A Genuine Commitment Towards Web Accessibility to Prevent Lawsuits

Listen to Podcast Episode 8 (MP3 File Download)

Full Transcript Below:

This is the Accessible.org Podcast. My name is Kris Rivenburgh.

And last episode I talked about creating an accessibility policy, and I hit on a theme over and over again.

And that theme is having a genuine commitment towards accessibility, and that should be carried forward in everything you do – that all of the steps you take are in good faith to actually become accessible.

So you’re not just creating a checklist and checking off the boxes and, in a sense, going through the motions – you actually care about accessibility in the broad view.

With a web accessibility policy, what we’re doing is we’re commemorating our genuine commitment, we’re putting it on display. And when you actually care about accessibility, that’s where you’re going to stay in the clear.

That’s where you’re really going to keep the lawsuits from coming in. So, yes, you do want to take care of the practical aspect of this, which is not getting a lawsuit.

That is- you want to take care of that first and foremost because that’s going to prevent your genuine commitment, because then you’re diverting resources to this lawsuit, and you’re paying out money that you could have put towards your digital accessibility. So yes, prevent a lawsuit. Don’t get the law- we don’t need a lawsuit to have a genuine commitment. Our genuine commitment starts right now, but let’s first make sure that we do everything we can to prevent that piece of paper from coming in the mail.

Whether it’s a demand letter or it’s a formal lawsuit, we don’t want that to come about it all.

So, yes, get your WAVE errors down to zero. And no, don’t use faux accessibility like a toolbar, a plug-in or a widget. That doesn’t amount to accessibility. That amounts to you trying to put a quick fix to this. And those don’t actually address accessibility at the code level. They don’t actually make your website accessible – they’re just pretending you’re accessible when you’re really not. And I think deep down most people that get these toolbars, widgets – even though the sales pages, they claim that they do everything and they make you ADA compliant, they make you 508 compliant, they don’t. And I think deep down everybody that gets that gets them knows that they don’t.

But anyway, that’s a way that you would try to pretend to address accessibility, but you’re not really doing it. So the best way to reduce the chances, the risk of a lawsuit is to actually care and then show that you care in your policy. This is important. So with your policy, this is your chance to demonstrate, to show off everything that you’ve done.

You don’t want to be the anonymous donor at the charity auction. You want to show off everything you’re doing. You want to show that you are trying to be a model for accessibility, that you really are putting accessibility at the forefront and taking real steps – genuine commitment to making sure that your digital offerings are actually accessible.

So you want everything to be put on full display. Show off the time, energy and money investment that you have made into accessibility. The bigger your organization is, the more expansive your digital offerings are.

For example, if you have multiple websites, apps, employment applications, etc., the more it will take to become accessible and the more focus and attention you’ll want to dedicate. Obviously, we’re on a sliding scale here. Not everybody can do every last thing for accessibility.

The team for Amazon is going to need to do a lot more than the solo entrepreneur who has a website and operates through that website. Okay, so everything has to be taken in relative terms, but things that you do, such as naming an internal coordinator, implementing regular user testing at intervals – maybe it’s annually biannually quarterly, getting audits, remediation.

Those things you want to show off and you want to put into your accessibility policy.

And so the with your policy, the more specificity you provide, the better. And this especially goes again for larger corporations with more resources. How many times your app, website, etc. has been audited. Any remediation that’s been done, whether it’s internal or external, how many times you’ve hired a consultant and training or courses that your team has enrolled in and then adding any past or future dates helps as well.

For example, our website was last audited on January 12th, 2020 and our next audit is scheduled for October 15th, 2020 and then have a folder in your organization’s cloud that shows all the documentation that backs up what you’ve done. And that’s just a- just a good best practice to have just in case someone calls you out.

It’s good to have that in your back pocket to be able to show and say, hey, we have done XYZ. We have audited our website, for example, to conform with WCAG 2.0 AA and here is the entity that did that for us, etc.

So when you document all that, it just makes you that much more bulletproof against a lawsuit, and it gives you- it makes you really robust. So initially, I do recommend you attack the practical side of this.

As I said, get your WAVE errors down to zero, informally check your website so that the home page and primary functions are operable using VoiceOver and NVDA.

And you don’t have to be an expert at this, you just need to go and try and do this and make sure that everything’s working seemingly as it’s supposed to. This is where you’re just in code red, so to speak, which I think everybody should be if you- if you haven’t addressed accessibility already because lawsuits arecoming out all over the place – you don’t have to be formal right away. You just have to get started right away because it takes time. This is not- this is a gradual progression towards accessibility.

Doesn’t- it’s not just something that you can do in one or two days. It usually takes at least weeks at a time, and that’s even if you’re hiring an accessibility agency.

So keep that in mind. But initially, get to the practical side of this. Get your WAVE errors down to zero, there’s a strong correlation with accessibility there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made everything accessible. It just means that it passes an automated scan.

But immediately after you’ve taken care of the practical side of this, once you’ve put up that lawsuit fire, so to speak, extend your efforts into a genuine, ongoing commitment towards accessibility and you will be in great shape. And don’t buy into the ongoing commitment being more of a hassle than it has to be.

The commitment is going to vary going forward based on the size and digital scope of your operation, but it can be outsourced and the cost will decrease over time.

For example, after you’ve had your website audited once, the price will not be as high for the second and third audits because your website is going to be in good shape. And especially if you haven’t changed that much on your website, there’s not as much to audit, so it’s just going to be it’s going to be a lot less work for the agency to go through your website and audit it.

Similarly, your internal ongoing effort could consist of just a few hours every quarter to make sure initial efforts remain intact and you’re addressing accessibility on any new digital offerings that you have. For example, a new app or a sales page just to make sure they’re accessible as well.

So to summarize a genuine, ongoing commitment toward digital accessibility will improve and refine the accessibility of your digital offerings, greatly reduce your chances of a lawsuit, provide you that mental relief knowing that you don’t have a lawsuit lurking around the corner – it’s very unlikely that that happens, and it allows you to move forward with your regular business in confidence.

If you would like to discuss accessibility, you can email me at kris@accessible.org or just visit accessible.org to find out more about web accessibility products and services including having me write your web accessibility policy.

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