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Web Access Matters

Think. Learn. Explore. Share.

Digital access and inclusion for all.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

Throughout the year and on the third Thursday of May, celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)  to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion and people with disabilities.

Check out: Events for GADD, ways to Participate in GAAD, Download GAAD logo and Resources: GAAD

Follow: Facebook GAAD | Twitter GAAD #gbla11yday
Hashtags: #gaad #a11y

Featured Resources from Regional ADA Centers & ADA National Network

In the spirit of digital access and inclusion, we have various publications, podcasts, and webinars. For questions on digital access and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contact your regional ADA Center at 1-800-949-4232.

Publications

Web: adata.org

Podcasts

ADA Live!

Source: Southeast ADA Center
Web: adalive.org

Webcourses

Source: Rocky Mountain ADA Center
Web: rockymountainada.talentlms.com/catalog/index

Webinars

More: Contact your ADA Center

Digital Accessibility Basics

Accessibility should be included from the start and in the design.  Accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all. But, various barriers often prevent equal access and limit equal opportunity for people with disabilities. 

Keep in mind

  • Common barriers experienced by people, can be from disability, technology, or environment, and can occur across content/medium/products, whether web, video, Word, PDF, or PPT, etc.
  • For maximum access, start with an accessible source document before creating a PDF file.
  • When creating, writing, and posting, use plain language and people first language to maximize access and usability.

Common content/features to review that can be barriers include but are not limited to:

  • Images
    Is there a textual description (alternative-text or “alt-text”) of the image? Is the textual description (“alt-text”) equivalent of the information in the image? If an image is non-informative (i.e. border, background) is the “alt-text” for the image set to null/empty using the code alt=”” 
    SIDE NOTE: There is no space between the quotations.
  • Structure/headings
    Are there headings? Are headings used correctly to create an outline of the content? Headings should be used in order from h1 to h6 and not heading levels.
  • Links
    Is it recognizable as a link? Does the link make sense when read alone (avoid "click here” or the link address as the link)
  • Keyboard access
    Unplug your mouse. Can you navigate by tabbing and keyboard only?
  • Color
    Is the information conveyed by more than color (i.e. required fields in red color also are preceded an asterisk). 
  • Contrast
    Is there sufficient difference between background color and content (text, links) color
  • Audio/sound and video
    Is it captioned? Transcript?
  • Non-webpage files
    Are there PDF files or Word documents, or other non-webpage files? These should be formatted and created to be accessible. Or the exact same information in them should be accessible, such as text or a webpage. Consider does this really need to be in a PDF file, instead of as a webpage, which is more universally accessible and flexible to various viewing preferences, technologies, and environments.

Resources: Getting Started with Web Access

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

Web: w3.org/WAI/

ADA Live! Podcast & Resources from Southeast ADA Center

Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)

Disability: INclusive

Technical Standards for Web Access & WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are well-established and globally recognized standards for accessible web design. 

WCAG - Keep in mind

  • WCAG is the most commonly and globally recognized standard for web accessibility.
  • WCAG is most commonly used reference, and outcome from settlement agreements and court cases for web accessibility.
  • Section 508 was initially based on the WCAG.
  • The Section 508 Refresh adopted WCAG AA 2.0 for Web, Software and Electronic Documents. 

WCAG “POUR” principles (4)

The WCAG has four principles that are broken down into specific guidelines (for WCAG 2.0 – 12 guidelines). Each of these guidelines has testable success criteria with a level of conformance ranging from A to AAA. Conformance level A is the minimum and AAA the highest.

The WCAG 2.0 provides detailed guidelines to achieve the following four “POUR” principles:

  1. Perceivable: i.e. through text alternatives, captioning and sufficient contrast.
  2. Operable: i.e. through keyboard etc. navigability, sufficient timing functions and easy navigation functions.
  3. Understandable:  i.e. through readable text and predictable functions.
  4. Robust: ie. allowing compatibility with present and future technologies.

What Does It Mean for a Website to Be “Accessible”?

WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines outline “what does it mean for a website to be accessible” as in the following examples. 

