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Making sense of digital accessibility. (Somebody had to do it.)

It was a ruling heard around the world. In October 2018, a US federal court decided that a blind customer could sue Domino’s Pizza because screen-reading software didn’t work on the chain’s pizza ordering website. A year later, the US Supreme Court decided not to review the case, letting stand the lower court’s ruling.

We heard it, too. At The Garrigan Lyman Group, awareness and understanding of digital accessibility laws are part of our job. Guidance for our clients is too. Indeed, the discussion around the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to website and app accessibility can be confusing. Written well before digital had its growth spurt, the ADA makes no mention of the internet.

But the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and a growing number of federal courts (as Domino’s Pizza can tell you) have more recently taken the broader position—successfully—that the ADA covers any place of business, internet included.

A Common ADA Gotcha

Compliance considerations should factor into every brand strategy, visual identity, design, functionality, and development decision you make. And there are perhaps hundreds of considerations and issues to address, not to mention the inevitable hurdle.

For example, certain colors or branded icons and fonts that lack the proper contrast can hinder accessibility for some vision-challenged users. We see this issue come up more commonly with brands whose long-established guidelines were largely developed for traditional media. With newer companies or start-ups whose brand development and direction are under our control from the get-go, accessibility and compliance considerations are built in. Regardless, companies need to understand what their brand colors should be, both on and offline.

Quality Assurance Figures Big

Compliance testing during the quality assurance phase is also important. The widely regarded Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 administered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offer a testing checklist that helps to establish various levels of compliance. While not legally binding, the consortium’s guidelines are a better resource for compliance standards than the ADA, and the DOJ has even referenced them in court cases.

Serving a Growing Segment

According to a study funded by the National Eye Institute, there are more than 12 million Americans with vision challenges. By 2050, that number is expected to more than double to 25 million.1 To be sure, website compliance and accessibility considerations are not limited to vision-challenged users. A broad range of disabilities can impact access to the internet and apps, including speech, hearing, learning, and physical challenges.

And then there’s this: a 2019 report shows that the number of website- and app-accessibility-related lawsuits against brands has skyrocketed from 262 in 2016 to 2,235 in 2019. Sixty percent of those lawsuits have targeted retail brands.2

Considering the Entire Experience

The lawsuit report numbers (which are likely to go up) are an indication that a stunning number of brands are still struggling with digital compliance and accessibility issues. The clamor has certainly prompted brands to look inward and ask the question, “Are we compliant?” GLG can certainly help you find an answer. We can also help you take a holistic view of your digital brand and consider how all users interact with it.

That’s what modern UX requires.

 

  1. “Visual Impairment, Blindness Cases in U.S. Expected to Double by 2050,” National Eye Institute website, May 19, 2016, www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and events/news/visual-impairment-blindness-cases-us-expected-double-2050.
  2. “UsableNet Releases Its 2019 ADA Web Accessibility and App Lawsuit Report,” UsableNet website, December 18, 2019, http://blog.usablenet.com/usablenet-  releases-its-2019-ada-web-accessibility-and-app-lawsuit-report.