Webinar: ADA Compliance For Your Website Transcript

Is your website accessible to users with disabilities? Have you received a letter from a law firm threatening legal action because your website is not compliant per the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act? In this webinar, we will discuss what the ADA means for companies with a digital presence, as well as how to make sure your website is compliant to avoid legal issues down the road.

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Alright, so let's get started. I'm a big fan of starting on time to respect people that showed up on time. Welcome. This is the "ADA Compliance for Your Website" webinar. This webinar is not a long one, it's about 20-30 minutes. I want to cover a couple of items that are gonna leave you with information about how to go about evaluating your website for ADA compliance. We're gonna start with the introductions. I'm gonna do the sales pitch upfront so that you know exactly how we can help, but then we're gonna dive into the history of the ADA, understand the history of it and how we got to where we are today and what the standards are. I'm gonna review some of the standards with you so that you understand how they work, and then I'll make a mention about the lawsuits because a lot of you mentioned in your sign-up that you did receive legal notices from law firms, so I'll explain to you what that's all about. Then I'll give you some tools to use to test your own websites and to understand how far, how close you are to compliance. Finally, we'll end with some key takeaways that you should leave with. We'll do a little Q&A, and then this webinar is gonna be available as a download and also on our website, so we'll share the link with you through an email.
I'm your host, Kris. I'm the VP of the New Possibilities Group. The CEO and I founded the company back in 2001, which is like 100 years in computer time. We specialize in custom web development. We do work with stuff off the shelf, like a Wordpress, Drupal, but we specialize in creating custom web apps, applications and websites for satisfying complex business needs, and that takes us into the backstory of how we got into ADA compliance. 
We have some clients that came to us that received letters from law firms stating that their websites were not in compliance, and we caught this a couple of times with clients and so we had to do research into understanding what the issues were and what the clients' needs were and how to get them compliant, so we had to become experts based on our clients' needs. So we wrote a couple blog articles about the experience, which still gets a lot of traction today and so we decided to do a webinar explaining some of the things that make your website compliant and some of the things you can do on your own. The sales pitch is that we can help you become compliant through an ongoing maintenance relationship, so if you need help in implementing the changes and understanding how you may or may not be compliant, we can help.
There's a couple reasons why you may be here. First, you may be genuinely concerned about accessibility and that's great, because ... and I'll repeat this a couple of times, the idea is to make our digital content accessible to as many people as possible. That's really the goal, and some of you maybe had that concern right off the bat and that's great. But a lot of us are pressed for time. We have a lot of budget constraints. There are things that we have control over and don't, and a lot of times things like this fall to the back burner and that's unfortunate but that's realistic. You may be here because your boss or management told you your website needs to be ADA-compliant and you've gotta go figure that out now, or you're here because you received a letter from a law firm stating that your website is not compliant. Those are the three reasons that we see people coming to us for issues with ADA compliance. 
Now, the role you may have, you may be a web developer. In that case, you're going to be responsible for making the changes to get your website compliant. If you're a content person, you're probably gonna have some control. Maybe changing some of the content within your WYSIWYG or your CMS to make those changes, but it's gonna be limited so you're gonna still need to rely on your web development firm or company or person. Then if you're in the management role, this is a good webinar so that you're familiar with how ADA compliance works, and then you can go direct your team to go about making those changes. 
Let's dive into the history of the ADA. The actual ADA act was passed in 1990. Now, pop quiz: Which president signed this into law? If you said "George H. Bush," you would be correct. He signed this into law in 1990, and the law has a couple different parts. Those parts are called "Titles." You may have heard Title II, Title III. Well, Title II and the laws related ... Or the act and when it relates to government agencies is under the Title II section. Commerce and the general public and what applies to them is under Title III. Now, you may have heard something called "Section 508." That applies broadly to IT within government agencies and how IT may need to be adaptable for people with disabilities. Some of that refers to digital content, but whatever is concerning the ADA, particularly for web development, will fall under 508, so if you're ADA compliant with your website, you're gonna satisfy the requirements for 508. Now, the law was amended in 2008 to broaden the definition of "disability" to include more people. Again, the goal is to make not just digital content and websites accessible, but all areas of our public life accessible to people in different issues and different needs. 
