Web Accessibility: Solving basic, inaccessibility features

July 6, 2017 |
Word doodle of accessibility topics including compliance, standards, regulations, policy and rules

While WCAG 2.0 AA is the current “gold standard” in web accessibility for most organizations, a review of lawsuits indicate that plaintiffs do not sue organizations based on minor inconsistencies with the WCAG 2.0 AA—instead, the analysis above suggests that they tend to sue organizations based on one of three factors.

1. Inherently Inaccessible Web Applications

Complaints against the NBA, Foot Locker and Winn Dixie illustrate that organizations that use websites which rely on inherently inaccessible technology may quickly become the target of an accessible complaint. This makes sense because these technologies entirely block disabled users from accessing the site. Fortunately, most organizations do not use such technologies.

2. Inaccessible Features Block Key Features of a Website

The Netflix and Walt Disney complaints demonstrate that a lawsuit is more likely if a key purpose for visiting a website is defeated by an inaccessible feature.

3. Lack of Basic, Well-Known Accessibility Features

In the majority of cases, however, the key motivator in generating complaints or lawsuits appears to be the lack of basic, easy-to-implement web accessibility features. The lack of these features suggests an indifference to the needs of users with disabilities because these accessibility techniques are well-documented and easy to implement. A refusal to take even the simplest steps towards meeting the needs of users with disabilities could result in a complaint.

Solving basic, inaccessibility features

To avoid facing a complaint, taking steps to solve basic inaccessibility features is essential. They are easy-to-implement and can save an organization a lot of money in legal fees. These accessibility features include:

Alt-Text on Graphics

Failing to provide alt-text on graphic images is perhaps the simplest step that an organization can take to improve its accessibility and reduce the risk of litigation. Adding alt-text in the HTML content for most graphics is illustrated by the following comparison.

<img src=”p01.gif”> (inaccessible image)
<img src=”p01.gif” alt=”picture of flag”> (accessible image)

Labels on Form Controls

Form controls (such as text boxes, check boxes, and radio buttons) are essential to any marketing or e-commerce application. They can also present a bewildering set of unidentifiable controls to a screen reader user, without proper labeling. Here is an example of an inaccessible form element requesting the user to provide their last name.

Last Name:

<input type=”text” name=”lastname”>

The second line (“<input….”) is the code that creates the empty box for the user to type their last name into. Here is the same form element now made accessible.

<label for=”l_name”>Last Name:</label>

<input type=”text” name=”lastname” id=”l_name”>

The “label” tag identifies the text “Last Name:” as a meaningful label for the element with “id=l_ name”—in this case, the input field that immediately follows it.

For more advice on solving basic, inaccessibility features, download the whitepaper on Four Key Issues that Attract Web Accessibility Litigation (And How to Solve Them) for a brief overview of some of the litigation that is driving organizations to take web accessibility seriously. It offers information on additional accessibility violations that almost all complaint letters include and advice on how to solve them.

Four-Key-Issues that Attract Web Accessibility Litigiation and how to solve them. Download the whitepaper button

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Ken Nakata

Ken Nakata, JD, CIPP/US is the one of the most well-known attorneys in the area of IT accessibility and is the Director of Cryptzone’s Accessibility Consulting Practice (ACP). Nakata’s work focuses on Web and software accessibility from both a legal and technical perspective. Nakata’s ACP team helps organizations manage the change towards accessibility in all aspects, providing consulting services aimed at shaping their accessibility policies and practices, and evaluating the overall state of their Web properties leveraging Cryptzone’s accessibility solutions. He is also a board member for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP),of which Cryptzone is a founding member.

Nakata worked for twelve years as a Senior Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He has argued on behalf of the United States government many times before the federal courts and has helped shape the government’s policies for the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Nakata also worked as Director of Accessibility and Government Compliance at BayFirst Solutions, a Washington, DC consulting firm.

In 2000, Attorney General Janet Reno presented Nakata with the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology. In addition to practicing law, Nakata is active in software and web-based technologies, including Java, JavaScript, SQL, and ColdFusion. In July 2001, he was certified by Sun Microsystems as a programmer for the Java 2 Platform. Nakata is a frequent speaker on both law and technology and is equally adept at conducting one-on-one workshops with programmers and developers as well as explaining law and policy to large audiences. He holds a Bachelors of Art degree in mathematics from John Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is admitted to the bars of New York, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Washington.

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