On March 18, 2022, the DOJ released new web guidance for the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The guidance offers a roadmap for how government agencies, private and nonprofit businesses, can meet the needs of users with disabilities on the web.
Long anticipated, the guidance comes on the tails of many ups and downs, including the DOJ withdrawing all ADA web guidance in 2017.
While the new guidance falls short of endorsing specific standards, it does signal that digital accessibility remains an ongoing enforcement priority as the world becomes more digital. Here’s our Accessibility Team’s quick review to help you understand this new focus on the Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to website accessibility.
What It Says
Web Accessibility Matters under the ADA
The updated guidance begins by highlighting why web accessibility is important.
“An inaccessible website can exclude people just as much as steps at an entrance to a physical location. … In recent years, a multitude of services have moved online and people rely on websites like never before for all aspects of daily living.”
Barriers To Web Accessibility
The DOJ provides a list of issues which present barriers to disabled users. Visit links in this section to learn more about each barrier and how it can be avoided.
- Poor color contrast
- Use of color alone to give information
- Lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images
- No captions on videos
- Inaccessible online forms
- Mouse only navigation (Lack of keyboard navigation)
The DOJ’s Stance On Web Accessibility
After listing off a few examples of web accessibility issues, the DOJ’s guidance reaffirms their stance that all state and federal programs must support a minimum level of accessibility, as described in Title II of the Adults with Disabilities Act. Further, they highlight the importance for businesses open to the public to ensure that products and services are accessible, including digital services like websites (Title III of the ADA).
“… The Department has consistently taken the position that the ADA’s requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations, including those offered on the web.”
Why the ADA Website Guidance Matters
It’s important to note that while these guidelines do emphasize the importance of digital accessibility, they do not set forth specific expectations for how an agency or business maintains its compliance.
This means that while WCAG updates further and further away from the WCAG2.0 standards referenced in the Revised Section 508, the private sector is largely left in the dark as to what specific steps can be taken to both accommodate users and avoid legal liability.
The accessibility industry currently finds itself locked in a conflict between usability and affordability. As accessibility lawsuits march on, policy decisions remain at the mercy of individual jurisdictions rather than in the hands of experts and users.
Questions linger in the minds of the effected:
- What standards matter when assessing website accessibility?
- Where is the balance between cost and benefit?
- How do small businesses cope with scope and budget creep while trying to affordably remediate their web services?
- Should the burden of meeting accessibility needs be placed on businesses, browsers, or users?
While the DOJ has reaffirmed its stance on the importance of web accessibility, it has also reaffirmed its unwillingness to set forth clear expectations for web accessibility standards or methods.
Providing specific examples of features organizations can adopt and test for accessibility is a step in the right direction. The next step the DOJ needs to take is clarifying lingering questions and setting a clear bar for minimum accessibility.
In the meantime, Digital Accessibility by WeCo are here to help. Reach out to learn more about the Who, What, and How, of digital accessibility.
Learn more about the ADA from our blog:
Guidance on web accessibility and the ADA
U.S. DOJ issues guidance on web accessibility under the ADA
New DOJ Guidance on ADA Web Accessibility Leaves Unanswered Questions
Justice Department Issues Web Accessibility Guidance Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
U.S. Department of Justice Announces Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA