The United States just made a major advancement in digital inclusion: the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a final rule to update the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensuring that government websites and mobile applications are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The final rule, which falls under Title II of the ADA, was published to the Federal Register today, April 24th 2024.

This decisive move marks a milestone in the evolution of ADA compliance, not to mention digital accessibility-specific regulation in the United States in general. It also reinforces the U.S. government’s previous statements about the necessity for equal access to digital content and their commitment to making it actually happen.

Improving Access to Digital Government Resources

The final rule, detailed on the Department of Justice’s official website, applies to all state and local governments and mandates that all entities under this category – including public education entities, as an example – must ensure their websites and mobile applications are accessible to people with disabilities.

Additionally, the rule clarifies that all existing, new, and modified web content must be accessible per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These internationally recognized guidelines serve as the benchmark for digital accessibility, ensuring that individuals with a range of disabilities—including visual, hearing, and physical disabilities, among many more—can effectively navigate and interact with digital interfaces.

For government entities, the transition may involve revamping web design and digital interfaces to include features like screen reader compatibility, proper keyboard navigation, text-to-speech functionality, and navigational aids that are conformant with the WCAG.

What's Next?

This update to the ADA reflects the DOJ’s commitment to adapting its policies to meet today’s technological advancements and their acknowledgement of the growing importance of digital spaces in everyday life.

Although this final rule focuses on government entities, it should not keep other businesses and organizations (ones that do not fall under Title II of the ADA) from addressing their own digital accessibility. This final rule is set up to be the first of many steps toward more concrete digital accessibility regulations. In the coming years, we may very well see business-oriented digital accessibility regulations.

As we advance, it is imperative for all stakeholders to embrace these changes and integrate accessibility into the core of their digital strategy, ensuring that everyone, regardless of disability, has equal access to the digital resources they need to thrive in today’s world.

Learn More About the DOJ's Final Rule

Below are a few links to more information about the DOJ’s new final rule:

How Accessible is Your Digital Content?

The Justice Department’s final rule is a major step toward creating a more accessible digital world. However, our goal of true universal digital accessibility requires ongoing work, dedication, and improvement – especially as technology advances, digital accessibility standards get updated, and legal requirements change.

Ability is here to help ensure that your digital spaces – whether that’s a website, application, video, document, or other digital content – are accessible to all users. Our team of accessibility experts will assess, advise, and assist in implementing the necessary changes to ensure your website meets the highest standards of accessibility.

Every website made accessible, every app designed with inclusivity in mind, adds to the momentum. Join our team at Ability in this exciting journey. Together, we can ensure that the digital world is not just accessible but welcoming to all.

If you’re interested in getting a WCAG audit or even certifying your WCAG conformance, schedule a quick call with one of our accessibility experts.

The digital world is buzzing with the latest announcement from the White House: a new memorandum on digital accessibility that’s set to revolutionize the way U.S. citizens interact with digital government resources. This groundbreaking guidance, released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is a significant step towards a more inclusive digital environment for all, particularly for the 61 million Americans living with disabilities.

Highlights of the Memorandum

The memorandum is a response to a critical shortfall: nearly half of the most popular federal government websites currently lack full accessibility. This gap has created major barriers for millions of people, denying equal access to essential services. The new OMB guidance aims to dismantle barriers that have long restricted equal access to essential government services.

The initiative encompasses several crucial aspects:

  • Delivering accessible digital experiences,
  • Establishing digital accessibility programs and policies,
  • Procuring accessible products and services,
  • Monitoring and remediating digital content on a consistent basis, and
  • Cultivating a positive culture of digital accessibility.

Specifically, this new memorandum lays out rules that all federal agencies will be required to follow. The fact that the memorandum requires Federal agencies to comply – rather than simply offering lighter “suggestions” – shows how seriously the current American government is taking the issue of equal digital access.

Recent Steps Toward a Digitally Accessible USA

To appreciate the magnitude of this memorandum, we want to mention several milestones throughout recent history that have impacted the United States and have led to the OMB’s new guidance. The Section 508 Refresh of the Rehabilitation Act back in 2018 was a major step toward including digital accessibility practices at the government level. With it, federal agencies within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) field had to ensure their digital content was accessible to people with disabilities.

Additionally, the recent updates to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), both the release of WCAG 2.1 in 2018 and the most recent release of WCAG 2.2 in 2023, were pivotal in providing digital accessibility guidance that reflects the constant technological advancements our world is achieving. While the WCAG come from an international body and are not tied to one singular country, its regular updates have been impactful on how accessibility professionals around the world, including the United States, create and remediate websites and software for accessibility.

Legal action – such as the lawsuits against Winn Dixie, Beyonce, and Netflix, to name a few of the major brands – also had a major effect on the push for accessible digital spaces. A significant turning point in the American digital accessibility journey was the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of a blind man who sued Domino’s Pizza over their website’s lack of accessibility. The lawsuit was finally settled in 2022, 6 years after the initial filing.

The Domino’s lawsuit highlighted a crucial aspect of digital accessibility: the internet is an integral part of our daily lives, and everyone should have equal access to it. The Supreme Court’s decision sent a powerful message to businesses and organizations – neglecting digital accessibility is not an option; it’s a legal and moral imperative.

That case garnered a lot of attention, and subsequently, pushed both American citizens and the American government to take a much needed step toward understanding the importance of digital accessibility.

The Impact and Beyond

The White House’s memorandum on digital accessibility marks a pivotal and hopeful moment in creating a more inclusive digital environment in the United States. It’s a step forward in ensuring that the digital world is a place where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can thrive and participate fully.

Even better, the memorandum encourages a proactive stance towards digital accessibility and advocates for a genuine embrace of accessibility and inclusivity principles in digital governance.

Laws, policies, best practices, and more that similarly stress the importance of digital inclusion will actively move us toward a future where digital accessibility is not an afterthought. One day, we hope that it will be a fundamental aspect of every digital endeavor.

For those eager to delve deeper into this initiative, the OMB published a press release that covers more details of the guidance. Additionally, the full policy can be found in the OMB Memo 24-08.

Create Inclusive Digital Spaces with Ability, Inc.

The White House’s memorandum is a historic step, but the journey towards universal digital accessibility is ongoing. As technology advances, digital accessibility standards get updated and legal requirements change. Staying up to date requires expertise and commitment.

Ability is here to help ensure that your digital spaces – whether that’s a website, application, video, document, or other digital content – are accessible to all users. Our team of accessibility experts will assess, advise, and assist in implementing the necessary changes to ensure your website meets the highest standards of accessibility.

Every website made accessible, every app designed with inclusivity in mind, adds to the momentum. Join our team at Ability in this exciting journey. Together, we can ensure that the digital world is not just accessible but welcoming to all.

If you’re interested in getting a WCAG audit or even certifying your WCAG conformance, schedule a quick call here with one of our accessibility experts.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have long been the gold standard for digital accessibility conformance. Following its success criteria is essential to ensuring that websites, apps, and digital content are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Recently, the WCAG – and the field of digital accessibility as a whole – hit a significant milestone: on October 5th, 2023, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) officially released WCAG Version 2.2. This updated document builds upon its previous iterations, adding a set of new Level A, AA and AAA success criteria.

WCAG 2.2 Success Criteria Changes

As a living document, WCAG 2.2 differs from the older WCAG 2.1. Specifically, one success criterion didn’t make the cut in WCAG version 2.2 and has been removed from the guidelines. It is:

  • 4.1.1 – Parsing (Level A): According to the W3C, this success criterion has been removed because it is now considered obsolete. This is partially due to browser and HTML advancements with parsing, and also partially due to the fact that if a component fails this success criterion then it also automatically fails other criteria.

In addition to removing 4.1.1 – Parsing, there are 9 new success criteria that have been added. They are:

  • 2.4.11 – Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA): This criterion ensures that when an element receives focus it is not obscured by other content, and is at least partially visible to users. This is especially beneficial for people who can’t use a mouse.
  • 2.4.12 – Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (Level AAA): An enhanced version of the previous criterion, this ensures a higher level of clarity where the focus is never obscured.
  • 2.4.13 – Focus Appearance (Level AAA): This criterion requires a highly visible and distinguishable appearance for the focus indicator, making it easier for users with visual impairments to identify which element has focus.
  • 2.5.7 – Dragging Movements (Level AA): This criterion mandates that functions requiring dragging movements are also accessible through alternative means. This caters to users who are unable to perform complex gestures, like using a mouse to drag a component around, due to motor impairments.
  • 2.5.8 – Target Size (Minimum) (Level AA): This criterion requires a minimum target size for interactive elements, making it easier for users, including those with motor impairments or limited precision, to interact with web content.
  • 3.2.6 – Consistent Help (Level A): This criterion ensures the availability of consistent and accessible help mechanisms (like FAQs, chatbots, or contact information) across web pages, aiding users with cognitive and learning disabilities.
  • 3.3.7 – Redundant Entry (Level A): This criterion aims to minimize the need for users to re-enter information or data that has been previously provided or is available elsewhere, significantly aiding users with cognitive and memory-related disabilities.
  • 3.3.8 – Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (Level AA): This criterion focuses on making the authentication/login process accessible, ensuring that users can authenticate without relying solely on memory. This significantly benefits people with cognitive impairments.
  • 3.3.9 – Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (Level AAA): An advanced level of the previous criterion. This criterion specifically states that you should not force users to recognize objects or images/media in order to login.

