Web accessibility refers to providing websites that are usable by individuals with disabilities. Approximately 10% of the population has a disability that affects computer use. Website accessibility primarily addresses disabilities related to vision, motor skills, mobility, hearing, and seizures.
Web accessibility is on track to potentially revolutionize how businesses and organizations provide online assets both internally and to the public, and is something every organization should be aware of regarding both their Internet and intranet applications.
Modern commercial building construction is required by law to include accessibility features such as wheelchair ramps, lower height drinking fountains, and minimum clearance specs for restrooms. If they do not provide these features they will exclude a portion of the population who is disabled from the ability to equally access and utilize the services housed in those buildings. In addition, they may open themselves up to legal action and may be fined by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or sued by private parties under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or other laws that pertain to accessibility.
In the same manner that the commercial construction industry was changed by the requirements of the ADA the digital workspace is being transformed now.
Web Accessibility Laws
Until recently, the standards for web accessibility were not clearly defined and the DOJ did not actively enforce standards. There has been a significant shift in both the refinement of web accessibility standards and the active enforcement of such standards by the DOJ. Because of the DOJ’s active enforcement, private litigation has increased.
The current standards to which organizations are being held accountable are WCAG 2.0 AA. You may have heard of Section 508 web accessibility standards, which were less comprehensive than WCAG. WCAG 2.0 AA standards are being adopted as Section 508 requirements.
Accessibility standards and enforcement of those standards is still a developing area; however there is no doubt that any business or organization website should take measures now to ensure their website is accessible according to WCAG 2.0 AA.