ADA Compliance in 2020: What It Looks Like for Your Business

Whether your website serves as a retail storefront, a client-facing sales portal, or exists solely as a conduit for contact information (i.e. lead generation), one of your primary goals for 2020 should be ensuring that it’s compliant with the ADA. 

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is a federal law that makes discrimination against disabled people illegal. While it originally only applied to discrimination in the real world, it has since been updated to reflect the massive boom in internet/computer technology. 

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Don’t think that compliance is something that is just “nice to have.” Compliance should be a major priority for any business operating online (especially those conducting B2G operations). In other words, becoming ADA compliant is required for your business to become immune to lawsuits.

This blog aims to provide you with a background on the ADA, why it’s important for your business and a brief overview of how you can go about achieving compliance. 

Historical Overview of the ADA

The ADA was signed into law in 1990. Back then, the general population wasn’t using the internet (because it was still in its infancy). Fast forward to 1998 though, and the internet started seeing higher rates of use, and people started utilizing technology more (for everything from communication to working).

Section 508 was an amendment of the ADA that was added in 1998 as a way to ensure proper accessibility across the internet (as well as any other form of information communication technology – referred to as ICT). While section 508 was an important milestone in the fight for disabled rights (especially in regards to digital accessibility), it was really just the beginning of the movement as a whole.

2017 saw some major updates in the world of web/digital accessibility. Section 508 got a major update, and along with it came a deeper level of focus on emerging trends/technologies in the web sector. WCAG, which is the W3C’s standards for web accessibility, was included as the primary measurement system for digital ADA compliance. Below we delve a little into WCAG, and how your business needs to start implementing its guidelines (if it isn’t already doing so). 

WCAG: The Golden Standard of Web Accessibility 

WCAG, which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is the definitive set of standards created by the W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium). The W3C is essentially the governing body behind internet content standards. The organization was founded in 1993 and develops protocols for the enhanced development of the web. 

The first iteration of WCAG was released in 1999 (shortly after the creation of section 508 within the ADA). In 1998, WCAG was updated for the second time (WCAG 2.0). W3C released WCAG 2.1 in 2017, which is the latest update to the set of web standards. 

Each iteration of WCAG is meant to reflect the current state of the web. Back in 1999, the standards were relatively basic (because the internet was also basic at that time). As the internet (and technology in general) has evolved, W3C has released updates as needed. 

How to Get Your Business Compliant as Fast as Possible

Ideally, your business should be incorporating accessibility guidelines (i.e. WCAG 2.1) into its digital content production from the very beginning of the content development cycle. However, a lot of businesses need to go back to old content (that’s already been published) and make it compliant. 

The best way to make old content (i.e. websites, apps, etc.) is to hire a compliance auditing company to handle the testing and implementation of updates for you. However, you can also do it on your own via one of the many online checklists/tools designed for this purpose. 

Examples of WCAG 2.1 Compliance Updates 

WCAG 2.1 focuses on improving the UX/UI of digital content for disabled people. The following updates are some of the main areas of focus:

  • Problems relating to users who have low-quality vision/vision-related health issues. 
  • Disabled users who suffer from cognitive issues (which can directly impact their usage). 

WCAG 2.1 certainly isn’t limited to the above examples, however, those are some of the main areas where W3C decided to focus its standards on (in this iteration). Going back and ensuring compliance (in regards to previously published content) can be a long process. 

However, if you want total compliance then it’s a task that needs to be completed (which is why many companies contract it out to specialize firms). The best way to ensure compliance with current content is to incorporate WCAG’s best practices into the production of that content.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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