Each of these new criteria plays a pivotal role in enhancing the accessibility of digital content, ensuring that a wider range of users, regardless of their abilities, can navigate and interact with web content effectively and comfortably.

Why the Focus on Level A and Level AA is Vital

While all of the WCAG success criteria are important, Level A and Level AA success criteria are considered crucial; they represent the minimum acceptable standard for incorporating accessibility into various digital platforms and assets.

It is extremely important to emphasize that achieving Level A and Level AA conformance ensures that your website and/or digital content does not erect barriers for users with disabilities. For that reason, ensuring your business or organization meets WCAG 2.2 Level AA conformance standards is highly recommended.

Organizations should strive to meet more than simply the bare minimum accessibility requirements, though. If possible, it is best to meet all three standard levels of requirements (Level A, AA, and AAA) for higher levels of accessibility and usability.

How Accessible is Your Digital Content?

With the release of WCAG 2.2, all businesses and organizations have an opportunity to revisit and refine their digital content and interfaces. By integrating these new guidelines, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, while also enhancing the overall user experience.

As we celebrate the release of WCAG 2.2, we want to ask:

…are you meeting the accessibility needs of all your users?

Now that WCAG 2.2 is officially out, odds are you may benefit from incorporating more accessibility best practices into your digital assets. Incorporating WCAG 2.2 into your digital assets not only aligns with ethical and legal standards but also opens your digital platforms up to a wider, more diverse audience. And in turn, a larger and more diverse audience increases revenue potential.

Our team of accessibility professionals at Ability is passionate about helping clients create accessible digital experiences for all users. If you want to take the next step and incorporate the new WCAG 2.2 guidelines into your assets, whether that’s through an audit, certification, ongoing management, or more, reach out to us!

A Quick and Easy WCAG 2.2 Guide

To help you navigate the new WCAG 2.2 success criteria efficiently, we’ve created a quick reference guide called What’s Changed in WCAG 2.2 – Level A and Level AA Quick Reference Guide.

This guide is a practical resource for referencing and implementing the new Level A and Level AA success criteria, set up in an easy and digestible format. It focuses solely on Level A and Level AA Success Criteria since they are considered crucial to providing an accessible experience to all users.

View or Download the WCAG 2.2 Quick Reference Guide at the link below:

What’s Changed in WCAG 2.2 Quick Reference Guide (PDF, 445 KB)

Together, we can ensure that the digital world is not only technologically advanced but also universally accessible. Welcome the newest version of the WCAG and join us in making digital accessibility a priority in your projects!

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG for short, are the go-to standard for digital accessibility around the world. Since its inception in the late 1990s, WCAG has routinely gotten updates in order to address advancements in technology — and on June 5th, 2018, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced their official recommendation that all businesses should conform to the newest version of the guidelines: WCAG 2.1.

Several years after its introduction, WCAG 2.1 is still the official W3C recommendation for businesses to follow. For businesses or entrepreneurs who are looking to address and improve their digital accessibility, understanding WCAG 2.1 is the ticket to creating an inclusive digital experience with a website that everyone can use.

So how is 2.1 organized, what’s new about it, and most importantly…what level should businesses conform to?

 

Similarities between WCAG 2.0 and 2.1

The first version of WCAG (1.0) was created in 1999, followed by WCAG 2.0 almost 10 years later in 2008. Version 2.1 was then introduced 10 years after that in 2018. The consistent updates from the W3C ensure that WCAG is updated to include new technology and incorporate new ways of addressing accessibility issues. 

WCAG 2.1 isn’t meant to replace version 2.0 completely; instead, 2.1 builds and adds onto it. Version 2.1 incorporates all of the same guidelines and success criteria from version 2.0 word-for-word, with a few additional components as well. 

Just like version 2.0, WCAG 2.1 is organized into four principles of accessible design:

  • Perceivable — “Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive,” meaning that content must be presented in a way (or multiple ways) that allows all users to experience it. For example, having a transcript of audio-only content — like a podcast or someone giving a speech — ensures that deaf users can perceive that content as well.
  • Operable — “User interface components and navigation must be operable.” This means that digital content can’t require a specific action that some users might not be able to perform. For example, an operable website will ensure that users can navigate and operate it using only the keyboard, in addition to being able to use a mouse.
  • Understandable — “Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.” This specifically offers support to users with cognitive or learning disabilities. Information can’t be too complex, and instructions should be included when necessary to make sure everyone knows what to do.
  • Robust — “Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.” This principle means that users must be able to access digital content (and therefore the content must work/display) on different types of devices, browsers, operating systems, assistive technology, etc.

WCAG 2.1 also shares the same conformance levels as version 2.0: Levels A, AA, and AAA.

  • Level A – The lowest level that sets a minimum accessibility threshold for websites, apps, and other digital content. Level A addresses the most essential accessibility issues (and often more basic issues) that offer users crucial accessibility support. Without incorporating Level A standards, you run a very high risk of preventing users with disabilities from accessing your digital content. 
  • Level AA – The middle level of accessibility that goes into more detail and depth of recommended accessibility requirements. Level AA addresses a wider variety of issues than Level A, or sometimes offers a more accessible solution to a specific issue. Level AA is the level that the majority of businesses must meet, either through a legal requirement or by accessibility recommendation. 
  • Level AAA – The highest level of accessibility that involves in-depth accessibility recommendations in order to provide users with an enhanced accessible experience. Level AAA addresses the most complex and specific accessibility issues listed in WCAG. While meeting Level AAA doesn’t necessarily mean that a website is perfectly, 100% accessible, it can offer a high level of support. 
 

What's new in 2.1

WCAG 2.1 builds upon version 2.0 and includes updates to address accessibility on mobile devices, users with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

In addition to all the same guidelines and success criteria in 2.0, WCAG incorporated one new guideline and 17 new success criteria into version 2.1.

Of the new success criteria, 5 are Level A, 7 are Level AA, and 5 are Level AAA.

Below are the additions to WCAG 2.1:

  • New Guideline:
    • 2.5: Input Modalities
  • New Success Criteria:
    • 1.3.4: Orientation (AA)
    • 1.3.5: Identify Input Purpose (AA)
    • 1.3.6: Identify Purpose (AAA)
    • 1.4.10: Reflow (AA)
    • 1.4.11: Non-text Contrast (AA)
    • 1.4.12: Text Spacing (AA)
    • 1.4.13: Content on Hover or Focus (AA)
    • 2.1.4: Character Key Shortcuts (A)
    • 2.2.6: Timeouts (AAA)
    • 2.3.3: Animation from Interactions (AAA)
    • 2.5.1: Pointer Gestures (A)
    • 2.5.2: Pointer Cancellation (A)
    • 2.5.3: Label in Name (A)
    • 2.5.4: Motion Actuation (A)
    • 2.5.5: Target Size (AAA)
    • 2.5.6: Concurrent Input Mechanisms (AAA)
    • 4.1.3: Status Messages (AA)

In total, there are 13 guidelines and 78 success criteria in WCAG 2.1. It’s important to note that WCAG 2.1 is not meant to be harder to conform to versus WCAG 2.0 — it is simply more well-rounded and fills in some existing gaps on how to go about addressing digital accessibility. 

Overall, the success criteria are designed to build upon each other and increase a website’s accessibility as higher levels of conformance are reached. 

 

What version -- and level -- of WCAG should you conform to?

While WCAG isn’t a law in and of itself, it has been incorporated into various accessibility laws worldwide. For example, WCAG 2.1 was incorporated into the EU’s EN 301 549 and New Zealand’s Web Accessibility Standard 1.1, and the US incorporated WCAG 2.0 into Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Your level and version of conformance that you are either legally required or recommended to meet will be determined by your country’s accessibility laws. Most businesses must conform to either Level A or Level AA of WCAG 2.0 or 2.1.

In addition to legal requirements, the W3C recommends maintaining conformance with the newest version of WCAG in order to provide up-to-date digital accessibility support to users with disabilities. Until version 2.2 is released (which is scheduled for late 2021) WCAG 2.1 will remain the official W3C recommendation.

A final note: always remember that WCAG sets a minimum standard of digital accessibility; achieving WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance doesn’t guarantee that your website will be completely problem-free and fully usable to everyone. Whenever possible, try to follow accessibility best practices in addition to conforming to WCAG 2.1.

For more information on which level of conformance your business should meet or information on what you can do to improve your digital accessibility in general, please contact us.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the go-to standard for digital accessibility around the world. As a set of technical guidelines that developers, coders, and website designers can reference in order to create an accessible website (or remediate an older, inaccessible website), they offer specific criteria for various types of digital content to meet.

However, the technical explanations and jargon included in WCAG can seem a little intimidating at first. Understanding some WCAG basics will help introduce you to the guidelines and explain what you should incorporate into your website’s digital accessibility.

So what should you know about WCAG if you’re new to digital accessibility?