Now, the law is in effect and the mechanism for defining how to enforce that law is enforced by the DOJ. The DOJ is now tasked for writing the standards for, and how to evaluate if you're ADA compliant or not. Outside the DOJ is an organization called the World Wide Web Consortium, the W3C, you've probably seen this somewhere. They've been setting out, since the law went into effect, to actually create the standards for what is accessible for websites, and they established the first set of rules in 2008 which is Version 1.0. Now again, they're outside the DOJ and they're working alongside the DOJ, so the DOJ in 2010, updates the guidelines for Title II and Title III, which reference the work done by W3C. Now again, no one's sitting still. The W3C updates the standards in 2010 with Version 2.0, and I'll talk shortly about the difference, but that becomes the adopted standard at this point. Earlier this year, DOJ says, "Hey. For Title II, we're gonna reference the WCAG Version 2.0 AA." The section 508 board adopts that also, and it's probably gonna go into law for Title III in 2018. So it's not law yet but it is being referenced as the standard for compliance for ADA.
Now, I threw out there "W3C." I mentioned the WCAG. The relationship to understand broadly is that, the WCAG is the standard, the guidelines set up by the WAI, which is like a working group within the W3C. So the WAI not only involved with setting up the guidelines but also tools and defining that, so there's different groups with inside WAI, but the one that is involved with the standards created the WCAG.
Now I mentioned the guidelines. The guidelines are geared towards developers. They're technical in nature, and so ... and they're not just for web developers either, but for tool developers, so if you're involved in creating a podcast tool, you'll want to refer to the WCAG guidelines and how to make sure that the output from that tool, and the tool itself, conforms to accessibility standards. The standards have four general principles, and each principle is broken down to a set of guidelines, each guideline having a set of testable activities that you can do to test, to see if you're in conformance.
Those four principles, again, deal with how we perceive and deal with the content. First one: Perceivability. Being able to have multiple methods to perceive the content. So if it's an audio track, that you provide the textual transcript for it. The second one deals with how a person navigates and uses an interface to navigate your digital content. Again, is it flexible to use a keyboard and a mouse? Or other items or other mechanisms? The third is interesting because there is a lot of subjectivity to understandability, and that's coherency. The way we label areas of a webpage or a form, the fact that images have a coherent textual title, are all parts of understandability. Some of these things can be tested through automation, and some of these need the human eye to evaluate, and I'm gonna explain why that's a big deal later. Then the last one is robustness, so if someone's using a screen reader, that your content is digestible to that different platform that's gonna digest that content. Those are the foundations for accessibility, these four principles. 
Now I mentioned that there's a difference ... Well, there was Version 1 of those standards and Version 2, so what's the difference? Version 2 builds upon Version 1. Version 2 is now the accepted standard. Maybe you've worked on your website in the past and made it compliant with Version 1. Well, just know that you may need to do a little bit more work to get it compliant with Version 2. What Version 2 of the guidelines do is just further, again, define those tests and those standards. For example here, in this example one of the guidelines is that you need to have enough color contrast between, say, your foreground and your background. You have a background color and your text has a different color. Established in guidelines, in the first version is that you need to have enough contrast so that it's perceivable. Well, Version 2 takes that and actually defines that better by telling you the actual contrast ratio needed to satisfy the requirement. So Version 2 went a long way to helping better define and test for these guidelines. 
