This post is contributed by the fabulous Jen Martinez, who has been working with us at Anneal.
Last time, we talked about what ADA compliance is and why it is relevant to businesses and organizations. Today, we’ll be diving in a bit further to discuss the history behind ADA’s creation, what the WCAG entails, and where the Department of Justice comes in.
The history of the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act was originally passed in 1990. However, its story does not begin there. The ADA was the work of countless citizens fighting for equal opportunity for themselves and their children in their communities since the 1970s. In effect, the disabilities rights movement was an extension of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It was a grassroots effort that eventually led to the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 banned discrimination on the basis of disability, similar to previous laws that banned discrimination based on race, sex, and ethnic origin. 504 was just the beginning.
Fast forward through countless iterations of Section 504 to 1988, when the first draft of the ADA was presented; it was originally prompted by a draft bill written by the National Council on Disability and led to the ADA draft presented at the 100th Congress. Over the course of the next two years, the ADA went through numerous versions, edits, hearings, committee considerations, and subcommittee considerations that led to President George H.W. Bush signing it into law July 1990.
What is the WCAG?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the ADA standard to which websites are held accountable. The first iteration of the WCAG was enacted in 1999 and had 14 guidelines broken up into three levels of priorities. In 2008, WCAG 2.0 began to be enforced, with a focus on principles, rather than 1.0’s focus on technology. 2.0 has 12 guidelines under four levels of priorities: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
The relationship between the ADA, WCAG, and the DOJ
The Department of Justice administers the ADA and oversees its enforcement. It has been publicly considering ADA regulations in regards to websites and technology since 2010, but there are currently no formal regulations in effect. Thus, the WCAG is the guide that businesses and organizations are turning to when needing to make their websites ADA-compliant. To this day, the DOJ continues to make matters complicated, putting off deciding on those regulations until 2018. This delay has forced the hands of people wanting to file suits against non-compliant businesses, as was the case in 2013 against H&R Block and again in 2015 against online educator EDX, Inc.
Until the DOJ makes a decision regarding web accessibility standards, businesses and organizations must rely on WCAG to maintain ADA compliance. Unfortunately, not enough businesses know the legal risks of having a non-ADA-compliant website or technology, which has led to more than 60 suits being filed since January 2015.
The fact of the matter is, you should treat your website or technology just like a brick-and-mortar location. It must be accessible to all.
Concerned your business or organization’s website doesn’t fit the WCAG? Ask us!