Here are 7 quick facts and corresponding explanations to break down the guidelines, how they work, and their current conformance levels:

1. The current version of WCAG is version 2.1. 

  • As the newest version, 2.1 is the standard that the W3C — the international community that created WCAG — recommends businesses should conform to. 

2. However, some accessibility laws around the world currently cite conformance with WCAG 2.0, not 2.1.

  • This is typically due to the amount of time it takes to update a law. Since the W3C releases updates to WCAG every few years or so, it can take time to see those updates incorporated. Luckily, version 2.0 and 2.1 are similar and have the same general organization; version 2.1 simply builds upon 2.0 and includes 17 more criteria to meet. Fully satisfying version 2.1 means you automatically satisfy version 2.0.

3. WCAG is made up of guidelines called success criteria that are organized into one of four categories, depending on how that individual criterion applies to accessibility.

  • WCAG states that all websites and digital content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (POUR). These four principles of accessible design are also the main categories that organize WCAG, and each success criterion falls under a specific category.  

4. Both WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 also assign success criteria a level of conformance: Level A, AA, or AAA.

  • A success criterion’s conformance level is determined based on how essential an issue it is to fix. At the lowest level, Level A conformance is considered essential for offering an absolute minimum level of accessibility and providing basic access to web users. Without meeting Level A requirements, some users will not be able to navigate or use a website at all.
  • Level AA incorporates more success criteria to build upon that accessibility even further. Meeting Level AA will resolve accessibility issues that offer minimal access to digital content or cause significant frustration for users with disabilities. 
  • Level AAA includes accessibility solutions that provide an even more enhanced accessible experience for many users with disabilities. While meeting Level AAA doesn’t necessarily mean that a website is perfectly, 100% accessible, it can offer a high level of support.

5. Level AA is typically the conformance level that most businesses are either legally required or recommended to meet.

  • Again, this comes down to your country’s individual law. If the law specifies WCAG conformance, it will typically state whether the accepted level is Level A or Level AA. While achieving Level AAA conformance results in high levels of accessibility, it actually isn’t possible for a single site to conform to all Level AAA success criteria because some of them cancel out others!

6. Partial conformance with any WCAG version or level does not guarantee a business is completely safe from litigation.

  • Partial conformance is much better than not conforming at all, but full conformance is the only way to protect your business from litigation. More importantly, it’s the only way to ensure you’re giving web users an accessible experience.

7. New updates to WCAG are in the works.

  • Version 2.2 is set to release later this year, with a tentative date of October 2021. It will build upon version 2.1 just as 2.1 built upon 2.0, and will follow the same POUR categories and A, AA, and AAA conformance levels.
  • WCAG 3.0 is currently in draft, and will incorporate a brand new organizational structure — with Bronze, Silver, and Gold conformance levels. It will have new criteria that aim to be more understandable and easily testable.

By understanding WCAG and incorporating its standards as early as possible, you’ll ensure that your website offers an accessible experience to everyone. 

Have questions about how Online ADA can help you with your digital accessibility? Contact us to learn more. 

If you’ve heard of digital accessibility, you might know that incorporating it into your business will provide essential web access and support to users who are blind. However, it’s important to recognize all of the individuals who benefit from digital accessibility. 

Web users are diverse in every regard — they are a mixture of races, cultures, interests, and beyond. It’s only natural that digital accessibility supports a diverse range of web users, too. If we can recognize the broad scope and variety of people who benefit from digital accessibility, we’ll have a much better understanding of why it’s essential that businesses include it. 

 

So…who does benefit from digital accessibility, exactly? (Trick question — stay tuned). 

Impairments vs. Disabilities

Digital accessibility offers essential support to both users who have impairments and users who have disabilities. You might be surprised to learn that they’re not the same thing, and they’re not always interchangeable terms, either. 

An impairment is when a person has a loss of structure or function in some part of their body.

A disability is when a person’s lack of ability hinders or prevents them from performing a task, creating a limitation in comparison to others. 

It may seem like a very slight differentiation, at first. Oftentimes, a disability is directly linked to an impairment, too — but an impairment can also be a separate condition. Digital accessibility helps people who have a wide variety of impairments and disabilities, and even supports people who wouldn’t consider themselves disabled at all.

Addressing the distinction between impairments and disabilities allows us to understand impairments as parts of a broader spectrum, instead of just addressing extremes. 

Here’s an example: A person who experiences vision problems would have a loss of sight, which is an impairment — but they may see well enough that they don’t consider themself to be disabled. In regards to digital accessibility, even though that person may not be fully blind, they could still benefit from a website that has various digital accessibility options, such as a higher color contrast or a screen magnifier.

On the other hand, an inability to see may cause a severe limitation for that person, which would be considered a disability. A person with a disability would also benefit from digital accessibility options throughout a website, such as proper headings for their screen reader and tab navigation capabilities (we’ll go over different accessibility barriers later on).

Let’s change our example and consider web users who are deaf, instead. Digital accessibility is just as important for any person who falls on the auditory spectrum as well — whether they’re partially deaf, can’t hear certain pitches, or are fully deaf. Users who have any sort of hearing loss would benefit from closed captions on videos, for example, even if they still have partial hearing.

The main takeaway: digital accessibility doesn’t solely help people who experience the extremes — it helps all people across the entire spectrum of ability.

**Please note: Some people tend to use the words “impairment” and “disability” interchangeably — but not everyone does, especially since they have different technical meanings. You should always use the term that a person is most comfortable with when referencing someone directly.**

Degrees of Impairment

The severity of an impairment and/or the period of time in which a person experiences their impairment also affects a web user’s ability to navigate and engage with a website. Since web users are so diverse, understanding this distinction is another way to showcase just how far reaching digital accessibility is. 

The standard degrees of impairment are: 

Either from birth or injury, a permanent impairment or disability won’t go away over time. Permanent impairments can be broken down into two further types of impairments, depending on how much a single function has been affected or compromised.

  • Total – Total impairments correspond to a complete loss of function in a certain part of the body. Permanent and total impairments / disabilities make the individual unable to complete certain tasks without some sort of assistance. Since it is lifelong, individuals with a permanent and total impairment must learn different — and often more complex and time consuming — ways to complete various tasks and activities. Examples of permanent impairments / disabilities include:
    • Being born completely deaf
    • Having a spinal injury that leaves you unable to move your legs
  • Partial – A disability or impairment that lessens certain functions but does not stop/make a function go away completely. A permanent and partial impairment or disability results in a lessened ability to complete certain tasks — or at the very least, increases the difficulty of completing those tasks. Partial impairments do not always make tasks impossible, although they typically make the task more difficult. Examples of partial impairments / disabilities include:
    • Blindness in one eye
    • Being born with dyslexia

When certain functions do not work correctly for a certain period of time, impairments would be considered either temporary or episodic. After that period, those movements or capabilities will return. Temporary or episodic impairments have a very broad range, and include both less severe impairments and episodic disabilities — Temporary impairments will heal or go away after a length of time, but episodic impairments are typically lifelong. It is encouraged to refrain from calling a temporary limitation or impairment a “temporary disability,” as it can be considered disingenuous, insulting, or rude to others who experience more permanent conditions.

Examples of temporary or episodic impairments / disabilities include:

  • Breaking your dominant hand (temporary)
  • Having seizures in response to certain stimuli (episodic)

While not considered a disability, any individual can experience situational limitations. Situational limitations are when a person is unable to interact in certain ways due to their surroundings, but they do not have a particular disability or impairment to hinder that action. Including web users with situational limitations when considering digital accessibility will help ensure that you are reaching the widest audience possible. 

Examples of situational limitations include:

  • Being in a room that’s too loud to hear a video, so a person uses the video’s closed captions.
  • Trying to use a phone in bright sunlight but the screen is too dark to see, so a person adjusts their screen’s color contrast and brightness in order to see the page.

Types of Impairments & Individual Conditions

It might sound slightly repetitive when we say, again, that web users are diverse — but they are! And since learning just how diverse your users are will benefit both your company and your site visitors themselves, it’s necessary to highlight the diverse types of impairments your web users have, too. Each type of impairment boasts a multitude of web users who rely on digital accessibility to receive the information they need. 

Impairments are sorted into various categories dependent on what system or function of the body has been impaired.

Each specific condition falls within one of the following types of impairments

Visual impairments include focusing issues, low vision, color blindness, complete blindness, etc. 

Auditory impairments include low hearing, being unable to hear certain frequencies, complete deafness, etc. 

Speech impairments include stuttering, muscle weakness that makes it difficult to produce speech (dysarthria), muteness, etc. 

Cognitive / Intellectual / Learning impairments include seizures, autism, ADHD, down syndrome, dyslexia, etc. 

Mobility impairments include tremors, losing a limb, muscular dystrophy, restrictions due to cerebral palsy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, etc. 

Keep in mind that impairments and disabilities are not only part of a spectrum, but that some impairments and disabilities can also be invisible — just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

When applied to digital accessibility: 

Just because you can’t see who your site visitors are doesn’t mean they aren’t there trying to engage with your content!

