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Explaining the Fragile Nature of Website Accessibility

Posted on 01/16/2018 at 12:00 AM

It can sometimes feel like website accessibility is a bit of a moving target. That’s because, in some regard, it is. With changes to guidelines, as well as software upgrades that are frequently rolled out in order to improve the quality and accuracy of compliance scans and assistive technologies, webmasters have their work cut out for them.

Website Accessibility is a Rather New Challenge for the Web Industry

While brick and mortar businesses have dealt with ADA Compliance for some time now, in the online world, it’s a fairly recent development. As with any emerging field of study, even the most seasoned website accessibility experts are still figuring out how ADA regulations translate to the digital world. The constant evolution of accessibility knowledge prompts further improvements to scanning tools and assistive technologies on an ongoing basis.

…And There Are No Official Laws, Yet; Just Guidelines

As the law stands, there is actually no legal definition for an “ADA compliant” website. Current ADA regulations do not explicitly reference websites or outline any specific accessibility requirements for private companies and organizations. Additionally, the Department of Justice recently withdrew proposed laws to enforce accessible websites for State & Local Government (Title II) and All Others (Title III), stating more time was needed to assess whether specific technical standards are necessary and appropriate to assist covered entities with complying with the ADA.

Regardless of the DOJ’s recent withdrawal, website accessibility will continue to be a topic of conversation as long as lawsuits are still taking place and until we have concrete laws in place, the best resource will remain a set of guidelines called WCAG (Website Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0.

Constant Updates to Guidelines, Assistive Technologies, and Web Browsers Have Made Compliance a Complicated Endeavor

Website owners, developers, content marketers, designers, and compliance consultants need to be nimble and aware of any changes that impact accessibility. Advances in scanning software, browser updates, improvements in assistive technologies, and even changes in laws and guidelines may impact a website’s current level of compliance. Thus, website owners and web industry professionals must be committed to updating their internal processes at the drop of a hat in order to take into account an ever-expanding number of compliance considerations.

How Can You Begin Making Moves Toward Accessibility?

Global Reach uses many tools to identify accessibility issues. We generate reports which outline the issues identified by these tools. After reviewing the report, our team can address the problems or provide training to your team so they can make the necessary fixes.

It is important to note that, while automated tools are great for moving your website toward compliance, they are not fool proof. Scans provide a cost-effective way to identify some of the more obvious issues, but an automated tool can only do so much. The only way to truly test a website for accessibility is by having users who are vision and/or hearing impaired manually check each page, which can be very costly. 

Don’t Forget Your Strategy for Maintaining Compliance

While Global Reach is committed to maintaining compliance based on the results of the software we use, it is important to remember that a website is an ever-changing organism. Throughout its life cycle, pages are added, content is edited, and new functions or features are developed. Any of these changes can affect your website’s accessibility compliance. That is why it is very important to consider compliance an ongoing endeavor. To help with this, Global Reach offers monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual compliance scans so you can take a proactive approach to your website’s accessibility.

Additionally, we recommend that all staff members who will be updating your website on a regular basis receive training. This will allow your internal team to develop habits that are in line with WCAG 2.0 Guidelines and help minimize the chances that someone will make a content change which causes their website’s compliance to come into question. 

Ready to Start Making Your Website WCAG Compliant?

Do you have questions about website accessibility? Or perhaps your team wants to begin moving your website toward accessibility? 

Contact Global Reach today to get the conversation started. 

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