When it comes to Web design and development, many ‘Net professionals are focused on the user experience for those coming in from desktop and mobile devices, without lending too much time to how the experience will be for those living with some sort of limitation that makes achieving a goal online difficult.
There are some industries, however, mandated by the federal government to do so, but Usablenet CMO Carin van Vuuren says that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering higher standards for a broader range of companies/entities. She explains where we currently are in regards to legislation and where she expects the industry to go:
"For many years Web accessibility has primarily been a concern for government entities and higher education because they serve the public. This is covered under Section 508 of the ADA. Over the last few years we have seen cases brought against HR Block, Harvard and others for not providing accessible content. In 2013, the Department of Transportation adopted an amendment to the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which covers website and on-site kiosk accessibility for airlines and airports. The mandate will make all websites comply with WCAG 2.0 AA standards for core services, then for all content.
The law goes into effect in phases starting in December of 2015, and will leave airlines that do not comply vulnerable to litigation. In November 2015, all airline sites offering booking functionality will need to confirm to WCAG 2.0, levels A and AA. Furthermore, by November 2016, all Web pages will need to meet these same strict criteria. The Department of Justice is mulling over similar legislation about site accessibility, which would apply to many businesses across every industry.
While the WCAG 2.0 is an international standard for accessibility, laws in the U.S. and most of the world have yet to apply it to all websites. The law only states that companies should take ‘reasonable steps’ to make their websites accessible, and does not mention the WCAG. In the past four years however, a number of high-profile lawsuits and widespread support for stricter laws has caused the DOJ and other regulatory bodies to reconsider the stance of the law.
This is fantastic news for users with disabilities, but has come as a bit of a shock to the businesses. We anticipate that WCAG 2.0 will eventually become the Web standard for accessibility conformance.”
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