The Corporate Guide to Accessibility Statements
The number of digital accessibility lawsuits continues to climb year-over-year, with last year’s total reaching 4,605 total cases. This trend highlights the need for companies large and small to protect themselves against costly web accessibility litigation and make their online assets and content more inclusive.
Although there are many steps that every business should take to improve their accessibility on and offline, one of the simplest and most important is to create a comprehensive, transparent accessibility statement. Read this quick guide on why to create one, what to include and where it belongs on your site.
Why You Need an Accessibility Statement
For some organizations, posting an accessibility statement is mandatory. However, even those companies that might get away without one, should take the time to write and post a statement. Being proactive and transparent about online accessibility is well worth it for a variety of reasons.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might not explicitly require an accessibility statement, but other laws do. For instance, the Office of Management and Budget requires that all federal agencies post one. Also, the European Union’s Web Accessibility Directive creates similar requirements for government and public sites in the EU. As for private businesses, it’s less clear when or if one of these would be necessary, but most large companies do include such statements, making them more of an expectation and indication of a business’s professionalism.
Inclusivity & ethical responsibility
Creating an accessibility statement is one way that companies can demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. The statement shows that a business understands that people with disabilities need access to the company’s website, products and services. Adding a statement also reflects that a corporation knows that providing equal access to information and resources for all individuals is its ethical responsibility.
Better customer experiences
Posting accessibility information improves the overall user experience for all visitors, including those with disabilities. Making it easy to quickly access accessibility features and accommodations on the website means that anyone who needs or prefers that information in a different format can find it.
Transparency and accountability
Online accessibility is a journey and requires ongoing maintenance and updates as technology and expectations evolve. Adding an accessibility statement provides transparency about the company’s efforts to address issues and acknowledges areas where it may need to improve.
Legal risk mitigation
Even where an accessibility statement isn’t required, it can help prevent litigation. Not only does a well-crafted statement demonstrate proactive efforts to address accessibility barriers, but it also offers a way for people to report any issues so that the company can remedy them before they become a larger problem.
Posting an accessibility statement will enhance the company’s reputation as a socially responsible and inclusive organization that values diversity and accessibility.
Creates business opportunities
Focusing on web accessibility helps to expand a company’s market reach by making products and services available to a broader audience, including individuals with disabilities. An accessibility statement is one part of creating a more inclusive online experience.
What Your Accessibility Statement Needs to Say
Most accessibility statements are rather short and to the point. A few things that should go into that statement include:
The introduction should explain the purpose of the accessibility statement and the organization’s commitment to ensuring accessibility for all users.
The scope of the statement
The statement should define which aspects of the organization’s digital presence it covers (e.g., website, mobile applications, digital documents).
Relevant compliance levels or standards
A company should pick an accessibility standard that it commits to complying with, most likely, a version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For the government, that version is likely WCAG 2.1, level AA. Some businesses just choose to comment that they meet the latest standards at AA level. The WCAG undergoes updates to keep in line with modern tools, expectations and technology.
Provide contact information for users to report accessibility issues, ask questions about accessibility features or request accommodations.
Timeline for improvements
If the company is aware of any problems, communicate plans or timelines for addressing those known barriers and ongoing improvements.
Where You Should Post Your Accessibility Statement
An accessibility statement should be easily accessible and prominently displayed on a website. In some cases, it’s best to include links to the statement in multiple places to accommodate different user preferences and browsing behaviors. Some options for the placement include:
Header or navigation menu
Placing a link to the policy in the header or main navigation menu of the website makes it easily accessible and visible to users as soon as they land on the website.
Accessibility widget, pop-up or toolbar
Having a pop-up icon or toolbar on the website that includes a link to the accessibility statement along with other accessibility features and options provides users with easy access to accessibility-related information and tools.
Helpful Resources and Examples
Sometimes the best way to understand what companies should include in an accessibility statement is to look at good examples. Checking lists of companies with strong reputations as being accessible is a good place to start. Microsoft and Boston Scientific are a couple of companies that often appear at the top of lists of the most accessible corporations. Another great site to reference is whitehouse.gov, which must provide an accessibility statement.
Accessibility Beyond the Statement
When it comes to creating an accessible site, the statement is just one small piece. The site, platforms and apps must also meet the standards that the company pledges to adhere to in that statement.
Here are some of the likely requirements:
- Screen reader compatibility & keyboard navigation
- Text transcripts or audio content
- Audio description and captions of video content
- Alternative text (alt text) for images
Reach out to learn more about partnering with Verbit for accessibility solutions like captions, transcription, audio description and more.