I mentioned the current standard is WCAG 2.0 AA, and you're asking, "AA?" No, we're not talking about leagues in baseball. We're talking about levels of conformance. Some of these guidelines are yes and nos, either you conform or you don't. Levels of conformance means that there's different levels that you can adhere to those rules. The example I'm showing here is, there is a guideline that says your website should be navigatable with the keyboard and with different methods, and that particularly there should be a coherent focus order. What that means is that you should be able to tab through the elements of your page, and it follows the correct order. So let's say if it was a "contact us" form. Well, you should be able to use the Tab key on your keyboard to go from field to field to field. That satisfies level A of rule 2.4.3. Now, to be AA-compliant, you not only have to have that proper focus order, but you also have to reflect the actual field that is visible that you're navigating, so there has to be some kind of visible focus, reflection on what's focused on, and that's AA-compliance. Right now again, level AA is what is considered the standard that you need to comply with. That is also what is the target for lawsuits. "Kris," you ask, "what's going on with these lawsuits?"
Law firms are using an automated tester to go and run through websites to test if they're valid or not with this current rule, and then if they're non-compliant, sending out almost form letters like this, threatening a lawsuit. Some over 12,000 lawsuit letters have been sent out. Now, the mechanism in the ADA is that it can be enforced by both the DOJ and individuals, and that "individuals" is why law firms can threaten to sue. Now 240 of these lawsuits have gone to federal court, which tells you that almost all of these cases wind up being remediated outside of court. The remediation requires that first of all you go and fix your website and make it compliant, that you pay damages and/or attorney fees. Now I believe ... I'm not a lawyer, but I believe in California the minimum damage fees are $4,000 and then tackle on top of that attorney fees. Some of our clients have come back and were upset about it being a shakedown, and I can understand that feeling. Again, I'll go back to the original statement that I made earlier which is, the goal here is to get your digital content as accessible as possible to the widest audience. The end goal is good. If you want to avoid the lawsuits, you want to make sure that your website is as compliant as possible. 
So you're saying, "Kris, what do I do now?" What I recommend is go into triage mode. Three things that you need to ask yourself: First of all, is your website compliant? You gotta go evaluate your website and figure out how compliant, how far you are from compliance. Once you get a thumbprint on that, then you can ask the second question which is, "Okay then, what do we need to do to make my website compliant?" And then finally, "How to maintain compliance." And I'm going to tell you, I'm gonna suggest that that is actually the hardest part, is keeping compliance.
So before asking the first question, "Is your website compliant?" First thing you need to do is go and get familiar with this website. Now again, this will be available, the pdf so that you can go click on these links, but this is from the W3C itself. They put together a directory of all the guidelines and their test criteria. The reason why you need to be familiar with this is because no matter what agency you go to, what tool you use, they are all referencing back to this, so you need to go to the source to make sure that you understand what the rules are because not all of these tools are equal. I'll explain that later, but if you're familiar with the core, with the foundation of where the rules are coming from and how to test for them, then you are going right to the source and that's the important rule for understanding in trying to evaluate your website. Never rely 100% on a third party. 
The next thing is, check out this link which is again, W3C. It's a quick little post about the quickest and easiest things to take care of that go the furthest in really getting your website compliant and accessible. These are easy things to knock off, they're quick, and they have the best effect as far as creating accessibility. I would tackle this list first and go after these items. 
Next thing you want to do is fire up your Google Chrome browser and go to your extensions, and install the developer toolbar extension, which will give you a whole bunch of web development tools. You'll notice the gear icon in your toolbar. You click on that and then you choose the "tools" tab, and then you click on the "validate accessibility." That is an in-page accessibility tool, so that you can evaluate accessibility on-page, which is great. It uses the WAVE accessibility tool, which I'll explain as one of the three tools that you can use to test your website. WAVE is run by the Utah State University, FAE is run by Illinois, and they're all free tools, open source. You can use all three to check out your website to see how accessible it is and it gives you back a report stating the items. I didn't include any tools that give you just pass-or-fail feedback, because chances are you're gonna fail, and that's not enough. You need to know where you failed for compliance, and these tools will give you enough of that feedback.