Types of Assistive Technology Devices Used for Digital Spaces

Some web users who have an impairment or disability use assistive technology to help them access digital content. Assistive technology refers to any equipment, whether a physical tool or software, that a person can use to assist them in the completion of a task. Just like a wheelchair will help a person who has a mobility problem, there are specific kinds of assistive technology to help web users access digital content. 

Here are a few examples of digital assistive tech and what they’re used for: 

One of the more commonly known assistive technology devices for using a computer. They read content off of a screen to the user, which is particularly useful for people who have vision impairments.

Examples of screen readers include: 

  • Jaws
  • NVDA
  • VoiceOver

Speech recognition software is software that recognizes a person’s speech and turns it into text. Individuals use them to speak commands to the device, and the device then completes the actions on a computer for them, such as clicking a button or filling out a form. They are particularly useful for people who have mobility issues and are unable to use a traditional keyboard or mouse.

Examples of speech recognition software includes: 

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Windows Speech Recognition

A Braille translation display will interpret the text on a computer screen and systematically display it in Braille on a tactile, refreshable keyboard. Users who are both blind and deaf — and are subsequently unable to use screen readers — use Braille translation displays. 

Examples of Braille translation displays include:

  • Duxbury Braille Translator
  • BrailleMaster

Magnifying softwares or programs allow users to zoom the screen in or out in order to better see information on a computer screen. They are particularly useful for individuals with vision impairments. 

Examples of magnifiers include: 

  • Magnifying Glass Pro
  • Zoomtext
  • iMax for Mac

There are various types of alternative input devices, but they all share the same concept: allowing a web user to use some other action besides using a traditional mouse or keyboard to move around a computer screen and give commands. Different input devices rely on actions like blinking, moving a joystick, or a using a specialty keyboard with larger keys. Alternative input devices benefit a wide range of people, especially those with mobility or cognitive impairments. 

Examples of alternative input devices include: 

  • Brando’s Triple Foot Switch
  • Cadan Assistive Technology’s Eye Blink Switch
  • Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller

Closed Captioning, transcripts, and ASL translations aren’t technically an assitive device — but they are essential accessibility components that web users rely on to engage with digital content. The main difference about these audio alternatives in comparison to the assistive tech listed above is that they must be supplied by the site owner, not operated by the users themselves. No matter what kind of assistive technology a person with a hearing impairment may have, if there isn’t text associated with a video, then that person can’t access the information. 

Assistive technology is absolutely crucial in allowing an individual with an impairment to have access to digital content…but using those devices will only get someone so far if the website they’re trying to navigate is inaccessible in the first place. 

Digital accessibility allows assistive technology devices to work correctly. 

**Please note:  The assistive technology devices that are listed above as examples are solely references to give the reader an idea of what devices are available. Online ADA was not paid to promote those devices and is in no way affiliated with those devices. **

Digital Barriers on Inaccessible Websites

So what types of barriers can inaccessible websites pose to users who have an impairment or disability? And what needs to change in order to fix it? 

Digital accessibility covers a lot of ground, and with that there’s bound to be questions. Below are five examples — broken down into the five categories of impairments — in order to elaborate on what barriers people may face and what accessibility components a website needs to include in order to address them. 

  • Impairment: This person is colorblind. She has trouble seeing the difference between blue and green particularly, although other colors are challenging too.
  • Barrier: Sometimes websites like to use several colors in the same color scheme, which might look good but doesn’t offer much contrast for text, images, and backgrounds. If the words and backgrounds don’t have good enough contrast, this person will just see a blank area. She even misses some important prompts and actions, like buttons telling her what to click or do next, because she simply can’t see them. Websites are getting better about having good color contrast…but individual images, graphs, and PDFs on a website? Not so much.
  • What to include in a website: It’s always best to follow the widely accepted WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standard — the rules are specific and go into exact detail of how to make a website accessible. For this person specifically though, make sure that your website meets minimum WCAG contrast requirements, which is usually a 4.5:1 ratio. Allowing site visitors to change the contrast to low or high is also good, and offering a dark mode is recommended. Including proper color contrast in all components of your business is important, even your creative content like graphs and PDFs. 
  • Impairment: This person lost his hearing over the years from going to loud concerts. He is barely able to hear and is considered mostly deaf. He uses hearing aids, but they only help him hear louder sounds.
  • Barrier: Although websites have been getting better about this, some of them have videos without closed captioning. This person finds that super frustrating, because that means he won’t be able to fully understand the video. He also really hates it when websites only have a phone number to call for customer support, instead of a form to fill out. He has even more difficulty hearing voices over a phone than he does in person — especially softer, higher pitched voices. Options that are only provided as voice-based interactions are a huge problem.
  • What to include in a website: Offering closed captions on all video content is essential. Consider offering a transcript of the video, as well; just make sure that the transcript itself or a link to the transcript is positioned near the video for people to find. Businesses should make sure that web users or customers have multiple ways to contact them, particularly through both verbal and written means. 
  • Impairment: This person found out they had throat cancer last year and is now unable to talk. On top of that, one of the side effects of their chemo treatment makes them weaker than usual, and they are unable to stay mentally focused for long periods of time. They rely on their spouse for a lot of assistance.
  • Barrier: Similarly to the person who has an auditory impairment above, this person gets frustrated when businesses only offer a phone number to call in order to complete certain transactions or get customer support. If it’s an automated call and they can punch in numbers on the keypad, this person can usually make it through — as long as they can concentrate long enough. Most of the time they feel defeated, especially when they try to complete a simple task and the business asks them to verbally confirm something or talk to a representative. Longer forms also pose a problem, as they can be too exhausting to fill out in one sitting.
  • What to include in a website: Make all forms that a person needs to fill out short and to the point — discard any information or questions that aren’t absolutely essential to what you are trying to achieve. As stated above, you should also ensure that web visitors have multiple ways to contact your business in order to best suit their needs. Including site navigation that is simple and obvious will also help make it clear where users need to go in order to get the information they need, which is great for someone who suffers from extreme fatigue.
  • Impairment: This person has dyslexia and has struggled to read since he was young. He gets frustrated with how long it takes him to read, but he needs to read slowly in order to catch a lot of words. He tries to stay calm, but can sometimes lose his patience. He prefers to listen to audiobooks and watch videos over reading actual text.
  • Barrier: Some websites use a small font size or a font that has little space between the individual letters, which jumbles up the words even easier while he reads. On top of that, he has trouble reading long or complex pages on a website, making reading directions particularly difficult when it’s a longer process. One of his biggest pet peeves is a long list of directions or a long form to fill out — the first, which can be too complex to read, and the second, which can be too hard and time consuming to submit. His dyslexia is bad enough that he’s started using a screen reader at times, even though he can see — the problem is, some websites don’t have proper labels associated with focusable elements for his screen reader to read, so he can miss entire sections of essential content. When that happens, he’s forced to struggle through and try to read it.
  • What to include in a website: Always make your fonts on your website large enough for people to read with ease — and keep your fonts at least size 16pt on the mobile version, particularly. Keep forms short, simple, and to the point. Offering a screen magnifier would be beneficial to make the words even bigger, and consider adding a component to customize the font and letter spacing. Include proper labels on your website too so a screen reader can navigate through it easily. 
  • Impairment: This person has Parkinson’s disease, which affects her ability to move. Her body is stiff, especially in the mornings, and she has tremors in both her hands — but her dominant hand is worse. Because of her stiffness and tremors, she moves more slowly than most people. She also experiences severe fatigue and sometimes gets dizzy or feels like she will fall.
  • Barrier: People may typically be able to navigate a website by using a mouse, but that’s hard for someone with fatigue and tremors like this person. She doesn’t have a specialty mouse to stabilize her tremors yet, so she mostly relies on voice commands and a keyboard with larger buttons to navigate websites. The problem is, she’s noticing a lot of websites aren’t keyboard accessible — when she tries to get to buttons and form fields with the keyboard, not all of them are in the right order. Sometimes they don’t even show up at all. Another big problem she has is when there are time limits on forms — fatigue and tremors cause her to move slowly, so forms that time out only cause more frustration and more unnecessary fatigue.
  • What to include in a website:  It is especially important to make sure your website is tab navigable for people who use a keyboard. Every part of the user interface that can be accessed and operated with a mouse should also be able to be accessed and operated solely using a keyboard. The structure of the website should follow the correct hierarchy so all the content goes in the right order as someone moves down the page. As a rule of thumb, don’t use time limits on any forms. 

The detailed examples above illustrate several problems that web users can encounter when trying to navigate through a website. Of course, there are more than five barriers people can encounter on a website — much more. Always consult the WCAG for detailed recommendations and best practices. 

By incorporating digital accessibility into as many websites as possible, web users will have increased (and hopefully complete) access to all digital content and information regardless of impairment or disability. 

Digital Accessibility is Beneficial for Everyone

At the beginning of this article we asked, “Who exactly benefits from digital accessibility?”

It was a bit of a trick question, because the answer is…everyone.

Accessibility benefits people with: 

  1. Impairments, disabilities, or both
  2. Permanent, total, partial, temporary, or episodic impairments/disabilities
  3. Situational limitations
  4. Visual, auditory, speech, cognitive, or mobility impairments/disabilities
  5. Assistive technology devices (and those without)
  6. No impairment or disability at all

Now, you might be thinking, “…wait. People without an impairment or disability benefit from digital accessibility too?”

