As COVID-19 forces various aspects of daily life to shift online, new research shows that nearly all websites in America fail to meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities.
98% of U.S.-based webpages are not accessible to the disability community from a legal perspective, according to the 2020 Web Accessibility Annual Report compiled by the accessiBe initiative, which analyzed more than 10 million webpages to determine their compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (2.1 WCAG). Non-compliance with the WCAG guidelines in regard to various website components includes menus (98 percent of websites fail to comply), images (52 percent fail), pop-ups (89 percent fail), forms (71 percent fail), icons (76 percent fail), buttons (83 percent fail), and links (22 percent fail).
In 2018 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) affirmed that websites are considered a place of public accommodation, and thus should be made accessible in compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In response to these findings, the Ruderman Family Foundation, an internationally recognized disability rights organization, has called for all websites in the country to become accessible by the year 2025. The Foundation’s call comes amid this year’s 30th anniversary of the enactment of the ADA.
“Thirty years on from the ADA, it is disturbing and unacceptable that the Internet remains largely inaccessible to people with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable members of society,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “During the current pandemic, people with disabilities are already experiencing heightened vulnerability when it comes to their access to medical care as well as social and human services, in addition to the mental health implications of living in isolation due to social distancing. In this environment, it is imperative that the Internet becomes part of the solution, rather than exacerbating the problem. When they are fully accessible, websites can empower people with disabilities to remain informed, entertained, connected, and often just one click away from receiving the assistance they need.”
OPEN TO LAWSUITS
Websites’ failure to meet ADA requirements also exposes them to lawsuits. In September 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) affirmed that websites are places of public accommodation and, therefore, must comply with the ADA. The DOJ’s directive was validated in January 2019, when Domino’s Pizza lost in court to a blind plaintiff who had difficulty ordering pizza because the company’s website was not compatible with standard screen-reading software. Since the landmark Domino’s ruling, tens of thousands of demand letters have been issued to small businesses for violations of the ADA, and Google searches for the ADA and WCAG have risen by more than 400 percent.
The Ruderman Family Foundation’s call for total accessibility on the Internet, a call which is important to bring about the full inclusion of people with disabilities in society.
About the Author: The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships, and a dynamic approach to philanthropy, in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the US and the world.
The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding.
For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org.