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The Start of This Decade’s Great Inclusive Initiative

By Cassi Price, Manager of Marketing Strategy and Christina Throndson, Director of Business Development

This time last year, many health care business owners and internal marketing teams were learning about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for the first time, sparked by an announcement made by the Department of Justice that the DOJ was planning to adopt WCAG 2.0 AA standards as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ultimately, this meant web accessibility would be a requirement for all private businesses by as early as 2018 and all public entities immediately. 

What resulted from that DOJ announcement was a chain of events that helped us plan for 2017, giving us the groundwork for removing barriers to content online moving forward and providing a more inclusive experience for all, an initiative that is actually long overdue. 

To help you prepare, here are our predictions regarding web accessibility for the rest of 2017:

  1. There will be many more lawsuits. Even though the federal government has stated time and again that they will not enforce web accessibility until 2018, this doesn’t protect your health care facility from litigation before 2018. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, more than 240 U.S. businesses have been sued by visually impaired users in federal court over website accessibility since 2015.
  2. You will see adjustments to what will be required. While the Department of Justice has stated that it will likely adopt the WCAG 2.0 AA standards as its requirements, we know that isn’t always how things end up.
  3. We’ll see recognition for accessible websites skyrocket. Some examples in 2016: Penn State University received national attention for its dedication to making all of its university systems accessible. The State of Georgia was recognized by the National Association of State CIOs for its Accessible Platform Initiative. And, Cornell University promoted its initiative to provide a “standard of web accessibility” for all Cornell websites to support its “equality” and “antidiscrimination” standard.
  4. A clear line will be drawn between accessible and inaccessible websites. Just like we now easily notice when a brick and mortar business is not wheelchair accessible, it will be made clear which websites are accessible and which are not. 
  5. Accessible websites will take over prime real estate in search listings. Because many of the recommended accessibility changes for a website are also considered best practice for search engine optimization, we will see accessible websites take over top search listings.
  6. Advocacy groups will join the fight against websites that are not accessible. A 2016 article in Inside Higher Ed discussed a “shift in activism” where advocacy groups are starting to push much harder for legislation on websites that discriminate against people with disabilities.
  7. The illusion of quick fixes will start popping up. When the need for a mobile website option really came into the limelight five years ago, we saw many “quick fix” solutions appear that seemed to convert your website to a mobile-friendly solution in mere minutes. However, those of us who were in digital marketing knew it’s wasn’t that easy.

Next Steps

We challenge you to do the following:

  1. Find out where your website stands. Get an audit done that provides all the areas of accessibility opportunities on your website. 
  2. Educate your board of directors about web accessibility. Show them this article. Ask them to research the history of WCAG.
  3. Prioritize the changes that need to happen on your site. Making your site compliant will probably be a large project, but it doesn’t have to be done in a month. Just start chipping away at the changes, but DO NOT let others add content to your website without first becoming educated on added compliant content!
  4. Document all efforts. 
  5. To keep your website compliant, create a schedule of regular audits and review those with your team.

If you have questions about how to make your website accessible and keep it that way, give us a call at 864-881-2823 or visit the Forbin Report for web accessibility resources.

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