG. This has brought up several issues during the last few years, because the ADA, as we said previously, prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, which is easily understood as “physical” places.

However, websites are increasingly interpreted in legal cases as place of public accommodation, and the Department of Justice has reaffirmed that the ADA does apply to them as well. In fact, the most recent changes to Section 508 guidelines define that a site must provide users with “the ability to navigate, read, and interact with the website’s content”.

By now, it should be known that websites are places of public accommodation and therefore need to be accessible, so where is the confusion? Well, if we take into account that the ADA’s origins back in 1990 does not specify information about websites or a set of technical standards like WCAG, we may grasp the reason why many companies still don’t know how to proceed.

Then simply put, if your website offers or provides any kind of service, the government will consider it a place of 'public accommodation' and will expect it to be accessible, otherwise you risk big fines.

You can check Section 508 Standards here.


Web accessibility, where to start

Firstly, remember that the absence of a technical standard in the ADA itself does not mean websites don’t need to be accessible. In fact, even though Section 508 doesn’t spell out any technical standards, it requires you to make your website ADA compliant.

Then, the idea is to follow the criteria of web accessibility according to, at least, WCAG 2.0. However, since WCAG 2.1 is already in use worldwide, it would be a smart plan to focus on that version. Sooner than later, the requirements will be updated and you can save time and money by anticipating the change and be alert to future accessibility news.

So let us talk about WCAG website accessibility standards: there are four basic principles we will provide an overview about:

 Your website must comply with these standards in order to be accessible, but can anyone tell whether you do?

How to ensure a website accessibility?

Once we have understood the basic principles of WCAG website accessibility, let’s find out how accessible our website is. For this, the best option is to request a website audit to an expert, such as ADDAW.

Although there are places that offer automated audits, which are cheaper, this is not a long term solution. WCAG is nuanced and interpretive, automated tools can only detect around 30% of WCAG issues, and IA can read code, but it cannot see the screen. Therefore, human testing is imperative.

Our group of professional auditors here in ADDAW can ensure your website accessibility. Once you request our services, we will provide an expert audit report that identifies what your website needs to be WCAG compliant and, most importantly, how to fix the violations.

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Iris García García

Writer, proofreader, and translator of texts with good knowledge of office and general computer skills. These are three specialties that allow me to be in constant learning because language never stops evolving, and that is something beautiful.

Financiado por la unión europea Gobierno de españa Plan de recuperación transformación y resilencia kit digital