With accessibility lawsuits on the rise, follow these steps to lower your organization’s risk.
Do you truly understand your organizations responsibility to provide accessible digital content for people with disabilities? Digital accessibility is something many businesses are aware of, but most haven’t addressed. No matter the type of organization you are, it is likely that a decent chunk of your customers and employees want or need accessibility. Almost 60 million Americans (or 1 in 5) have a declared disability. People with disabilities shop, read, engage, and work just like everyone else, so why wouldn’t they need access to your digital environments?
Over the past decade, one of the most concerning legal trends for organizations in the U.S. has been digital accessibility lawsuits. It has been especially prevalent in certain states; California, New York, and Florida. The complaints included organizations having websites or documents inaccessible to screen readers, or video content not captioned and audio described. As a result, there is an urgent imperative for organizations to proactively make their digital content accessible or suffer the financial and social consequences associated with these lawsuits.
For organizations trying to avoid the risks of maintaining inaccessible digital environments, there is already a well-established playbook. Following these five steps is paramount for any size organization to avoiding costly litigation.
1. Create a Plan
First and foremost, organizations should check with their legal counsel to ensure that accessibility is a priority, and that a comprehensive compliance plan and accessibility policy is developed and made available to the public. The compliance plan should include steps to assess and remediate accessibility for websites, apps, documents, and videos, along with a dedicated, accessible method of contact for users who are experiencing accessibility issues. In conjunction, internal IT teams or vendors should be consulted to make sure they are aware of their responsibility to make digital environments accessible, and that the accessibility plan includes training for those teams.
2. Assess Current Digital Assets
Most organizations with web properties should have their sites and applications audited for accessibility by an outside organization to get a baseline of what is needed. The ensuing reports will help guide future training and remediation efforts and will prove crucial in prioritizing work.
3. Train & Educate Teams
Whether the accessibility fixes will be done by internal IT teams, the current IT vendor, or a digital accessibility focused vendor, organizations should ensure that those responsible for making them are well-versed in digital accessibility: what the issues are, what changes need to be made, and how to implement them.
4. Make Changes & Reassess
Once the accessibility issues have been identified and teams have been trained in how to fix them, organizations should begin making changes prioritizing the most trafficked pages and documents to have the greatest immediate impact. Once the issues have been addressed, it is strongly recommended to have those sites and apps checked for usability by stakeholders.
5. Ensure Continuity of Accessibility Planning
Digital environments will ostensibly keep changing. As such, organizations must make sure that accessibility is continuously considered in any digital iterations, to avoid falling back out of compliance.
As far as digital accessibility goes, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. A partner can help you develop a playbook that ensures ongoing compliance, which will reduce liability and maintain an inclusive environment. With a growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), efforts are expanding more than ever to include disability. This expansion means organizations need to be conscious of meeting all accessibility standards, including digital media.
Chief Information Officer