Problem is, is if you've got ... These all have their own rendering engines, so if you have a heavy Javascript-powered site, Ruby on Rails, something where these tools may not be able to read properly your page, they may not give you the appropriate and correct feedback, which is why you need to go back and reference that website that I mentioned, where you can go and reference all of the guidelines yourselves, because again, these tools may not be 100% and that's the problem. Here's an example where we ran a website, the same website through those three different tools and they all come out with different problems and different metrics. You're gonna probably need to use all three and go through the list and look at the feedback from each one to evaluate whether it actually is accurate or not. Don't rely on just one tool. Chances are, the law firms are using one of these tools, so you never which one, and so you'll want to be compliant with all three so that you can avoid being tagged by a law firm looking to send out lawsuits.
There are some pay tools. These are three that I recommend. Notice I'm not mentioning other sites or tools that are what I call sales lead generators. That's where you put in your information and your website and they say that they'll send you a report. Those are valid and I'm sure they have good services but I want to give you the DIY tools that you can use yourself. The first one is a SAS service. You subscribe and it has tools on their website to evaluate your website. The other two are actually downloadable apps that you can run. Again, try them out, see how they work for you. If you like how they work, that will help you evaluate your website. 
So you've some of the free tools, maybe a pay tool. You've run through your website and you now have an idea of how far you are from compliance, so the next thing you need to do is figure out who you need to pull in to help you make those changes. This is gonna be a pretty big task because it's gonna require probably a web developer or web development agency that's gonna have to go through your code. Some of it may be hard-coded in HTML pages. Some of it may be in templates if you're using a CMS like Wordpress or Drupal. Some of it may be in the WYSIWYG content editor within a CMS. If you've got an old Joomla site, you're gonna need to find someone who still actually knows how to work with Joomla. It's gonna be a combination of different places that need to be addressed. 
Some of it is going to be ... Now remember, I said there's a subjective part to this, so the coherency factor. If you've got links and buttons labeled "click here" or "continue," that technically fails the coherency part of the rules. It may not show up in an automated tester, so again, you need to go through each page and evaluate it. Some of those links could be a WYSIWYG that you can go edit in a blog. There may be images that need alt-text. Alt-text is a textual title associated with an image, so if someone can't view an image, they can at least see a description of what that image is. Some of that may be embedded in a blog editor that you can go and edit, but some of those things may be hard-coded in template files. What I'm communicating to you is that there's gonna be a lot of changes that need to be made everywhere. There may need to be design changes, so if you fail contrast ratio tests, you may need to go and change your CSS, but if that CSS is associated with a style guide and your brand, you may need to pull in your branding or your design team to help you rewrite the branding guide and style guide so that you can go and change the color so it's not ... You know, you need to pull in multiple parties.
Now, if you've got third-party tools or scripts, for example, you could have a compliant webpage, and then you stick on something like an "add this" or "share this" toolbar, and if that toolbar implementation isn't compliant, then your page isn't compliant. So you need to not only make sure that the stuff that you create is compliant, but if you throw anything else on top of that: any widgets, embeds, they need to be compliant as well because you're responsible for them when they're on your page. And then finally, the most work you're probably going to need to do is with forms, because so many of the guidelines deal with navigating forms because forms are an interactive element, so the elements in the form have the correct navigational structure, buttons have the proper labels, fields have labels associated with them that you can use the keyboard to navigate drop-downs. There's a lot that you're probably gonna need to do with forms to make sure that they're compliant. You need to definitely focus on those. 
Then after you've got everything in that all done, let's say magically you're able to get your website, tomorrow is all compliant. The next day, the day after, you may be out of compliance. How does that work? You've got your website compliant. Tomorrow, your blog editor person comes in and they create a blog and they embed a couple of images and those images do not have alt-text. Well, now you've just failed compliance, and if that webpage isn't compliant, then your website's not compliant. Again, a law firm comes in tomorrow, scans your site, you're no longer in compliance. Now again, you can go fight that in court and chances are you can win, but you're gonna have to go through that effort, so you need to think about compliance as a continual process. It's not a one-time event. How much and how often you need to evaluate your site and make changes depends on how often your website is changing. If you're creating lots of content, if it's a very dynamic website which it should be, you're gonna need to be doing this on a regular basis. Again, an area where someone like us can help is that we can be that arm because that's a very time-consuming task, and so you hire an agency like us to help maintain compliance on a regular basis depending on what your needs are.
