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A Beginner's Crash Course in Digital Accessibility Topics

By UsableNet on Sep 21, 2021
Topics: Web Accessibility, ADA Website Compliance, Agencies, Accessible Design


ADA, WCAG 2.0 vs. 2.1, AODA - overwhelming much? If the task of digital accessibility compliance feels daunting, don't give up just yet!

Digital accessibility isn't a simple issue. There is lots of information to learn. Luckily, we put together some highlights. By the end of this article, you’ll feel confident enough to discuss some key topics of digital accessibility.

While this article covers a lot, if you are interested in learning specifically about ADA and how it relates to digital accessibility, join this week's webinar with John M. Magliery, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, A Practical Guide to Web Accessibility, and the Law, Thursday at 12 pm ET.

Now, let's dive in! 

What is Digital Accessibility?

Digital accessibility can mean a lot of things. It can be explained with complex descriptions or the most basic terms. For example, Tanner Gers, UsableNet's Head of Partnerships and a screen reader user, encompassed digital accessibility as "humbling". Watch his take on the concept below.

Alt-Text: Tanner Gers, UsableNet Head of Partnerships 

At the end of the day, digital accessibility is about "accessing and providing everybody a usable experience," says UsableNet's Chief Innovation Strategist, Jason Taylor. Hear about his understanding of digital accessibility in his 2021 GAAD video below! 

Alt-text: Jason Taylor, Chief Innovation Strategist

Check out more perspectives on digital accessibility from industry leaders and UsableNet's team alike!


Notes on Web Accessibility 

Accessibility can't be exclusive.

Often, when most people think of web accessibility, they think of users who are totally blind. Yet, those individuals experience only a fraction of accessibility barriers. 

"There is incredible diversity in disability," emphasizes our marketing intern, Brielle Cayer, in this blog on living with an invisible disability.

According to the World Health Organization, over one billion individuals live with a form of disability. This population includes people with different motor, cognitive, visual, and auditory disabilities. All these individuals want to be able to access your website!

Accessibility testing should be integrated.

Unfortunately, there aren't any magic fixes or one-fits-all solutions to make your website compliant. Don’t fall for accessibility vendors who promise 100% compliance through automatic testing. True accessibility isn't a simple issue.

→ Read how to build a complete Accessibility Testing Program in our free guide. 

An accessible website requires a holistic, integrated testing process. UsableNet's all-inclusive AQA tool simplifies these recommended steps by performing keyboard navigation, manual review, and automatic checks. Another crucial element is manual user testing. Testing the accessibility of your website with real end-users who have disabilities is invaluable. 

Automated tests are perfect for catching initial, easy-to-flag issues. However, these tests only review about 30% of all WCAG guidelines and cannot guarantee ADA compliance. 

Speaking of ADA compliance, ADA lawsuits for digital accessibility issues on companies' websites and apps have surged since 2018. Now in 2021, 70-90 lawsuits for ADA violations due to digital accessibility are filed in a typical week

The results of this surge in lawsuits are a mixed bag. Private lawsuits raise awareness of digital accessibility, but critics say it's for the wrong reasons and the wrong tactic to move companies to make real change. (Read about "structured negotiation," an alternative path to the courtroom, popular with some legal advocates here). 

For more about the legal risk, what you can do to defend these lawsuits, and how ADA-based lawsuits even come to be associated with digital accessibility in the first place, join this week's webinar with John M. Magliery, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Inclusive web design benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. 

Having an accessible website benefits all website visitors. Many accessible technologies created for people with disabilities end up benefitting everyone. One example: the widespread use of closed captions. Other popular tools that enhance accessibility include voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, dark mode, and face recognition.

Inclusive web design creates welcoming digital environments for all users, regardless of disability. Watch the video below to hear UX Designer, Luca Boškin, talk about how inclusive UX design principles are used in mobile and native apps.

To learn more, access a copy of the presentation slides with the full webinar here. Or take inspiration from these 5 examples of accessible website design.

Don’t underestimate the task of web accessibility

Accessibility is an ongoing process. There are no shortcuts. Business owners should note the increasing ADA lawsuits against websites that use quick-fix accessibility overlays and widgets. Accessibility experts and disability advocates advise against these overlays and widgets, which are facing increased backlash. Every inaccessible website and app is at risk for these costly consequences.

The benefits of digital accessibility far outweigh the costs. Adopt this mindset early to make your digital journey easier. 

When you're ready, UsableNet is here to offer help as your Web Accessibility Partner. For additional reading to guide you on your web accessibility journey, check out our 2021 e-book, "Web Accessibility: Your Roadmap to Building Inclusive Digital Experiences. 



Founded in 2000, UsableNet created some of the first tools and platforms to make websites accessible and usable for all people. Starting out, we worked with government agencies as well as universities and corporations. Today, accessibility has become important to almost all companies. We provide accessibility solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, small and medium enterprises, government, and education organizations across industries including retail, travel, hospitality, food services, automotive, financial services, and healthcare.

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