When a phrase like “WCAG 2.0 Compliance” is mentioned, you probably feel your eyelids beginning to droop. But compliance is a serious matter that has serious legal consequences if not taken in a serious manner – and nobody is above the law.
Throughout the existence of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), lawsuits have been brought forth that have cost companies millions of dollars. Even the United States government is susceptible, with three administrative complaints being filed under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in 2009 alone.
Almost 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, and their user experience is just as important as everyone else’s. Compliance with the standards set by ADA and Section 508 ensures that they can patronize your website without difficulty.
Here at CreateApe, we take compliance very seriously. Creating an atmosphere of inclusion and accessibility for all isn’t just something we’re bound to do — it’s something we’re compelled to do because it’s simply right. That’s why we always think compliance-first at every stage of design and development.
So…What is It?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed guidelines for accessibility on the internet called “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” (WCAG) 2.0. These guidelines give recommendations for making web content more accessible and usable for people with various disabilities, including blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, limited movement, and more.
Both Title III of the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act use the WCAG 2.0 guidelines as a standard. Section 508 governs federal websites and anyone doing business with the government while the ADA applies to all websites as they are considered places of public accommodation.
In a nutshell, the WCAG 2.0 sets standards to make the web more accessible to people of all abilities. There are 38 different success criteria, regulating things like proper color contrast, usage of alt tags for pictures, keyboard navigation, and limitations on flashing images. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The gist of things is if you don’t make things accessible, then you’re discriminating against those with disabilities, and it could cost you.
It’s a Jungle Out There
The last couple of decades is littered with lawsuits over ADA and Section 508 violations. According to a UsabelNet study, 2235 ADA website lawsuits were filed against companies in 2019. 21% of these companies were sued more than once.
Even celebrities aren’t immune to ADA lawsuits. Queen Bey herself stood accused of noncompliance. Some elements of the lawsuit included:
- No alt-text on images. Every image on your website must include an element called an “alt-tag” which helps screen readers describe what the image is displaying. Those bongo drums you’re selling need alt text or else there would be no way to determine what is on the website or make purchases.
- No accessible drop-down menus. Without drop-down menus, people with visual impairments are unable to select the size or quantity of products they’re looking to buy.
- No keyboard access. Screen reading software relies on keyboard movement to aid website navigation.
In 2009, Target Corporation had to pay out $6 million in damages and more than $3 million in legal fees to settle a lawsuit brought forth by the National Federation of the Blind. Among the complaints were that an image of a Dyson vacuum cleaner had alt-text that was read by a screen reader as:
Link GP browse dot HTML reference zero six zero six one eight nine six three eight one eight zero seven two nine seven three five 12 million 957 thousand 121
Say that out loud to yourself and listen to how ridiculous it sounds.
Winn-Dixie, Domino’s, Fox News, Burger King, Nike, Blue Apron, CVS, Hobby Lobby, and Harvard are just a small fraction of companies and organizations that have faced legal challenges for violating the ADA. The list goes on.
Government departments and agencies have also been sued. The Department of Education, the Small Business Administration, and the Social Security Administration have all received accessibility complaints under Section 508. Ironically, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C. also had to fix some of their website features.
How to Avoid the Banana Peels
That was a lot to take in. Deep breaths. In and out, in and out…
It’s important to know the gravity of what non-compliance means, but there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your website is accessible and you don’t step in any mud. Here’s a checklist for you to follow to help you meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines at the AA level:
- All images and non-text content need alt text.
- All video and audio-only content needs a transcript and closed captioning.
- Use proper markup techniques to structure your website’s content.
- Present content in a meaningful order so that it reads properly.
- Make sure that all detailed instructions aren’t reliant on a single sensory ability.
- Do not rely on color alone to convey information.
- Audio must be able to be paused, stopped, or muted.
- There must be a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between all alt text and background.
- Do not use images of text unless necessary.
- All functions and website content must be accessible by a keyboard without the use of a mouse.
- Blinking, scrolling, and moving content must be able to be paused, stopped, or hidden by a user.
- Any content or imagery cannot flash more than three times per second.
- Pages should have a descriptive title.
- Users must be able to navigate in a logical reading order that preserves meaning.
- Each link should have a clear purpose based on anchor text.
- Website language should be able to be changed.
- Navigation should remain consistent throughout all pages.
- Form errors should be easy to identify, understand, and correct.
- All forms and input fields should be unambiguously labeled.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. We know, it’s a lot to keep track of. Website accessibility is an on-going and long-term project. As your content and designs evolve, you must always make sure that you remain ADA and Section 508 compliant. We promise, it is doable.
Let Us Guide You Through the Forest
If the above steps sound overwhelming to you, don’t fret. We’re here to help by either providing an action plan for you to follow or by taking the lead with a full-fledged compliance analysis. Either way, our goal is to give you peace of mind.
Some of the strategies we use include:
- Brainstorming of clear layouts and distinct calls to action to help users navigate easily
- Ideation of robust designs that can accommodate a wide variety of users
- Embracing a human-centric approach to ensure that the design will be perfectly suitable for everyone
- Evaluation of the current style sheet with small edits, if necessary, to increase accessibility
- Planning of a fluid, accessible, and easy-to-navigate architecture
- Automatic screen-reader adjustments powered by AI
- Automatic keyboard navigation adjustments
- The ability to freeze all animations, GIFS, and flashing images
- An online dictionary that allows for the search of phrases, abbreviations, and concepts
- Quick navigation to let users reach any important page with a single click
- Font replacement & adjustment to ensure easy, effortless reading
- Analysis of existing elements to discover pain points that need improvement
Are you a business owner or entrepreneur that needs help with compliance? Let us assist you in getting #JungleReady. Our CreateApe expert team will be your jungle guide and help you traverse the wilds as we take your project to new heights.