Accessibility: Background, Importance, and Software

By Miranda Stephen — Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 at 11:00am

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Background & Legalities

Since the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, it has become a requirement for organizations, whether private or public, to provide a standard of accessibility. This standard has evolved beyond traditional brick-and-mortar accessibility features. As technology has advanced, the venue of accessibility features has migrated to include the world wide web. Under federal guidelines, public organizations and recipients of federal funds must provide web accessibility features. On the surface, private organizations are seemingly exempt as they are not federal organizations or receive federal funds. Digging deeper, an assessment conducted by ClassAction.org discovered there were over 814 web accessibility litigations filed in 2017 on grounds of discrimination. In 2019., the number of legal actions continues to rise and courts increasingly decide in favor of equal access. If you are operating the web content of a private or public organization, you are required to adopt accessibility standards for your website.

Accessibility is the structure of products, services, and amenities within the environment for people with disabilities. Published content often contains articles, blogs, gifs, images, and various forms of information that are rendered inaccessible on assistive technology. In 2018, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) won landmark accessibility litigations against public and private institutions with the support of the Department of Justice. The organizations were targeted for their lack of accessibility features under circumstances of discrimination. Insufficiently designed websites create a barrier to individuals with disabilities. The internet is an important aspect of our daily lives, including the lives of those with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 56.7 Americans have disabilities. With 17.5% of the American population requiring accessible web content. For a website to be deemed accessible, it must be intelligible, feasible, and dynamic in its form. It is important to note that regardless of disability or not, accessibility features will not alter the user experience of accessing web content. Alternative forms of text are utilized by encoding non-text media with words to best capture the description. Multimedia, such as audio and video content, are provided with text captions. These features showcase information in a manner that is intelligible to a surplus of users. Through these accessible features, the feasibility of accessing your web-content through assistive technology enhances the rate of which your web-content is picked up by search engines. Furthermore, the dynamic addition of accessible features accommodates social inclusion which warrants a positive characteristic of your organization.

Accessible Technology and Guidelines

Accessibility features provide all users with optional methods to obtain content through artificial intelligence (AI) such as screen-reader technology, input devices, and speech magnification software. Global companies have recognized the strength of AI technology in pursuit of accessibility. Notably, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has affirmed accessibility as being a driving force in their product development such as Narrator in Windows 10 and the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The market for AI technology is rapidly expanding and this market will require inclusion. It is essential for developers to innovate their web content to accommodate all users. Pioneering AI technology proposes the presentation of information to be inclusive and accommodating through means of access.

In the United States, we have made tremendous strides towards equality through the enactment of the ADA. As we progress, it is important to ensure the integration of accessibility features beyond our physical environment. Web-accessible content is vital to the successful spread of information for individuals, private/public institutions, and organizations. The World Wide Web Consortium, better known as W3C, published recommended standards in web-accessible content. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are standard guidelines to abide by when creating accessible content. These strategies and guidelines are recommended for CMS users to adopt accessibility standards within their organizations. While lengthy, the guidelines prove to be an effective resource for web developers to obtain techniques to ensure web-content is accessible.

Accessibility Software

Cascade CMS has built-in features to assist web-developers in producing accessible content. Cascade CMS possesses the Accessibility Content Check, an on-submit feature, that is compliant with WCAG 2.0 A/AAA guidelines. This feature provides suggestions and steps to ensure accessibility guidelines are being met. In addition, the on-demand WCAG 2.0 A/AAA Accessibility Checker looks over compliance and provides solutions across the site. Cascade CMS is a content management system with an embedded accessibility. Cascade Cloud is a subscription-based software hosted on our application and database servers. Cascade Cloud includes the accessibility features offered in Cascade CMS. There are additional options to help your organization create accessible web content. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers users a one-time free scan through their A11Y Compliance Tool to assess WCAG 2.0 compliance. Moreover, DYNOMAPPER.com is a sitemap generator that examines the accessibility features of the website and attached applications.

Cascade CMS is a valuable content management system that provides users with embedded tools to ensure their web-content is compliant with WCAG 2.0. Additionally, there are various software and tech consultants available to assist with accessibility compliance. Federal institutions and recipients of federal aid are required to meet accessibility standards. Despite the current lack of legal mandates requiring the same of private institutions, the DOJ has favored a multitude of litigations in support of accessibility on the grounds of discrimination. With this intention, web-developers are urged to adopt accessibility features in the pursuit of social inclusion.

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