Review the Accessibility of Your Public-Facing Websites

Posted on Thursday, 9 July 2020 by Marissa Sapega

Technology has grown in leaps and bounds since the ADA was signed into law almost 30 years ago. In 1990, the World Wide Web was barely a year old and used exclusively by scientists and academics as a way to share knowledge. Contrast that with today, a time in which it’s hard to imagine living without internet access. Even older individuals (who are usually slower to adopt new technologies) are embracing the benefits of the internet, whether it’s by posting photos of their grandchildren on social media or ordering products online.

The ADA and digital accessibility

This brings us to the fast-growing field of digital accessibility. The DOJ has reaffirmed on multiple occasions that websites are considered public accommodations, which means that organizations with inaccessible websites have increased risk for lawsuits. Though ensuring digital accessibility may still come as a surprise to some organizations, really, it’s no different from following ADA guidelines for physical entities. A business would not think twice about providing accessible parking, elevators, ramps, Braille for way-finding, and many other accommodations for people with disabilities – why should digital accessibility be any different?

How to evaluate your website for accessibility

There are two methods commonly used in tandem to assess a website’s accessibility: a manual review and automated scanning. A manual accessibility review is performed by an expert in digital accessibility. They will choose a representative sample of screens or common user flows to represent a website or application’s most commonly trafficked templates and will manually evaluate them to see how well they conform to the Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG). WCAG provides universally accepted criteria for accessible digital content, created by the WC3. The developer does not test every single page on a website, however. Not only would it be time-consuming and costly, but it would be massively inefficient. After assessing pages with the same template over and over, they would encounter diminishing returns; the developers would simply see the same errors throughout.

Depending on the scope of work and the organization’s budget, sometimes the sample of pages is limited to critical user paths and the barriers that a user who is blind using a screen reader. If these users can perform critical tasks on a website (submitting a contact form, purchasing an item, etc.) even if navigating through the rest of the website is a frustrating experience for them, they will be less likely to file a lawsuit. TPG offers such a review (our High-Level Risk Review) for organizations looking to start on their accessibility journey and address the most critical and high priority issues but do not have the budget for a comprehensive review.

The second method is automated testing. It is important to note that both automated testing and manual reviews play an important role in evaluating website accessibility; one cannot substitute for the other. While a manual review will identify failures that are impossible for an automated scan to surface, an automated scan is most helpful when it serves as an ongoing monitor of the accessibility of a digital property. Automated scans can help identify trends, provide a sustainable documentation of progress, and alert an organization to pervasive issues without putting a strain on internal resources or the company bank account.

To honor the ADA’s 30th anniversary, which occurs on July 26, take the first step towards improving the accessibility of your organization’s website. The Paciello Group offers a free automated website accessibility scan and report for your publicly facing site. You’ll get a better understanding of its overall accessibility, prioritized WCAG failures for remediation, and a WCAG density score to help you assess your risk level. Sign up for the free scan today!

Read all content on our tribute to ADA 30.


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