And yes, they most definitely do. 

Digital accessibility benefits all web users because it enhances a website’s overall usability. Essentially, that means that by making specific components within your website accessible — such as creating explanatory text for buttons and links or proper hierarchical structure of your menu options and headings — all of your site visitors will have a better, easier, and quicker time gathering information. An accessible and usable website will lower people’s chances of getting frustrated, encountering problems, or being unable to accomplish an essential action like purchasing a product. 

Another reason why digital accessibility is beneficial for everyone is a little simpler: the probability of a person developing some form of impairment increases with age. And while the likelihood increases with age, there are people with disabilities and impairments of every age: the World Bank Organization states that there are roughly 1 billion people in the world who have some form of disability. Odds are, digital accessibility will affect you or someone you know at one point or another in your life. 

If you make necessary accessibility changes to your website, all users will benefit.

How to Become Digitally Accessible

In today’s day and age, everyday life is intertwined with online access — we work, learn, connect, engage, stream, and purchase online. Because of improved access and technology, web users today are more diverse than ever before, too — a trend that will only continue to grow as technology continues to advance. When digital use has become as intertwined with daily life as it is today, the last thing people should have to worry about, struggle to do, or be forced to advocate for is the ability to complete normal, daily tasks. 

Too often, companies emphasize how digital accessibility helps blind users, only to gloss over all of the other individuals who benefit from — and rely on — accessible content. It’s extremely important to recognize how digital accessibility helps blind users, but it’s just as crucial to recognize the very wide and diverse range of people who are unable to access essential content. By understanding the variety of people who rely on accessible content, more businesses will be pushed to recognize them — and their right to equal treatment and access to public information — as essential. Without implementing digital accessibility, unequal access and a lack of inclusion will continue. 

So how do we fix it? 

The responsibility to provide all individuals with equal digital access — and subsequently incorporating digital accessibility into their practices — typically falls upon businesses themselves. To do that, a business must ensure that all parts of its website are carefully scanned and that all problematic elements they find are fixed. 

The best way to make your website accessible is to go through the digital accessibility certification process, which will typically involve both automatic and manual auditing in order to find all of the inaccessible points in a website. While other solutions — particularly ones that rely solely on automated remediation — can find a percentage of accessibility issues, they will never be able to find them all. Manual, human auditing and remediation is the only way to guarantee that your website is accessible, which is what sets the certification process apart. After your website has been scanned and remediated, you will receive a certification of accessibility — giving your web users the essential access they need and cementing your position as a supporter of inclusion, to boot. 

Not only will improving your accessibility make everyone’s experience easier and more efficient — you’ll also be including essential support for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to interact with your website at all. 

Why trust Online ADA’s certification process?

  • We’re members of the W3C, the organization that wrote the go-to accessibility standards across the globe: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  • We’re also members of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). 
  • We’re a leader in digital accessibility and have years of experience working with companies large and small — all while supporting digital accessibility and advocating for equal access and inclusion for all users. 
  • We not only identify accessibility issues for other companies — we also cheer on, support, and teach affiliated companies about digital accessibility standards and strategies, too.

Learn more about Online ADA’s certification process or contact us to discuss your accessibility needs and options today. 

***Please note: We are not tax experts and this does not constitute legal advice in any way. To confirm your eligibility, we recommend you contact your tax advisor. 

As the number of ADA accessibility lawsuits continues to rise, more and more companies are racing to update their websites and web content in order to get proper legal protection. For smaller businesses in particular, however, another dilemma can prove even more problematic:

How are you supposed to afford to fix all of the accessibility issues in the first place?

The price tag associated with web accessibility updates is a barrier in and of itself to many small businesses, preventing them from providing essential accessibility options and obtaining valuable legal protection. Attempting to force or find space within a budget can be tricky though, not to mention stressful — and sometimes impossible.

With the looming threat of litigation and a hefty accessibility price tag providing a sturdy barrier, it’s no wonder that some businesses feel overwhelmed and trapped. Luckily, there’s a way to tackle both issues at once.

The IRS offers a tax incentive called the Disabled Access Credit to eligible small businesses that make necessary accessibility modifications to support people with disabilities. Even better, it applies to both physical and digital spaces — meaning that any accessibility updates a small business makes to its website would likely qualify.

What business would refuse an opportunity to save some money?

If you’re a small business that has spent money in the past year on updating your website’s accessibility, you could qualify for the Disabled Access Credit.

And if you’re a company that’s been wanting to address accessibility issues — or know that you need to — this information might be just the push you need to jump right in.

What is the Disabled Access Credit, and Who Qualifies for it?

The Disabled Access Credit is an IRS tax credit that can be claimed annually by eligible companies. The purpose of the credit is to help small businesses pay for their accessibility modifications in order to become more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the IRS, “any business that for the previous tax year had either revenues of $1 million or less OR 30 or fewer full-time workers may take advantage of this credit.”

It is important to note that this is a tax credit, not a tax deduction, meaning that the IRS will reimburse a company for associated expenses from that year. For more information on the differences between credits and deductions, the ADA offers a Tax Incentive & Compliance Fact Sheet. For information about different ADA tax incentives in general, view the ADA’s Quick Tips.

What Expenses are Covered?

Most work done to improve upon a company’s existing accessibility will be covered by the credit, as long as the company meets the eligibility requirements listed above. It’s very important to note that the tax credit can only be used for modifications to a business’s accessibility, not for new construction overall.

Specifically, the following expenses are covered by the Disabled Access Credit:

  • The removal of barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities
  • Providing qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals
  • Providing qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments, or
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities.

Websites that aren’t accessible can limit the options available to users with disabilities, sometimes preventing them from completing a transaction or accessing the website completely. Addressing a website’s accessibility involves finding and then remediating any issues within the code of the website itself, resulting in a barrier-free experience for all users.

A truly accessible website will also provide alternative methods of interaction or materials for users with different impairments. With the distinct results and support that it provides, digital accessibility modifications clearly qualify as a covered expense.

How Do I Calculate and Claim My Credit?

The Disabled Access Credit comes with certain parameters to keep in mind: a business can only claim 50% of its accessibility expenses for the credit, businesses have to spend a minimum of $250 for the credit to go into effect, and all potential credit is capped at $5,000 maximum.

In order to calculate the credit, simply subtract $250 from your business’s total spending, and then divide that amount by 2.

Here’s a more in-depth example:

  1. Calculate your total annual amount spent on accessibility modifications.
    • Ex: $7,500
  2. Subtract the minimum amount required ($250) from the total.
    • Ex: $7,500 – $250 = $7,250
  3. Divide your total from Step 2 in half.
    • Ex: $7,250 / 2 = $3,625
  4. You’ve got your total claim amount!
    • Ex: $3,625

If you spent over $10,250 in accessibility updates in the last year, keep in mind that the tax credit caps at $5,000. Since the Disabled Access Credit is an annual credit, businesses may claim it each year as long as they continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

To claim the credit, businesses need to fill out the IRS Form 8826. All businesses should confirm their eligibility with their tax advisor before claiming.

How Can I Make My Website Accessible?

If you’re a small business, the threat of litigation can be especially scary — expensive lawsuits can be more than enough to force a business into bankruptcy. Even further, it is essential that web users with disabilities have access to the same digital spaces and content as users without disabilities. The Disabled Access Credit will allow small businesses to provide the necessary support to all users and help create a more inclusive world.

The best way to make your website accessible is to go through full, manual remediation and receive an official accessibility certification. While the price may vary, the Disabled Access Credit will significantly reduce your total cost — and with certification being the only solution that offers 100% ADA compliance by conforming to the internationally accepted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), there’s no better answer to search for.

Online ADA will help your company through the certification process. Our process includes manual auditing done by human auditors, and will make your website comply with the ADA to the highest degree possible — a result that only certification can guarantee. At the end of the year, your company will then be able to claim the remediation work done on your website as part of the Disabled Access Credit, and the IRS will reimburse you for your accessibility costs.

After claiming the tax credit from your certification process, the total cost will be nothing compared to the compliance and litigation protection you’ll receive from addressing your accessibility!

Why trust Online ADA’s certification process?

  • We’re members of the W3C, the organization that wrote the go-to accessibility standards across the globe: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  • We’re also members of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
  • We’re a global leader in digital accessibility, and have years of experience working with companies large and small — all while supporting digital accessibility and advocating for equal access and inclusion for all users.
  • We not only identify accessibility issues for other companies — we also cheer on, support, and teach affiliated companies about digital accessibility standards and strategies, too.

Learn more about Online ADA’s certification process or contact us to discuss your accessibility needs and options today.

The next AODA deadline is just around the corner -- is your website meeting the requirements?

Complete accessibility everywhere, for everyone — by 2025.

That’s the goal of the Canadian Province of Ontario. And when Ontario reaches that goal, people with disabilities will have the widespread accessibility they need.