Just about what's going on in the future, it looks like 2.1 of the standards are under development. They're probably gonna be adopted by the internal board in 2018. The good news is that it's gonna be backwards-compatible, which means if you're 2.1 compliant then you're definitely 2.0 compliant. Again, 2.1's just building upon 2.0. It's not changing, it's building upon. One of the complaints from web developers out there is that you could technically have a WCAG compliant website, but not have an HTML compliant website, which seems kind of counterintuitive but it's also good to have your website HTML validated as well as accessibility validated. Some of you asked, "What's going on with the current administration? Are they gonna gut ADA?" Chances are, ADA itself is not going to change. The current administration can probably push back at adopting new standards, so 2.1 may not adopted for a while, but that probably means that WCAG 2.0 AA is going to continue to be the standard. Lawsuits are not going to change probably. There are still gonna be law firms sending out lawsuit letters and you're gonna have to deal with that.
The key takeaway that I want to leave you with is one, get a sense right now of where your website is at. How far are you from compliance? And two, never rely just on the automated tools. They're going to only be able to report back things that are able to be tested through automation. You're gonna have to go right to the source and go through those guidelines and go through each one to understand and do a manual check as far as your compliance. Three, the big thing is that you need to understand that this is not a one-time activity or task. This is something that needs to be done continuously to maintain continual compliance. 
Once that's all done, either the agency that you hired to help you get compliant or you yourself, or your legal department if you're big enough, can write a compliance letter, very much like a privacy statement, which is basically stating that, "Yes, we are compliant with ADA standards, with WCAG 2.0." There's no official certification for WCAG compliance, it's kind of like a self-certification scenario, so that letter is really just, again, you coming up with a statement that you're compliant. Then if you have legal counsel, you want to check with them, only because your particular industry might have particular rules or needs. Depending on if you're a nonprofit or a university, you may have to do something slightly differently. You want to, again, check with legal counsel because they're usually the best resource for understanding compliance.
So, we're gonna have additional page when you download the presentation which will have some links in it. I'm always happy to chat. You have my email information, number in the invitations, so if you have any questions, happy to chat afterwards. If you have any questions you can add them here to the chat. I'm happy to answer any questions right now.
Also, let me know what you're interested in learning more, and we can put together another webinar going into particular details if you'd like, about certain areas.
Alright, I'm going through the questions right now. "Are we liable for links we provide to other sites that may not be ADA compliant?" I'm gonna preface this with, I am not a lawyer, so I am not going to definitively give you the answer, but I believe the answer is no. You're responsible for the content on your website that you own. Now again, you are responsible if you embed something, a third-party widget or app into your website because it's now on your property, per se, but if you link out to someone else, no, you're not responsible for their content. That's a good question. Thanks, Tina.
"When using a third-party CMS, are you required to correct issues that are created by the CMS?" This is from Mike. If you're using a CMS, the CMS should be compliant itself, in that it's a tool that you're using, but today I'm only talking about publicly-accessible websites, and that's what the ADA law is concerned with is content and items that are viewable and usable by the public. While if you have a CMS, it should be compliant for people using it inside, I don't know how the rules apply to private. That's more considered a private resource. 
