New Legislation, Court Cases Making Web Accessibility a Priority in 2021

As more people rely on the web for essential services, and lawsuits increase, web accessibility has taken center stage. Here are several incremental and proactive steps businesses can take to improve accessibility of their websites and applications in 2021.
by 
Brian Beaupied

In October 2020, the Online Accessibility Act was introduced to Congress to extend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include consumer-facing websites and mobile applications. For years, momentum has been building to see the ADA expand and provide guidance to businesses as the proliferation of technology in society (amplified by a global pandemic) has made websites and applications de facto places of public accommodation.

Over the last several years, complaints and lawsuits around web and online accessibility have only continued to increase. Among the most popular targets have been the retail and food industries. Education, financial services, municipalities, and government organizations are also regularly put under a microscope as business models continue to adopt browser-based technologies.

But rather than wait for a threatening letter or the potential for litigation, there are a number of ways teams can begin to get (and stay) in front of web and online accessibility. Keep in mind, too, that providing inclusive digital experiences does more than mitigate corporate risk. These measures can help reach more customers, improve usability for existing customers, and improve SEO.

Conduct accessibility training for teams

Web accessibility is not a one-time or one-off effort. For teams that regularly produce and publish new content, web accessibility will need to be baked into their planning, creation, and review processes. Having command over ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) best practices and an understanding of assistive technologies will help teams better anticipate the needs of users with various temporary, age-related, or long-term disabilities.

Training and professional development opportunities are one option for teams interested in improving web accessibility. This can be a low-effort, low-investment activity that has a high impact on sustaining web accessibility over the long term. C2 now offers accessibility training for CMS users, content creators, and digital marketers with this aim in mind. Our three-hour workshop includes a complimentary audit and follow-up time for questions and additional guidance.

Consider tools for monitoring and reporting on accessibility

There are a number of affordable or even free-to-use accessibility tools available in the marketplace today. These can run in the background, cover a selection of pages or entire sites, and provide helpful reports and recommendations. We’ve included a couple free tools and resources here.  

It’s important to note, however, that passing an accessibility scanner alone does not ensure accessible content or functionality. Some level of human interaction will always be needed to offset what these tools cannot diagnose. This includes issues related to logical flow or meaning of content, tab order, input focus, keyboard accessibility, and text alternatives.

Engage an expert for support

Businesses that may not have the time, expertise, or tools to regularly monitor and improve web accessibility on their own can look outside for help. Many digital agencies, including C2, offer extended support packages that can provide regular audits and remediation services for any identified accessibility issues. By taking incremental and proactive steps to improve accessibility, this can save an expensive retrofits and exhaustive lists of accessibility fixes that get in the way of other organizational priorities.

These support agreements can be used for needs beyond just accessibility, too, including design, development, and site optimization services. You can learn more about our packages and pricing here.

Remember, web accessibility is a continuous pursuit that will take time, commitment, and expertise. Whether looking to your internal team or outside partners for help, don’t wait for a complaint or a piece of legislation to get the ball rolling. By taking incremental steps now, teams can avoid significant headaches and disruptions later.

It’s also just the right thing to do.

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