Everyone has a duty to ensure digital accessibility. When people produce content, they must make sure that it complies with the Rehabilitation Act’s Revised Section 508 Standards. For those who produce content for the federal government, this is especially true. The information displayed on federal websites is meant to be available to the general public. Stakeholders and possibly those who need the knowledge most are excluded from accessing content that is inaccessible. The advantages of providing accessibility and the potential negative effects of non-conformance are listed below in non-exhaustive lists.
Advantages of Digital Accessibility
Overcome Access Barriers: In an increasingly digital world, accessibility to information is becoming more and more important. Making sure that websites and other digital resources are accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability, is crucial in order to ensure that everyone has access to the same information.
There are many different ways to make sure that your website or other digital resource is accessible. Some of the most important things to keep in mind are making sure that your site can be navigated using only a keyboard, providing alternate text for images, and ensuring that your site can be used by screen readers.
By making sure that your website or other digital resource is accessible, you are helping to level the playing field and giving everyone an equal chance to access and use the information available.
Increased customer base and general customer experience: According to the CDC, 1 in 4 adults in the US have a handicap; thus, making sure your content is accessible makes it easier for consumers to use your services and goods and obtain information in general. In addition to improving your clients’ experience when using your products, this will probably boost the frequency and depth with which your information is utilized.
Better Usability for All Users: Many changes made to meet the demands of users with disabilities really enhance usability for all users, not just those with disabilities. There may be things you utilize every day that you don’t realize is part of digital accessibility.
For those using screen readers, it’s crucial to make sure that hyperlinks accurately reflect the content they connect to, but it’s also necessary to provide relevant information to all users about what information they might see if they click on the same link. A second example is when an accompanying data table or alternative text is included with a chart to help all users better understand the data and make it easier for them to use and share the precise data (rather than having to try to extract the data points from the chart), and in general, help communicate data when charts are either complex or simply difficult to read.
Digital Accessibility Regulations
To the best of our knowledge, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has not formally extended ADA criteria to address digital accessibility. Instead, it maintains its long-standing position that the ADA covers this issue.
The issue of digital accessibility can be applied to other laws, though. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that federal departments and agencies make a good faith attempt to provide information via methods that are equally accessible to individuals with disabilities. If they are unable to do so, they are required to provide individuals with disabilities with an alternate way to access the data and information that such information systems make available. Persons with disabilities must have equal access to facilities as people without disabilities.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CCVA), which established new regulations to ensure that contemporary technology is accessible to persons with impairments, was passed in 2010 and amended the Communications Act of 1934. The legislation’s Title II specifies the number of requirements for the accessibility of televisions, television services, television programs, and streaming video, while Title I of the bill provides accessibility criteria for “advanced” telecommunications goods and services.
The European Union now has its own rules with the adoption of Directive (EU) 2016/2102 in 2016, which harmonized accessibility regulations across the EU. A directive is a piece of EU law that specifies an end result but leaves the means of achieving it up to the individual member states.
Consequences of Failure to Comply
Non-compliance with accessibility standards can have adverse effects on content creators, including increasing barriers to access, lowering usability, and diminishing customer experience, in addition to doing the reverse of what is outlined above.
Over the past ten years, lawsuits involving violations of Section 508 obligations have increased in frequency. Agencies can prevent lawsuits and the detrimental effects they might have (fines, poor press, loss of support and/or favor with the public, etc.) by adhering to the 508 examples.
Cost, rework, and waste is all increased because it is frequently necessary to totally rebuild goods and content that is inaccessible in order to meet Section 508 standards. This rework consumes time and money, irritates content producers and creators, reduces productivity, lengthens program and project delivery schedules, and damages the organization’s reputation with stakeholders. Additional solicitations and purchases may be required for the purchase of inaccessible products, which would result in higher costs and longer delivery times.
Consistent non-conformance can make it necessary for users with disabilities to discover alternative ways to meet their needs and make users without disabilities decide not to utilize your services.
In addition, if your accommodations are inadequate, your disabled employee base may not be enabled or empowered. This would probably make it difficult to keep that variety of talent. Employee diversity enhances outcomes across a business, especially in the planning process, according to studies. Furthermore, you might not recruit qualified impaired candidates at all if your hiring procedure uses candidate interfaces, papers, forms, etc., that are inaccessible.
As more businesses see the value in recruiting a diverse workforce and catering to a broad clientele, they need a standard, consensus-based approach to expand on. People with disabilities are not only underserved if an agency has a history of improperly procuring or developing accessible digital solutions, but businesses are also less likely to regularly produce accessible goods and services.
Ensuring your business complies with digital accessibility standards is essential. But, it’s also a big job. You might not know where to start or even what your level of digital accessibility currently is. At QualityLogic, our team of specialists can assess your current systems and processes and provide you with a free consultation. Together we can create a plan that works for you. Visit our website to learn more at qualitylogic.com.