  • Perceivable: Disabled users should be able to perceive website content using their available senses. 
    • In order to ensure websites are accessible using a screen reader, there should be text alternatives for non-text content, such as pictures, icons, graphics and links. Videos and audio content should have close captioning to make them accessible to hearing-impaired users.
    • There should be sufficient color contrast between background and foreground, and color should not be used as the only way of conveying information. Type size should be resizable up to 200 percent.
    • Web forms asking users to provide information, for instance to log in or check out, should have a clear label for each field.
  • Operable: Websites should be operable using a variety of assistive technologies or adaptive strategies. 
    • They should be navigable using only a keyboard, without a mouse. Users should be able to tab through elements and remain clear where they are on the page. They should be able to pause or stop time-based media or scrolling content.
    • If there is a timed session and it times out, users should be able to log bag in within a short time period without losing data or their place on the page. Websites should not use flashing lights that may cause seizures in some epileptic users.
  • Understandable: Users should be able to easily understand not only the content, but how to operate the website. 
    • Websites should have a site map with headings and be organized in a way that the content makes sense when being navigated with a screen reader.
    • Websites should operate in predictable ways; elements that appear on multiple pages should appear in the same place on each page, and operate in the same way.
  • Robust: Websites should be accessible using a variety of assistive technologies, and continue to be compatible as technology improves. 
    • Websites should assist users in avoiding and correcting mistakes, for example by providing suggestions for correcting an error.
    • Companies may want to provide assistance in the form of a contact number or help line for users who encounter difficulty.

WCAG Resources

Overview

There are various U.S. Federal and state laws that may be applicable for web accessibility including but not limited to: ADA, Section 508, Section 508 Refresh, and Section 504. 

Through various settlements and lawsuits on web accessibility, and legislation (like the Section 508 Refresh), the long/short answer continues to be that the most widely recognized and accepted standard for web accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and conformance with the Level AA technical requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. (see WCAG Resources)

In addition, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) has stated that the ADA applies to the Internet. However, in December 201, the DOJ announced the indefinite withdrawal of regulations/technical standards specifically about web accessibility. 

One of the best practices is to have an accessibility statement on the website with a point of contact. Also, plan and develop policy for creating, managing, and delivering web accessibility. (see below Accessibility and Policy)

ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad, anti-discrimination civil rights law for people with disabilities signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. 

  • The ADA was written before the Internet was pervasive and contains no specific technical standards for web accessibility, but the ADA does cover  “effective communication,” “equal opportunity,” and “non-discrimination.” 
  • Title II of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state level. Governmental organizations must ensure “effective communication” with citizens, including providing assistive technology or services as needed.
  • Title III of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination by “places of public accommodation.” A place of public accommodation covers shared or public entities like libraries, universities, hotels, restaurants, museums, theaters, transportation services, etc., that are privately owned. 
  • The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) has stated that the ADA applies to the Internet, but in December 2017 announced the indefinite withdrawal of regulations/technical standards specifically about web accessibility. 

ADA and Web Access - DOJ Statement

The short answer about the legal requirements for accessible websites for an ADA Title III Business – the ADA Title III does apply to web access.

As the ADA was passed in 1990 before the Internet was pervasive, in the ADA there are no specific technical standards for web access and plans by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to establish any technical standards for web access have been shelved/withdrawn indefinitely. 

BUT The Dept. of Justice confirmed that websites are covered by the ADA in its Sept. 28, 2018 response letter to o the Attorney General from a bipartisan Congressional contingent seeking guidance and clarity with regard to website accessibility under the ADA.

  • “… goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.
  • “…the absence of a specific regulation does not serve as a basis for noncompliance with a statute’s requirements. 
  • “…comply with ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.” 

“In other words, places of public accommodation are required to provide any digital goods, services, privileges, or other activities in a way that is equally accessible to people with disabilities. Digital accessibility includes internet website access, mobile applications, and other forms of ICT that can help public accommodations meet the ADA’s requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication.”

Check out the link below and for more information, the section in this message for “Legal & Standards Overview.”

DOJ Confirms Websites are Covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act
Source: Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)
Web: peatworks.org

Research Brief: Digital Access and Title III of the ADA
Source:  ADA National Network
Web: adata.org/research_brief/digital-access-and-title-iii-ada

Archive Webinar: The Future is Accessible: A Legal Perspective
Source: ADA Legal Webinar Series (3/17/2021)
Web:  accessibilityonline.org/ada-legal/archives/110910

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Sites: What is Required 
Source: ADA Audio Webinar Series (3/19/2019)
Web: accessibilityonline.org/ADA-Audio/archives/110697

Effective Communication: What Does That Mean?
Source: ADA Audio Webinar Series (6/25/2019)
Web: accessibilityonline.org/ADA-Audio/archives/110713

Accessibility Statements & Policies

Best practice is to have in the footer a link named “Accessibility” that goes to a webpage, which contains accessibility and contact information. 