Achieving the goal of complete accessibility in Ontario hinges on the AODA — the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act — and the step-by-step requirements and deadlines it lays out. This step-by-step implementation process ensures that each and every business is able to tailor their company to the AODA accessibility requirements at a manageable pace.

The next AODA deadline is just around the corner, but luckily, we have some good news: it just got a 6-month extension.

For all businesses in Ontario with 20+ employees, the new deadline to submit an AODA compliance report is June 30th, 2021. (The original deadline was December 31st, 2020).

If you were stressed about being able to meet the compliance deadline or were unable to even start addressing your company’s accessibility issues due to remediation services being completely booked up, now is the time to use the extension to your advantage and address your company’s accessibility.

Need an AODA refresher? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming deadline, including a rundown of the AODA itself and what it means for your website.

What is the AODA and How Does it Work?

The AODA is a Canadian anti-discrimination law that was passed in 2005 for the Province of Ontario. Similar to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 (ODA), it supports equal opportunities and treatment for people with disabilities. The AODA improved and expanded upon the accessibility requirements businesses must follow, and replaced the ODA altogether.

The AODA applies to all types of businesses in Ontario — including private and public businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. It’s organized into 5 categories that every business must address:

  1. Employment
  2. Transportation
  3. Customer Service
  4. Design of Public Spaces
  5. Information and Communications

Each category includes specific accessibility requirements, along with corresponding time frames and deadlines to meet in order to verify compliance.

Since the AODA went into effect 15 years ago, the first 4 categories have been incorporated into common business practice. The 5th and final category, Information and Communications, incorporates a 2-step process that specifically concerns websites and digital content.

The upcoming deadline addresses the second Information and Communications step, which covers more in-depth digital accessibility requirements that businesses must meet — and that means there’s no room for error when it comes to your company’s website, web content, and digital accessibility.

AODA Web Compliance

The June 2021 deadline includes digital accessibility requirements that only apply to businesses of a certain size. According to the Ontario government, “you must make new and significantly refreshed public websites accessible if you are a private or nonprofit organization with 50+ employees or a public sector organization.”

In order to meet both steps for the Information and Communications category, all websites and web content must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. The WCAG are internationally recognized as the go-to accessibility standards for all web content and were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international organization of accessibility and development experts.

The W3C rolls out updated versions of the WCAG on a routine basis, expanding and improving them as technology advances and accessibility best practices multiply. The newest version is version 2.1 — and version 2.2 is in the works. However, the AODA only mandates that businesses comply with version 2.0 (as of the publishing of this article). In addition to having updated versions, the WCAG are broken down into 3 different levels of success criteria for websites to meet: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA.

  • Level A includes all criteria that is absolutely essential for accessibility — meaning that a website that doesn’t satisfy any of the criteria could not be accessed even with significant levels of assistive technology use.
  • Level AA is for criteria that aren’t quite essential, but are important for improving a user’s ability to interact with the site without encountering significant barriers and frustration.
  • Level AAA includes the criteria that, if incorporated, would offer the best current way to make websites and web content actually user-friendly with the fewest barriers possible.

The majority of businesses that are mandated by law to follow the WCAG are typically required to meet WCAG Level AA requirements. The AODA Information and Communications section includes 2 digital accessibility deadlines concerning the WCAG:

  • As of January 1st, 2014, all new public websites and any content published after January 1st, 2012 must meet the WCAG 2.0 Level A requirements. These requirements are the simplest of the WCAG guidelines to address. There are 25 Level A success criteria to meet.
  • As of January 1st, 2021, all public websites and any content published after January 1st, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA — excluding the success criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions). The Level AA requirements are more complex, and therefore require more time and skill to fix. Excluding the 2 requirements above, there are 10 Level AA success criteria that businesses must meet.

While the January 2021 deadline is now only one month away, it will still be 6 months until businesses have to submit accessibility reports proving their compliance, thanks to the extension. If you’re a business that just found out about the deadline — or one that has been panicking about the longer waitlists at compliance companies because of the tight deadline and an abundance of worried Ontarian businesses — this extension is invaluable. It also means there are only 6 short months left to make sure you’re in compliance and submit your report.

Ensuring your business meets all 37 accessibility criteria — both Level A and Level AA of the WCAG — is essential for complying with the upcoming AODA deadline.

Noncompliance Penalties

The AODA is meant to create a more inclusive and accessible way of life for all Ontarian citizens. If you overlook the AODA and do not comply by the deadline, you and your company could face severe financial penalties:

  • Single individuals can be fined up to $50,000 per day for each day the offence continues to occur, including directors and officers of noncompliant companies who hold any ethical or financial responsibility.
  • Corporations can be fined up to $100,000 per day for each day the offence continues to occur.

While the penalties above are maximum amounts, it isn’t wise to brush off any financial penalty associated with noncompliance. All noncompliance is risky — and ultimately, it’s not helping people with disabilities.

Incorporating digital accessibility, and accessibility in general, is a necessary step we must take in order to create an inclusive world for all people. Currently, there are 2.6 million people in Ontario who have some type of disability — including them throughout all types of business will boost profitability and create a welcoming and equal community.

The sooner you address your website accessibility and can verify it through a compliance report the better.

But what’s the best way to make sure you’re following all of the AODA requirements?

The Next Step: Professional Accessibility Certification

In order to comply with the AODA, all businesses must make sure their website meets the WCAG. The specific criteria included in the guidelines are both technical and nuanced, so knowing if you’re following and implementing them correctly can be tricky.

Because the WCAG is a complex and technical, code-level guide to be used for website remediation, it’s best to have a developer do the work of updating your website’s accessibility. If you have a developer on your team, you need to make sure they know the in’s and out’s of the WCAG and digital accessibility first — not all developers will know how to properly address digital accessibility issues. To ensure your website conforms to the WCAG and is fully compliant with the AODA, it’s best to hire a digital accessibility expert or professional to do the remediation work themselves.

Achieving AODA compliance is a task that shouldn’t be left up to chance or guesswork. If you use a third party accessibility company, you will be spared the stress, confusion, and worry of wondering if your website is “accessible enough.”

Because the truth is, “accessible enough” isn’t enough — in order to comply with the AODA, you must have a website and web content that is 100% accessible.

Hiring a digital accessibility expert is one of the best and most reliable ways to meet the WCAG and comply with the AODA, especially since the 2021 deadline concerns the more complex WCAG Level AA criteria. An accessibility expert — like Online ADA — will bring your website up to snuff, offering the highest compliance results available through a process that involves human auditors checking, auditing, and remediating the actual code of your website itself. This is called the certification process, and it is the most reliable WCAG accessibility solution you’ll find. Getting certified will minimize your AODA legal risk and create a truly accessible digital space for all users.

Online ADA offers the best solution for web accessibility certification and AODA compliance. Our in-depth certification process includes more (and better) perks than any other service you’ll find:

  • An extremely fast turnaround time — a whole 2 – 3 times faster than the industry standard, in fact, thanks to our full auditing and production staff.
  • The offer to benefit from our Ongoing Compliance Management, which allows you to continually stay on top of your website’s accessibility. Our OCM is the industry’s best value, by a country mile.
  • True unlimited technical and customer support — unlike our competitors, who will require you to buy blocks of customer support hours.
  • Absolutely free litigation support — unlike our competitors, who will bill you by the hour.
  • Access to our Training Academy curriculum — because supporting our clients and increasing their own accessibility knowledge and skills is just as important as the work we do on a website itself.
  • In-depth monthly reports from our Compliance Auditing Platform software to keep you up to date on all of your accessibility progress.
  • World-class personalized support with your assigned Client Care Consultant who acts as your primary point of contact on your project.

The extended deadline is approaching fast, and the possible repercussions for being noncompliant are intimidating. Even with the deadline extension, it is imperative that businesses make sure that all web content meets the WCAG in order to comply with the AODA as soon as possible. High demand can increase waiting lists and turnaround times with professional compliance companies. Luckily, Online ADA has very competitive prices and a speedy turnaround time — the best you’ll find in the industry — and the results say it all.
Ontario is so close to becoming accessible to everyone. Let Online ADA help you get the rest of the way there.

Contact us today to discuss your unique business needs and how Online ADA can help you meet them.

It can be hard to know which product or service to choose in the sea of accessibility compliance options. With profitability, litigation, and equality on the line, it’s an especially important decision, too. You can’t afford to choose the wrong option.

Not only will your company still face the risk of litigation with a digital product that doesn’t offer full compliance — a product that doesn’t offer full compliance will also fail to make your website accessible for users with disabilities…which is quite literally the main problem that any and all accessibility solutions should be fixing.

But how are you supposed to find the right solution? How will you know if that solution provides the results it promises? How do you make sure that you’re not wasting your time — and your money?

As you consider the different accessibility solutions available to you, you’ll notice a variety of software-based solutions that claim to offer extremely high rates of WCAG conformance, if not 100% completely — but how many of them can actually follow through on their lofty promise?

None.

No software-only solution will result in 100% accessibility compliance…but there is one other type of accessibility solution that does:

Manual remediation and certification.

Becoming digitally accessible isn’t as simple as checking some boxes, signing a document, or going through the motions to earn a virtual badge — it’s about the process of becoming compliant: the time and effort you put in to create an experience that is accessible, usable, and equal for everyone. And of course, it’s also about the results that they provide.

