What Your Organization Needs to Know About Digital Accessibility in 2019

August 1, 2019 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: May 1, 2020

In the first part of the three-series webinar, Lily Bond, Director of Marketing here at 3Play Media and Tim Springer, CEO of Level Access give an informative presentation covering trends in digital accessibility, laws and standards, procurement drivers for digital accessibility, and more in The Digital Accessibility Landscape webinar.

Trends in Digital Accessibility

There are two major trends going on globally, which Tim describes as “a graying globe”.

  1. Life expectancy is increasing
  2. The birth rate is decreasing

Essentially, the combination of these two trends means that the population is getting older, and at the same token, the population is using technology at a more in-depth basis. A few years ago, there was a low adoption of smartphones, internet use, and online social networking in the older population. Now, there’s more access to the internet and older populations are using technology at higher rates than we’ve ever seen before.

graph of likelihood of disability. On the x-axis is age bracket and on the y-axis is percentage likelihood of disability. As the age bracket increases, the likelihood of disability increases

Image Courtesy of Australian Network on Disability


There is a near-perfect correlation between age and disability prevalence. Studies show that as you get older, the likelihood of developing a disability drastically increases.

We have a population that’s getting older and using technology. Ultimately, accessibility requirements are going to continue to grow because that’s where the demographics are going. As the population of people with disabilities continues to increase, we’ll see more demand for accessibility, both from a consumer perspective and from a legal perspective.

Additionally, we see many online brands starting to move backward by creating an online presence first, then moving into offline spaces with physical storefronts. This is particularly important when it comes to accessibility because the expectation is that we’ll see more accessibility lawsuits targeting digital spaces because they ultimately tie back to the use or enjoyment of a physical place.

“Under Title III of the ADA, no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services at any place of public accommodation.”

The last trend is pricing at online stores is falling faster than pricing in physical stores. Therefore, it’s economically advantageous for consumers to have access to online shopping.

Digital Accessibility Standards and Laws

The pizza company, Dominos, was recently sued when a blind patron attempted to order a pizza, but failed to complete the order, claiming the company’s website was inaccessible. Dominos has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review the case, Dominos v. Robles, and determine whether Title III of the ADA applies to websites or mobile applications with respect to individuals with disabilities. The likelihood of this case being heard by the Supreme Court is low, however, if it does get heard, we’ll get a concrete answer on digital accessibility and its application under the ADA.

what we know about recent cases regarding the ADA: 2,258 digital accessibility cases filed in 2018, different judges and rulings, vast majority of cases settle, slim on precent and rare that cases will be appealed

We expect significant growth in accessibility lawsuits because there’s no regulation of how the ADA applies to digital accessibility and because the current administration has stated that it’s unlikely their going to issue regulations. Since regulation hasn’t happened yet, the way these cases are being resolved is through litigation. Litigation is the primary means of driving digital accessibility in the marketplace.

A vast majority of lawsuits were filed in industries that focus on end consumers and have a significant digital footprint. Some examples are:

  • Hotels
  • Retailers
  • Consumer product manufacturers
  • Food and beverage companies
  • Real estate
  • Banking
  • Health care providers

If you’re in an industry that directly serves consumers through a physical place of business, there’s probably a significant amount of risk associated with your industry.

If you’ve had a lawsuit, you probably have about a 30% chance…of having another one being filed. There is a very clear correlation between the size of the brand and the risk associated with another lawsuit.Tim Springer, CEO of Level Access

How Accessibility Laws Apply to Video

Video is specifically implicated by three accessibility laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the 21st Century Video Accessibility Act.

the ADA, the rehabilitation act, and the CVAA explanation on the laws

WCAG, otherwise known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, has great guidelines on what you should be doing for video. When it comes to video, there are three levels to help attain accessibility.

  • Level A: requires closed captioning and transcription for audio-only content and text descriptions of visual information
  • Level AA: requires audio description and live captioning
  • Level AAA: requires extended audio description, a sign language track, and live transcription for audio

Trends in Video Accessibility

We’re seeing some astonishing trends in online video. More video is uploaded to the web in a single month than TV has created in three decades. It’s estimated that by 2022, 82% of the world’s internet traffic will be video. By 2025, there will be one million minutes of video crossing the internet every second.

So what does that mean for accessibility? There are many people in the population that are impacted by inaccessible video. 48 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing, which is about 20% of the population. Additionally, 24 million Americans are blind or low vision, which is about 10% of the population.

If you aren’t making video accessible with captions and audio description, you’re excluding a large percentage of the population who could be great consumers of your product.

video trends on closed captioning for facebook and in educational settings

Audio description is an accommodation for blind users and it narrates the relevant visual information in the video. Beyond accessibility, there are a lot of reasons why audio description is important.

  • Makes video accessible to blind or low vision users
  • Helps autistic individuals understand emotional and social cues
  • Gives viewers flexibility in eyes-free environments
  • Aids in language development
  • Benefits auditory learners who retain information best through sound
  • Helps with inattentional blindness so viewers don’t miss any details

State of Captioning

graph increasing upward

3Play Media recently released a report called The 2019 State of Captioning, where we surveyed a little over 1,000 video accessibility professionals across a wide range of industries, roles, and organizations sizes to gauge how organizations are handling captioning and video accessibility.

We found that most participants saw their captioning needs staying the same or increasing over the new year. 58% of respondents are captioning most or all of their content and 38% have a centralized process for captioning at their organization.

As mentioned above, digital accessibility lawsuits are becoming a huge trend. We wanted to dive into the legal understanding for video accessibility since it’s a big driver for why so many people are captioning.

  • 66% of people are “very” or “fairly” confident they understand what it means to be compliant with captioning laws
  • 39% of people have a clear policy for captioning compliance
  • 50% of people either believe or are unsure about whether automatic captions fulfill legal requirements

These stats indicate that there’s a disconnect between what people are doing and what people understand to be true about captioning video.

Although this may be the case, we are seeing some interesting trends on the biggest drivers for captioning. Legal compliance was the number one reason, but we are seeing an increased impact on user engagement and learning enhancement as big motivators for captioning.

Register for the next webinar with Level Access, How to Get Buy-In for Accessibility at Your Organization”.

Watch the full webinar, “The Digital Accessibility Landscape: What Your Organization Needs to Know in 2019” 👇

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