Making your website accessible to people with low vision or hearing loss could introduce your goods or services to tens of millions of new customers.
Consider, for example, that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 12 million people have low vision and about 46 million have hearing loss. And, the CDC expects those numbers to increase because of more incidents of diabetes, which interferes with vision, and our rapidly aging population.
Providing people with the assistance they need to access your website is a good business practice. It’s also necessary to comply with federal regulations.
In a September 2018 letter to Congress, the United States Department of Justice stated that certain protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to websites of businesses open to the public. Under the ADA, discrimination is forbidden “on the basis of disability in the full and equal employment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.”
While the DOJ didn’t state a specific web standard, one of the most commonly accepted private industry standards – published by the World Wide Web Consortium – is known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 and 2.1). The guidelines primarily focus on website accessibility for people with low vision or hearing loss.
WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 establish a current baseline for assessing website accessibility. If your organization has not begun complying with these standards, now is the time to conform. Compliance with website standards is similar to past incidents requiring financial institutions to assure ATMs were accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Keep updated on WCAG standards as they will likely change over time.
SOME BEST PRACTICES
As a result, website elements should include:
- Perceivable information: Information and user interface components must be understandable to users and cannot be invisible to all their senses
- Operable navigation: User interface components cannot require tasks a user cannot perform
- Understandable interface: Users’ ability to understand accommodations made to the interface and perform duties adequately after reviewing web content
- Robust content: As technologies advance, the user-friendly element of users included in this group must be maintained
Organizations that employ third-party vendors should obtain certification that the vendor’s services comply with all WCAG standards.
To protect your business from discrimination claims, consider purchasing Employment Practices Liability Insurance coverage (EPLI) with third-party liability coverage. Your local, independent insurance agent can provide professional guidance and recommend coverages that fit your situation.
This loss control information is advisory only. The authors assume no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer legal advice. Consult with your attorney about your specific situation. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.