"Do you believe this is going to be set for very small businesses?" This is coming from Pat. So Pat, anyone that creates content, whether you're mom and pop, a blogger, technically that content should be content with the ADA standards for accessible. If you're worried about lawsuits, chances are law firms are not gonna come after a blogger. They're gonna go after ... Particularly they've been going after the hotel industry, the banking industry, universities ... because frankly, they have money. But for the reasons of being accessible, everyone should try to follow those guidelines and the best practices for compliance. Small businesses are liable. Just like if you have a physical store, you need to have an ADA compliant entrance. The bathroom in your shop needs to be ADA compliant. No matter if you're a little storefront or if you're a warehouse or big department store, everyone is required to adhere to those set of standards. Whether you have a one-page website or you're running a university website, yes, the same rules do apply.
"Regarding video, the standards seem unclear. For example, if you have non-audio video that gives a tour of a facility, does it need to be described for each scene, or simply say, 'Video showing a new facility'?" This is coming from John. Yeah, the issue with the standards is that some of them are yes/nos, you're doing it or not, and some of them are subjective. When dealing with video, there's a couple of things. One is yes, there needs to be transcription to be compliant and to be accessible, but what that transcription describes falls under the coherency principle. So one of them is a yes/no. Yes, do you have transcription or not? The other one is subjective. Are you really describing what you're looking at? That one isn't testable by an automation tool. That's something that you're gonna have to evaluate on your own. But yeah, there are specific rules with video. 
Oh. "What does the audit service look like?" We're not an agency that will have a one price audit to entice you to come in and get a one price audit. We're more about a relationship, so the way we work is, it all depends on how big and how many issues we find. An audit could be a couple hours, it could be two days. Again, depending on how much we need to go through, and then, if you ... Again, we have the resources, both graphics, content and development to implement all of the changes that need to be made so we can work with you and your team to get the website compliant. That is done on a retainer basis, depending on how much you need. You can purchase a pre-paid retainer and we pull from that retainer as we work, and that could be used throughout a entire year. So we can do front load and do some of that work upfront, and then every couple weeks, evaluate the site to see how you're doing. Again, it all depends on what your particular needs are, how big your website is, and how many issues we find, and the code. Some clients we've worked with code that's very easy to get through and to work with, and some of it looks like spaghetti. 
Yes. Amber asking about the "skip navigation" link. "Looks terrible on most sites. Is there a way around that?" Yes. Amber, I'll have to get back to you on that one, it's a great question. One of the rules, one of the ways to implement accessibility to get past the navigation of websites is to include a "skip navigation" link. In the early days, especially with the WCAG 1.0, the way that web developers implemented that was having this really ugly "skip navigation" link which got in the way of design. I believe now that there's ways that can be hidden because a lot of the tools that people use to access websites will pick up that feature and it will be accessible to them within their tool, so it doesn't need to be in the way. That's one of the things. Two is that when you do need to do things like that where you need to have something visible present, that needs to come from your design team. Your design team needs to incorporate those things in a way that it meshes with your overall brand and design. Too often, we shoehorn things into websites because they've just gotta get in there quickly, where if we give it some thought and go back to the design team, they'll implement it in a way that does work if it needs to be very visual. 
Yes. Goutem asking about, "Do you certify conformance to ADA standards? There are so many checkers out there." There are so many checkers, yes, but there is no official certification. Any agency or company or third party that offers certification is really just a badge. It makes them legally liable, yet it offers no real ... There's no real set certification standard. What we do is, we prefer to work with the company to draft their own letter, again, like a privacy statement, which states that, "Yes, we are compliant." Because again, there is no ... There are checkers that will tell you, "Yes, you passed." But that just passes for the rules that they check. 
Wow, Hillary. That's a great question. Hillary asks, "Do you have any examples that you could share of best-of-breed compliant sites?" I will get back to you on that. That will absolutely be a blog post. That's a great thing to help you look at to get an idea of where you need to go, so yeah, Hillary, that's great. Thank you. Alright, we'll take one more question. 
Oh, that's it. Alright, so again, thank you all for joining. Here's a page of additional resources, which again will be in the pdf. There will also be this webinar on our website, with transcription, because that is part of being accessible. And again, some information about our maintenance services. Thank you very much for joining. Have a wonderful day, and enjoy your Friday tomorrow.
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