What Will ADA Web Accessibility Standards Look Like?

Created on November 12, 2023 at 10:12 am

The Americans with Disabilities Act ORG ( ADA ORG ) does not contain technical guidelines for websites. That’s understandable, given that the ADA ORG became law in 1990 DATE — but for business owners, the lack of specific guidance has been frustrating, to say the least.

The Department of Justice ORG ( DOJ ORG ) attempted to address that issue in March 2022 DATE by launching Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA ORG , a website with tips for testing content for compliance.

But while that guidance is certainly helpful, it’s not an official set of rules. As the DOJ ORG notes:

Businesses and state and local governments have flexibility in how they comply with the ADA ORG ’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. But they must comply with the ADA ORG ’s requirements.

So, why doesn’t the ADA ORG have clear rules? For starters, the DOJ ORG may not have the ability to establish highly specific requirements for private businesses — and Congress ORG has failed to update the ADA ORG with relevant standards.

New ADA ORG web accessibility requirements are on the way…eventually

In the near future, the legal landscape may change. The DOJ ORG has announced a proposed rule that would add standards to Title II LAW of the ADA ORG . Title II LAW applies to government agencies, while Title III LAW applies to private businesses and other “places of public accommodation.”

While new Title II LAW rules wouldn’t immediately affect private businesses, they would serve as a framework for Title III LAW compliance (and, most likely, Title III LAW web accessibility lawsuits).

Congress ORG could also pass requirements, but recent attempts at establishing Title III LAW standards have failed. In January 2021 DATE , the Online Accessibility Act ORG failed to pass despite bipartisan support. That bill would have mandated conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ORG (WCAG), though the language of the law failed to clarify which version of WCAG ORG .

Nevertheless, in the digital accessibility community, there’s a strong belief that either Congress ORG or the DOJ ORG will eventually establish standards for Title III LAW . And given the history of digital accessibility laws, we have a fairly good idea of what those requirements will look like.

WCAG remains the international standard for accessibility

The failed Online Accessibility Act referenced WCAG for a simple reason: It’s already an established standard.

Published by the World Wide Web Consortium ORG (W3C), WCAG ORG is a fairly straightforward document built on four CARDINAL principles: Content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Read more about the four CARDINAL categories of accessibility.

Many laws already reference WCAG, including the U.S. GPE government’s own Revised Section 508 LAW standards. And the DOJ ORG ’s Title III LAW guidance recommends using WCAG ORG to test content (while noting that the standards aren’t an official requirement for ADA ORG compliance — at least, not yet).

With that in mind, we can make some basic predictions for what ADA ORG web accessibility standards will eventually look like:

New standards will probably incorporate WCAG by reference.

The standards will likely use the latest version of WCAG ORG (currently, WCAG 2.1 CARDINAL ), or at least WCAG CARDINAL

2.1 CARDINAL , which introduced important requirements for mobile websites and apps.

The standards will probably require conformance with WCAG ORG ’s Level A/AA requirements, but not Level AAA. Some Level AAA requirements are quite strict, and certain types of content cannot conform to Level AAA. Read more about the differences between WCAG levels.

The bottom line: If you’re building a website — or trying to address accessibility issues to improve compliance with the ADA ORG — you can safely use the latest version of WCAG ORG to audit your content.

To test content for ADA ORG compliance, have a long-term strategy

Building accessible content requires commitment. That’s especially true if your goal is to realize the enormous business benefits of accessible design. Remember, compliance — while important — isn’t the only reason to embrace inclusivity.

For long-term success, your web accessibility strategy should include:

Regular manual and automated audits . Automated tools can test for many common accessibility barriers at scale, while manual audits can identify issues that require human judgment.

. Automated tools can test for many common accessibility barriers at scale, while manual audits can identify issues that require human judgment. Accessibility training. When designers, developers, and content creators understand the principles of accessibility, your accessibility debt stops growing — and your products become much more robust.

your accessibility debt stops growing — and your products become much more robust. Outreach. Publish an accessibility statement and communicate your commitment to your audience.

If you’re ready to design a self-sustainable digital compliance strategy, we’re ready to help. Send us a message to connect with an expert or get started with a free automated web accessibility report.

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