If you own a website that you want people to use, the answer is yes. All websites are expected to be usable and accessible.
If you have heard about adding an official Accessibility Statement to your website it is important to understand what it is for. An accessibility statement does not prevent you or your business from receiving an ADA website accessibility lawsuit, demand letter or letter of complaint.
It is not a legal document. It is not binding.
It does, however, indicate the present status of the accessibility of your website and the steps taken to make it meet accessibility guidelines.
What is an Accessibility Statement For?
It is used to communicate information to your website visitors.
It provides a way for someone to contact you if they are prevented from completing a task, such as making a purchase, filling out a form, downloading and printing content and navigating without a mouse.
The accessibility statement is presented on a simple page with no sidebars, ads, or images other than a logo. If you put a form on the page, it must be accessible to screen readers.
Before placing an Accessibility Statement on your website, the website must be designed to be accessible. If it is not, the statement can indicate the following:
- The current status of the website’s compliance and to what level. WCAG 2.0 is the most common. WCAG 2.1 includes mobile accessibility guidelines.
- What was tested for accessibility compliance.
- What was not tested for accessibility compliance.
- What will never be tested for accessibility compliance. (Explain why.)
- Whether or not it is in the process of any present remediation.
- Whether or not the website is tested by an accessibility specialist or in the process of undergoing an accessibility site audit.
- A timeline or dates for which outstanding issues will be resolved.
What Steps are Necessary to Achieve an Accessible Website?
An Accessibility Statement must be routinely maintained to be current and accurate. This may require:
- Hiring a designer/developer trained in accessibility compliance or learning it on your own.
- Hiring an accessibility specialist to assist your designer/developer.
- Perform accessibility testing for each change made to the website to be sure it meets WCAG standards. (Aka “regression testing”.)
- Have an annual accessibility site audit or review performed by an accessibility specialist.
- You are responsible for all the content of your website. This means that you need to be sure any third party application or plug-in is accessible if you plan to use it. Reach out to the developer to get their accessibility compliance record.
Repeat letters of compliant and demand letters sent to companies who do not address accessibility issues in a timely manner are common.
If you receive a compliant letter, do not ignore it. Contact an attorney specializing in ADA website cases. They will advise you on the next steps.
Being proactive will save you time and money. Make sure your website is coded properly.
Do not depend on accessibility widgets or overlays that do not change the source code. They often fail automated and manual accessibility testing. They also put a bulls eye on your website as proof it is not built correctly in the first place.
Always test your web pages with a screen reader, hire an accessibility specialist who will do it for you or find an agency that has blind testers. The most common source for lawsuits are by blind people, some of whom are hired to look for websites that are not accessible.
Finally, be aware that along with writing an accessibility statement, you should monitor state and country laws and updates to WCAG. If you need to, hire an accessibility specialist who has current information.
All websites are at risk but the most commonly targeted are retail, hotels, real estate and travel sites. Websites doing business in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, to name a few, should be alert and plan for accessibility compliance.