Embracing the process of becoming digitally accessible — and not cutting corners with semi-accessible software — is an important step we must take in our society’s journey toward full inclusion and equality, and it’s an important step for businesses to take in order to maximize profitability and ensure litigation protection.

At the end of the day, the purpose of this article is to inform you that choosing the easy option of automated, software-based products will not solve 100% of your accessibility problems, even if they give you a partial solution. A partial solution won’t do much for you, and definitely won’t fully support users with disabilities.

Going through the remediation and certification process is the only way you’ll truly enhance your company’s accessibility, and it’s the only solution that will actually benefit site users with disabilities.

What reasons, specifically, make the certification process the best accessibility solution available? We’re glad you asked.

1. Manual, Human-Powered Auditing and Certification is the Only Solution that Offers Complete, 100% Accessibility

In order to create an accessible website that can truly support disabled users, companies need to comply with all of the recommended accessibility standards. Businesses must rely on the manual auditing, remediation, and certification process to earn those results.

To earn your accessibility certification, all violations must be identified and then remediated in accordance with the WCAG — the digital accessibility guidelines that have been internationally accepted as the go-to accessibility standard.

The WCAG currently cover 13 types of accessibility issues, which are subsequently broken down into specific criteria for success. Since the criteria are extremely technical and nuanced, an understanding of context, interpretation, and intervention is absolutely essential — functions that only human beings have the capacity to perform. Unfortunately, that means that AI technology and automated remediation software simply cannot catch all of the corresponding issues by themselves. Automated software can be used to complement the remediation work that human auditors do, though, creating a very thorough process with the highest accessibility results possible.

Unlike any other accessibility solution, certification leverages both automated technology and human auditors to catch the highest number of violations possible — remediating them to ensure full conformance with the WCAG and the most accessible web experience possible for disabled users.

If you use a product that only fixes half of the accessibility issues on your website, you might think that it’s better than doing nothing — but better doesn’t mean that your website is actually accessible or usable. Software-only solutions can never ensure high levels of accessibility. Accessibility certification is the only solution that can.

2. Certification Ensures the Highest Level of Litigation Protection Possible

Not being digitally compliant comes with serious repercussions, most notably in the form of litigation. The majority of lawsuits tied to digital accessibility are filed on the basis of discrimination, and accessibility/discrimination lawsuits can get expensive. Fast.

It might be obvious that completely disregarding digital accessibility will put you at a high risk of litigation, but it’s important to emphasize that it is by no means the only risky move — using a product that doesn’t offer 100% compliance will put you at extreme risk too.

And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense why:

If a website is only 50% accessible, a disabled user faces a 50/50 chance — which are highly unlikely odds, and nowhere near equal treatment — of being able to complete a transaction, get the information they need, or even potentially access the webpage in the first place.

That disparity is more than enough for a lawsuit.

If you’re skeptical about the cost of becoming digitally accessible in general, rest assured: it’s worth it. Not only will your company benefit in multiple ways from being digitally accessible, it will also cost substantially less to pay for remediation and certification than having to pay for a whole litigation case due to noncompliance…typically hundreds of thousands of dollars less.

Partial, automated solutions leave some accessibility issues unaddressed. Unaddressed accessibility issues equal holes and gaps in WCAG conformance. Even a single hole, gap, or issue that proves your website does not meet the WCAG standards automatically puts you at risk for an accessibility lawsuit.

Accessibility certification is the only process that will verify your website’s WCAG conformance through in-depth auditing and remediation at the individual code level — the kind of remediation that will give your company bulletproof litigation protection.

3. Getting Certified Supports Real, Actual Digital Inclusion and Equality -- It's Not Just an Empty Promise

According to the CDC, roughly 61 million American adults — or 1 in 4 people — have some form of permanent or temporary disability. It’s crucial to understand that people with disabilities are regular people who rely on technology, the internet, and online interactions for day-to-day activities. It’s also crucial to recognize the difficulty too many disabled users face when navigating online spaces.

In fact, 71% of web users with disabilities will leave a website if it’s too difficult to use.

A digital accessibility certification isn’t just a piece of paper filled with empty, half-met promises and a declaration to “be better.” Becoming digitally accessible is an intricate, in-depth process that involves human and AI powered remediation at the individual code level, meaning it isn’t a simple overnight fix. And it’s definitely not a temporary band-aid.

Accessibility certification is a process that creates equal and inclusive spaces for all web users — a process that supports the effort to construct a more equal digital world and that has the results to back up its claims.

Ultimately, businesses should get their accessibility certification because it’s an important moral and ethical step to take — and simply the right thing to do.

The Accessibility Experts You Can Rely On

Online ADA offers the industry’s most thorough and effective certification service available. We believe in maximizing the value we provide to our clients, and we achieve that in several ways:

  • Unlimited Technical Support: Yep, you heard that correctly. You’ll pay for customer and technical support time with our competitors — but not Online ADA. We provide technical and customer support throughout your remediation process to ensure your developer knows how to solve all the accessibility issues on your website. 
  • Litigation Support at No Extra Charge: You heard that right, too. If anyone ever questions the accessibility of your website, we’ll intervene “off-the-clock” to review those claims, determine their validity, and refute claims when possible. We also provide free remediation for any claims that are legitimate.
  • The Most Thorough Approach to Auditing: We’re the only accessibility consultancy that provides 3 complete, top-down audits of your website before issuing our independent certification. 

There is No "Better Time" to Wait for -- Address Your Digital Accessibility Now

People who have disabilities don’t “do without” when it comes to using the internet in our extremely digital world — they rely on consistent online access to do the same daily tasks and activities as any other person. It’s time we recognize digital access and inclusion as an essential part of every person’s life.

Without complete accessibility, digital spaces will create barriers and obstacles for users with disabilities, prohibiting them from accessing the information and performing the essential online tasks they need to live their lives. These digital spaces will fail disabled users.

Ecommerce is becoming more and more of an essential platform for consumers, and digital inclusion is growing in response, as is the number of countries across the world that are incorporating digital accessibility into their anti-discrimination laws. While there is already a risk of litigation for noncompliance, it is safe to assume that the risk will only increase as accessibility laws become more specific and digital inclusion becomes a more recognized practice.

If companies wait for a “better time” to remediate and certify their accessibility, it will likely come at a much higher cost — either in the form of an expensive lawsuit or with raised prices due to higher future demand. Now is the time to improve your digital accessibility.

The only way to become 100% digitally accessible and provide users with an equal experience is to go through the manual remediation and certification process…not to mention it’s also the only way to protect your business from expensive accessibility litigation and boost your company’s profitability by including all users, even those with disabilities.

Online ADA offers the best solution to digital accessibility compliance: in-depth, thorough, and accurate remediation powered by both AI technology software and human auditing professionals.

During the certification process we will audit your company’s website up to 3 full, separate times in order to catch any and all accessibility issues. We will work with your company to craft an official accessibility statement that announces your dedication to equal access and commitment to continued digital accessibility. In addition to remediation and certification, we offer Ongoing Certification Management to maintain and keep on top of your website’s accessibility — it’s our most valuable certification tool, with the industry’s best value.

And we can’t forget to mention our extremely competitive pricing and a turnaround time that is 2 – 3 times faster than the industry standard.

Why trust Online ADA’s certification process?

  • We’re members of the W3C, the organization that wrote the WCAG that are accepted as the go-to accessibility standards across the globe.
  • We’re also members of the IAAP, of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals.
  • We’re a global leader in digital accessibility, and have years of experience working with companies large and small — all while supporting digital accessibility and advocating for equal access and inclusion for all users.
  • We not only work to remediate accessibility issues for other companies — we also cheer on, support, and teach companies about digital accessibility and how to fix it, too.

Learn more about Online ADA’s certification process or contact us to discuss your accessibility needs and options today.

There’s no debating it: addressing digital accessibility is essential if we want to achieve true inclusion and equal access for all web users. Each and every company should strive to meet digital accessibility standards for both their websites and applications.

…but what exactly should a business look for when it starts to tackle their own accessibility? What does a company need?

Businesses need a way to ensure a higher level of accessible content, a way to learn about digital accessibility and how it works, and a way to keep an eye on the changing and updating requirements. If your business also happens to be starting its digital accessibility journey as well, it’s easy to become intimidated or lost in the sea of accessibility options and information.

One of the most intimidating things about initially tackling digital accessibility is that it is a moving target — the standards are always improving and the interpretation of the law is constantly in flux. That means that a lot of companies don’t quite know where to begin when it comes to fixing their accessibility issues.

Common questions or concerns that most companies have at the start of their accessibility journey include:

  • How are we supposed to meet the expected accessibility requirements if they are consistently evolving?
  • As an ethical, moral company, how can we ensure more accessible content for users and support equal access and opportunity?
  • As a business that needs to follow the law and rules of best practice, how do we address these requirements and lower the chance of expensive litigation without spending a fortune?

Each question above is an important concern that must be addressed, especially if time or financial constraints are involved. What’s a good answer, though, in the sea of options?

Let us introduce you to Max Access.

