Tips for ADA Compliance

September 20, 2018 BY ELISA EDELBERG

Compliance, compliance, compliance! If you work in the accessibility or technology world, the word probably looms over you like a dark cloud. What exactly is compliance, and how do you achieve it? For answers, we turn to two experts – Bobby Silverstein and Mark Penicook.

Americans with disabilities act: title I - employment; title II - state and local government; title III - public accommodations

What the ADA Says… and Means

Bobby Silverstein is the former staff director and chief counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy and chief aide to Senator Tom Harkin, the sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the webinar, What The Winn-Dixie Case & Other Important Rulings Mean For the Future of Web Accessibility Under The ADA, Bobby helps to break down the ADA into a simple structure and digestible definitions. The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination, and guarantees the same opportunities as everyone else. Such opportunities include employment, purchasing of goods and services and the ability to participate in State and local government programs.

It’s not every day we get an insider view of what Congress is thinking, but thanks to Bobby we get a glimpse behind the scenes when it comes to the intention and language of the ADA. In 1990 when Congress enacted the ADA, the internet did not exist. Bobby explains that despite the differing technology at the time, Congress had the foresight to know that the law must be able to adapt to changes over time. In fact, Congress explicitly noted that the concept of discrimination, “should keep pace with rapidly changing technology of the times.” While this wording may be somewhat ambiguous, we have since see this come to reality through several ADA lawsuits including NAD v. Netflix, as well as through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

WCAG

With advancements and increased technology, access to the digital world can have a significant impact on the opportunities covered under the ADA including employment opportunities, involvement in government, and access to public accommodations. Today, we use the internet for all aspects of our lives – from communicating with coworkers and business prospects, to gathering information about jobs, doctors, politicians, news, as well as shopping, banking, and more. The WCAG was established by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as the main international standard of accessibility for the World Wide Web. The WCAG  provides a standard for web content accessibility that guides organizations to make their websites ADA compliant, even despite the ambiguity of the ADA itself.

I'm a person who was there when we passed the ADA. All I can do is share with you what Congress intended when they passed the ADA. They intended that there would be changes in technology, and Congress would establish general statements of policy with respect to what does constitute discrimination on the basis of disability. Discrimination means if you decide to do something for the general public, the general public includes people with disabilities... If you choose to communicate through websites, or online, or mobile apps for the general public, it should be effective and meaningfully available for people with disabilities. Effective and meaningful opportunity that is as effective and meaningful as that made available or provided to others. - Bobby Silverstein

Accessibility at Capital One

When you think of Capital One you probably think banking – but as a company they’re a whole lot more than that. Mark Penicook, Senior Manager of Accessibility, joined us in a webinar to give us his first hand experience of what it was like to implement accessibility at Capital One. His story and experience provides many takeaways and tips that will help you understand how you can become ADA compliant at your organization!

icons showing the different stages of the accessibility team at capital one starting with just one person and ending with a team

The first thing to note is that size doesn’t matter – the accessibility team at Capital One started out about nine years ago, with one individual and has since grown to 11 individuals from different areas of the company. The team, led by Mark, is responsible for all digital accessibility at Capital One from web pages, to mobile applications, to electronic messaging. Mark shared some of the things he learned over the last nine years, and here are some of the tips and takeaways from his experience.

Takeaways and Tips

  • Drive Awareness

    brainThe visual above shows that when the team began, accessibility was not something people were aware of. If they were aware of this term “accessibility” they thought it only applied to brick and mortar organizations and encompassed things like ramps for wheelchairs, and automatic doors. No one had any idea what digital accessibility was. Education to drive awareness naturally became the first key step in becoming ADA compliant. Without awareness they couldn’t implement any real changes.

  • Accessibility Is Not an Afterthought

    face with check above and x belowOnce the awareness was there, the team still needed to make sure that accessibility was considered and incorporated from the very beginning of the development lifecycle and product iteration or ideation stages. If it wasn’t thought of at the beginning, they discovered that people became less willing or able to make changes. They may already be emotionally invested in the design or in the delivery that’s underway, and it’s hard to then fight backwards to include accessibility.

  • Build a Brand

    wrenchIn addition to educating people about accessibility – and specifically digital accessibility – spreading the word about the accessibility team internally was crucial to ensuring that accessibility was thought of from the beginning.  In order to do this, other teams needed to know what resources were available to them.

    Fortunately, Capital One is experienced with branding different internal teams. Some teams even had catchy names or slogans, and had posters and signs in their workspace to let others know what they did and how to find them, and the new accessibility team quickly followed suit. Their approach, however was two-fold – they not only needed to gain buy-in, spread awareness, and show people the need for accessibility, but they also needed to let people know that there was a team to help with the seemingly daunting task of accessibility compliance. The team came up with a logo design that combines the “c” and “1” from Capital One to create an “a” for accessibility.

 

By better understanding the intent of the ADA, you will gain a better understanding of how it impacts web accessibility Additionally, by keeping in mind the strategies from the Capital One Accessibility Team, you will gain a greater understanding of the steps you must take in order to become ADA compliant at your own organization.

 


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