Let’s Talk Accessibility

Websites are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. They offer countless products, services, and knowledge that is a click away, unless you have a disability that prevents using a mouse, seeing a screen, or hearing audio. Overcoming these challenges allows a business to reach more customers and reduce exposure to accessibility lawsuits.

There are accessibility guidelines and programs to mitigate this problem. A structured accessibility program reduces accessibility barriers through thoughtful website programming, ongoing testing for issues and implementing policies and feedback mechanisms. We encourage you to consider the opportunities and threats of website accessibility and to maintain a program for your website(s).

If you’d like to learn more on how we make websites accessible, click here.

Opportunities

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 61 million people, or a quarter of the adult American population live with a disability that impacts the accessibility of websites, applications, and documents. This group has an estimated $645 billion in annual disposable income, and 54% go online. Therefore, an inaccessible website could exclude a significant population from using your website. 

Often overlooked, website accessibility technology helps improve website ranking in search engines like Google and Bing. Search engines use programs or “bots” to read websites and categorize website content to search terms, such as “rent apartment in Columbus.” A website designed for accessibility is more easily understood by a bot, thereby increasing the chances of ranking higher in search results.

Threats

Structural grading on a new building and a website both require thoughtful engineering, which, if done incorrectly, could find you at the defensive end of a lawsuit.

Over the past four years, there is an increasing volume of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court and at the state level. In federal court, cases are filed under Title III of the Americans With Disability Act, the Fair Housing Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. At the state level, cases are filed under the Unruh Civil Rights Act in California and under the New York State Human Rights Law in New York.

In 2019, according to an analysis by international legal firm Seyfarth Shaw, website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal court reached 11,053 suits, an 8.8% increase from 2018, and California led states with 4,794 website accessibility lawsuits.  

Guidelines

Rulings and settlements typically point to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA, as an Internet standard for website accessibility. WCAG 2.1 covers an exhaustive list of digital elements that can be barriers for people with disabilities. Companies that build a proactive website accessibility program around WCAG 2.1 AA have websites that remove most barriers for people with disabilities; however, since WCAG 2.1 is not law, compliancy will not eliminate the chance for lawsuits, but will ensure broad accessibility.

A complete WGAC 2.1 AA website accessibility program consists of the following four components:

  1. Ongoing testing of all website pages against W3C WCAG 2.1, Level AA guidelines
  2. Accessibility policy statement on all website pages
  3. Accessible feedback links to all website pages
  4. Ongoing accessibility program to monitor and remediate issues identified by testing or visitor feedback

Testing

There are hundreds of website accessibility tools on the market, and the WC3 maintains a list of 100 online checkers from various organizations that allow you to run your website through WCAG 2.1 compliance.  After an exhaustive analysis of available tools, Streamroll uses both  SortSite and the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool in our accessibility program.  Online tools are useful; however, they may not identify all issues and do not “certify” to the WGAC standard.  Therefore, it is important to have all four elements of an ongoing accessibility program defined above to retest your site and solicit feedback from website visitors.

Streamroll’s Approach

As a leading website provider to the affordable housing industry, Streamroll operates an accessibility program for all managed websites. In addition to the four program elements identified above, Streamroll provides customers with a monthly accessibility testing report for each website. This report is helpful to understand the state of websites and to help identify any issues to remediate.

If you’d like to learn more on how we make websites accessible, click here.

About Streamroll

Streamroll was launched to help the affordable housing industry succeed online. With over 1,000 active websites and 10 years of experience, Streamroll has a suite of robust digital products to support affordable housing.  Streamroll provides turnkey (and accessible) websites designed for the unique needs of the affordable housing industry.  Our valued customers include builders, owners, developers, managers, non-profits, housing authorities, state associations, and syndicators supporting the affordable housing industry.

For more information on Streamroll or to discuss a project, please contact Mitch Copman by clicking the button below or call us at 678-820-2060.