Max Access isn’t a software that offers a single solution — it’s an entire accessibility toolkit that includes a variety of components to help improve your website’s accessibility. It offers both immediate accessibility results upon installation as well as daily scans and updates powered by AI technology in order to consistently better your site and make it more digitally accessible than before.

Max Access also offers valuable resources for users with disabilities, allowing them to better navigate your website. The software shows immediate and prolonged results, and is so much more than some of the other overlays or widgets you may see on the market. In addition to addressing your company’s accessibility issues, Max Access will help you and your company understand how and where accessibility issues show up on your website and how to solve both the simple and more complex accessibility issues you come across.

Whether you’re a business that is just starting its accessibility journey or a company that is looking for a product with simply more to offer, Max Access is an invaluable resource that will boost your accessibility.

Want to know exactly how and why? Look at the 4 worthwhile reasons below:

1. Max Access Immediately Boosts Accessibility -- Including on Mobile Devices

First and foremost, Max Access is a tool that prioritizes, promotes, and supports website and browser-based software application accessibility. After downloading a single line of code, Max Access will immediately address and remediate some of the simpler, yet still very essential, accessibility issues on your website or application.

After the initial download, it will then scan your website every 24 hours — consistently going through a more in-depth remediation process powered by AI technology. These daily scans will catch a variety of accessibility issues, even generating invaluable content such as alt-tags and captions for images to help visually impaired users. Best of all, your company’s accessibility will consistently improve while using Max Access due to the AI technology that powers the daily scanning software — machine learning allows our software to improve itself as it remediates more content. That means the more Max Access improves from fixing accessibility issues on your website, the more your website will improve, too.

Another crucial Max Access feature that boosts accessibility upon download is the Accessibility Toolbar, which pops up on the screen and allows users with disabilities to set their accessibility preferences. The toolbar includes useful front-end accessibility options for web users including tab navigation, text to speech options, contrast options, and more.

One of the biggest issues with most automatic accessibility software is that they don’t work with mobile devices — and in an increasingly digital and mobile world, that’s a very important aspect to address. Max Access resolves this issue.

The Accessibility Toolbar works just as well on mobile devices as it does on desktops or tablets. The toolbar adjusts itself to fit the layout of the screen that it’s on, and offers the same accessibility options to all users.

While the automated remediation and Accessibility Toolbar won’t find or solve every single accessibility issue, it significantly reduces them and helps prove that you are striving for inclusion and accessibility for all.

Max Access doesn’t just stop there, though, like other accessibility overlays or widgets. It goes one better.

2. Detailed Reports with Code-Level Recommendations Offer Crucial Data and Practical Next Steps

Despite ambitious marketing claims by some accessibility overlay companies, there is one unavoidable fact: accessibility overlays simply cannot identify and automatically fix 100% of compliance issues.

Why?

Some accessibility issues might be simpler fixes, but others can be very complex. Because of that complexity, many of the WCAG accessibility guidelines require human intervention, interpretation, and an understanding of context in order to determine if an accessibility violation is present. 

The immediate conundrum is clear: overlays and widgets alone cannot complete code-level remediation, but full manual remediation is a time consuming, and sometimes expensive, process. What do you choose? Max Access has an answer for this issue as well.

Our AI-driven scans and Accessibility Toolbar succeed in finding the highest number of accessibility issues automated remediation can get — and for the other portion, we’ve incorporated an invaluable tool to pinpoint a website’s accessibility issues right at the code level to fast-track and address manual remediation.

In other words, Max Access not only automatically remediates many compliance issues — it also alerts you to the violations that AI alone cannot fix, allowing you to review and fix them manually. 

Max Access scans a website every 24 hours, and then generates an accessibility report each week. This report is an overview of the number of accessibility issues on your website with and without using the Max Access software and automatic remediation. With the Max Access Pro version specifically, you will receive an additional, detailed accessibility report that breaks down the issues first to the page level, and then to the specific code level and problematic element itself.

The Pro version offers detailed individual page reports that pinpoint the exact part of code that is causing an accessibility issue, which accessibility standard it violates, and even which WCAG rule it falls under. This additional report offers invaluable data that will not only save your company time, but will also tell you exactly what you need to fix through manual remediation. For companies with their own development team or even some coding knowledge, they are then able to address a decent percentage of their own accessibility issues.

And again…Max Access doesn’t just stop there.

3. Supplemental Training Educates and Empowers Your Team and Your Company

We understand that educating and empowering your team is the best way to get any job done, including understanding the WCAG requirements and how they apply to your website’s code.

That’s why we include educational WCAG walkthrough videos with Max Access Pro.

What exactly does that mean?

In addition to the detailed reports that pinpoint the problematic code element and the accessibility standard that indicates why it is an issue, Max Access Pro includes educational and instructional videos to help clients understand why the issue within the code is a problem in the first place and how it relates to a user’s experience. This will give your team a better understanding of the accessibility issue itself and also how to resolve it.

Max Access — as well as ABILITY — recognizes that some companies have their own development teams and the ability to manually remediate at least part of their accessibility issues themselves.

In order to truly advance digital accessibility, Max Access dedicates itself to educating clients about digital accessibility along with the remediation process. Ultimately, we believe it all comes down to giving a client as much control as possible over the remediation process — and that control is exactly why we included even more of the best, nuanced features possible in Max Access Pro.

4. Advanced Management Options and Customizable Features Give You (and the User) Superior, In-Depth Control

Each client comes to the table with a different skillset and awareness of digital accessibility, just as each web user, with or without a disability, navigates a website or application in a different way. Max Access Pro includes features specifically designed for a custom experience both on the front and back end of the software, truly benefitting all parties involved.

On the back end, businesses have the ability to not only view the specific line of code with accessibility issues through the detailed report — they also have the ability to manage and change alt-tags and ARIA labels. AI technology automatically generates the text and captions for images, but the Max Access dashboard will also have all images organized and displayed so you can access and change the alt-tags as your company sees fit. Similarly, Max Access offers automated solutions for ARIA labels that can be altered or replaced, giving your company true management and control of the Max Access software. 

On the front end, site users will be able to customize and set their site preferences through the Accessibility Toolbar. This includes users with disabilities who would benefit from the toolbar’s options (including screen reader options, text/font options, color contrast options, and more), but it also includes users who don’t need the software at all and prefer to keep the toolbar turned off. But why would we include users who might not want to use our software in our design?

A common complaint about automated remediation and overlays is that they can interfere, interrupt, or override a disabled user’s personal assistive technology/device — sometimes even forcing them to use a software they do not prefer. We addressed this issue head on.

The reason why most automatic software overrides assistive technology is because it is invisible to a user’s assistive device itself, so the user can’t detect its presence in order to turn the software on or off. The front-end Accessibility Toolbar that is included in Max Access is not invisible to assistive technology, meaning that all assistive devices will be able to turn the toolbar on or off in order to change preferences. If a user with an assistive device does not wish to use the toolbar due to pre-programmed settings on their own device, Max Access will not force them to use the Accessibility Toolbar instead. The toolbar was and is designed to offer additional support for users with disabilities, giving them the ability and power for extended control of a website’s navigation, content, and layout.

To put it simply — for users with disabilities who do require tailored accessible content, the toolbar is a valuable component. For users who already require assistive devices for any daily task or for users without a disability who don’t require additional accessibility help, the toolbar can be turned off and tucked away in the corner of the screen — meaning that a user’s experience will not be interrupted by the Accessibility Toolbar if they do not wish to use it.

The Ultimate Accessibility Toolkit

Businesses must recognize digital accessibility as an essential piece of the equality puzzle.

Without it, digital spaces will fall short. They will fail users with disabilities — making them unable to perform daily tasks, access vital information, or have the same opportunities as other users.

In an increasingly digital world, that simply won’t do.

Max Access will immediately boost your digital accessibility and offer valuable resources for your users that allow them to better navigate your website. Its AI technology tackles smaller WCAG-related issues, and the Max Access Pro detailed reports then provide crucial data and information to support additional manual remediation.

Utilizing Max Access to the fullest extent can boost and increase a business’s accessibility substantially — and offer valuable accessibility options to help avoid litigation. Max Access is a fantastic place to start your accessibility journey, especially before or during your certification process.

If you want to work on getting a full, official accessibility certification and bulletproof litigation protection, Max Access can bridge the accessibility gap and act as a stepping stone while you wait for the certification process to be completed.

Max Access is an affordable monthly software that can be customized to address your accessibility needs, and the value it holds for your company is clear — Max Access is not only a software to boost initial accessibility and litigation protection, it is also a great tool to learn more of the specifics about the WCAG and code remediation.

What should you expect from Max Access then, especially Max Access Pro?

Expect code-level recommendations.
Expect educational support.
Expect a boosted brand perception.
Expect immediate value.

But, ultimately...expect helping others get the web access they need.

And then expect a phenomenal customer service team to help you through it all.

Jumpstart your digital accessibility compliance process with Max Access.

ABILITY is a member of both the W3C and the IAAP, and is a leading innovator in the field of digital accessibility. We strive to promote digital inclusion and true accessibility for everyone, and consistently roll out updates and new features for our software.