March 22, 2019

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day!


Beth Franssen

Three things you need to know about accessible digital design compliance  

Pop quiz: which one does not belong?

1.   ADA 

2.   Section 508 

3.   WCAG 2.0 

4.   Rehabilitation Act 

OK, this was a trick question.  All four are standards and regulations that relate to accessible digital design.Unfortunately, despite these guidelines, a 2017 study of the US federal government’s most popular websites found that 42 percent are inaccessible to users with disabilities. 

That’s not only illegal, it’s bad business.  Why would you want to build a website, mobile app, software application or other digital tool that 15% or more of your potential customers may not be able to use?  As the population of the US and other developed nations ages, the need for accessible design will only increase.  Accessible design standards can even help guide you in organizing your site more efficiently, improving the experience for all your users. 

So in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (today is the sixth anniversary), here are three things you should know:

1. If you work for a US federal department or agency, your digital service must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

This is the US enforcement of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.  Section 508 mandates that all electronic information developed, procured or maintained offer comparable access, regardless of an individual’s ability or disability. Companies seeking to provide services to the federal government should consider these guidelines as well

2. If you don’t work for the federal government, you’re not off the hook.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to commercial and public places of accommodation, including the Internet.  Hundreds of lawsuits – targeting businesses from pizza places to movie theaters and financial services companies – were filed in 2016 alleging ADA violations due to inaccessible websites.

3. These guidelines mandate accessibility but don’t provide specific technical implementation instructions.

Therefore, needs will vary depending on your site objectives and structure. You may wish to consult an accessibility design expert for an evaluation of your site, advice on remediation strategies and implementation, or assistance with operationalizing accessible design in your organization. (Nexient is one company offering a full range of digital accessibility services.)

Please share within your networks and teams to build awareness for this important initiative!

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