  • Show your users that you care about them and accessibility.
  • Provide users with information about the accessibility of your content.
  • Demonstrate commitment to accessibility, and also social responsibility.

Policy & Statement Resources

Testing & Eval for Web Access

Simple checks can be carried out by anyone, regardless of technical skills and accessibility knowledge.

There are various tools available to enter a web address and get a summary of “errors” and “alerts” that may make the website difficult for a person with a disability to use.  You can also conduct an initial analysis of your website’s accessibility by using various online or in browser tools.

 Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility
Source: W3C WAI
Web: w3.org/WAI/

Quick Reference: Web Accessibility Principles
Source: WebAIM
Web: webaim.org

WAVE - web accessibility evaluation tool
Source: WebAIM
Web:   wave.webaim.org

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools Overview
Source: W3C WAI
Web: w3.org/WAI

Webinar Series: Accessible Technology
and Archives of Accessible Technology Webinars

Source: Great Lakes ADA Center and ADA National Network
Web: accessibilityonline.org

Screen Reader Technology Access

Check out the accessibility of web content with a screen reader.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access)

Try this free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Checklist Resources for Web Access

The ADA Checklist: Website Compliance Guidelines for 2019 in Plain English
Source: Medium- Kris Rivenburgh
Web: medium.com/@krisrivenburgh

 Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility
Source: W3C WAI
Web: w3.org/WAI/test-evaluate/preliminary/

Quick Reference: Web Accessibility Principles
Source: WebAIM
Web: webaim.org/resources/quickref/

WebAIM WCAG 2.0 Checklist for HTML documents
Web: webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist

Comprehensive Checklist for WCAG 2.0 [PDF, 4 pages]
Web: blog.invervemarketing.com

IT Accessibility Checklists
Source: Access South Carolina IT
Web:  accessibility.sc.gov/online-resources

Section 508 Checklist from WebAIM
Source: Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM).
Web webaim.org/standards/508/checklist

Manual Evaluation Checklist for Web Accessibility
Source: California State University, Los Angeles (CAL State LA).
Web: web.calstatela.edu/accessibility/manual.php

Section 508 Manual Website Evaluation
Source: California State University  (CSU) – Accessible Technology Initiative.
Web: calstate.edu/Accessibility/webaccessibility/evaluation/index.shtml

Checklists for Section 508 from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Checklists for creating accessible documents, including Word, Excel PowerPoint HTML (webpage) and Multimedia files.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Web: hhs.gov/web/508/accessiblefiles/checklists.html

Third-Party / Accessible Procurement

Another important component of accessibility is ensuring the purchase and provision of third-party products, technology, and services that are accessible. 

More Access: Social Media, Documents, Online Events

Social Media Access

Document Access

Online/Virtual Event Access

Overlays: Avoid & Be Aware

Overlays are a broad term for technologies that aim to detect and dynamically improve or "fix" the accessibility of a website or web app. They usually involve third-party source code and/or artificial intelligence (AI) technology.  Be aware/avoid those claiming quick & easy accessibility. 

Honor the ADA: Avoid Web Accessibility: Quick Fix Overlays
Source: Lainey Feingold
Web: lflegal.com/2020/08/quick-fix

4 Reasons Why Accessibility Overlays Fall Short
Source: UsableNet Blog
Web: blog.usablenet.com

Overlay Fact Sheet
Web: overlayfactsheet.com

Should I use an accessibility overlay?
Source: a11yproject
Web: a11yproject.com/posts/2021-03-08-should-i-use-an-accessibility-overlay/

Southeast ADA Center
Phone: 404-541-9001
Email: adasoutheast@law.syr.edu
Web: adasoutheast.org

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Questions? ADA Hotline: 1-800-949-4232
All calls are confidential.

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Disclaimer: Accessibility cannot be guaranteed for external websites. We provide these links as a courtesy and do not endorse, take responsibility, or exercise control of the organization nor vouch for the accuracy of the contents of the destination link. The Southeast ADA Center in the ADA National Network and a project of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University provides information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We are funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (grant #90DP0090-01-00) within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. You should be aware that NIDILRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA. The information, materials, and/or technical assistance provided by the Southeast ADA Center are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities under the ADA, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.