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Digital Accessibility Can Make a Lasting Difference for People with Disabilities

Digital accessibility barriers today can create long-term disadvantages in education, employment, wealth creation, societal inclusion, and civic participation.

Digital accessibility makes content usable for people with disabilities

Digital content can be built in ways that tend to make it more or less usable for people with disabilities. The goal of digital accessibility is to make content fully available to and usable by as many people as possible, including those with disabilities.

Websites, apps, kiosks, electronic documents, and anything people read or do in digital form should be created in a way that allows independent use by people with disabilities. If digital content has already been built without considering accessibility, it can be tested and updated to be made more accessible.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most popular digital accessibility standards, as well as the most-commonly referenced guidelines in digital accessibility lawsuits. It is also specified as the official requirement under certain laws, like Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The original version of WCAG was published in 1999 and the most current version, WCAG 2.1, was published in 2018.

WCAG is structured according to four principles, which state that content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each principle is further broken into individual success criteria that provide specific information and techniques for designing and developing accessible content. WCAG has three conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Digital accessibility is a requirement

Access to websites and digital platforms is essential for employment, education, and independent living. That’s why in many instances, digital accessibility is a legal requirement.

ADA Compliance

  • Title I prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, including recruitment, hiring, pay, and other related aspects.
  • Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services.
  • Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination that prevents equal access to public good and services of public accommodations.

When services and accommodations are through digital channels, like websites and apps, the ADA has been interpreted as applying to those.

ADA compliance

Section 508 Compliance

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law extends to employees and members of the public.

As of January 2018, the web content and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of federal agencies and contractors have to meet WCAG 2.0 Levels A and AA standards for digital accessibility compliance. Section 508 testing and remediation would be recommended for ensuring compliance.

Section 508 compliance