What do digital development, legislation, and litigation have in common?
Each needs an accessibility standard to provide a common language that describes an inclusive experience for people with disabilities. In response to this need, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The WCAG is a set of accessibility principles that guide the development of accessible websites, mobile apps, documents, video, and other forms of electronic media. There are two relevant versions for modern technology development: WCAG 2.0 (2008), WCAG 2.1 (2018).
Each of these versions has three conformance levels: A/AA/AAA. Levels A and AA are recognized as the minimum level of accessibility, with the AAA level used for aspirational and specialized purposes. The WCAG principles aim to describe success criteria for all categories of disabilities, including vision, hearing, mobility, and cognitive.
Why is the WCAG Important?
Technology Products and Service Providers: Technology providers should use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines during the development process as a measure of success. This guideline becomes the basis of policy, the product development process, and training requirements. Where issues arise is when product owners do not include accessibility in the development process.
Procurement: Purchasers use tools such as the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template© (VPAT) to evaluate product accessibility during the procurement process. The VPAT uses the WCAG as a primary reporting provision, allowing uniformed evaluation during the procurement cycle.
Litigation: Federal lawsuits filed under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 often cite WCAG 2.0/2.1 Level A/AA defects as evidence of non-compliance. While the litigious landscape is complex and lacks specific guidance by the Department of Justice, the U.S. District Courts have held that the WCAG is sufficient for the complaint process.
Legal Compliance: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act points by reference to WCAG 2.0 Level A/AA. In addition, many state laws, such as Texas’ Texas Administrative Code (TAC) either directly cite a WCAG guideline standard or point back to Section 508. In general, most federal legislation has yet to explicitly incorporate accessibility standards and guidelines.
|By the Numbers
6,304 ADA Title III lawsuits filed in Federal Court (January 2021 through June 2021)
California and New York led states with filings
At that pace, 2021 could be a record year with over 12,000 lawsuits.*
Most of these legal actions will cite specific WCAG violations as evidence of non-compliance.
* Seyfarth Shaw LLP, ADA Title III News & Insights, www.adatitleiii.com/2021/08/ada-title-iii-federal-mid-year-lawsuit-numbers-at-an-all-time-high/