Equidox Accessibility Pulse – May 2019

man in suit working on a holographic hexagonal interface - pushing the Web Accessibility Button

Digital accessibility is not a destination to be reached but an ongoing process across a number of industries and fields. Since the beginning of the year, a number of new rules, lawsuits, and initiatives have popped up in the world of digital accessibility, moving the industry closer to the goal of reaching everyone.

Thousands of Fortune 100 Companies’ URLs Aren’t Accessible

Fortune 100 companies are good at a lot of things when it comes to business- they know how to create a desirable product or service, they know how to make their shareholders happy, and they know how to reach their consumers. But they may be missing a huge chunk of their target audience- up to 20% of it- by failing to make their digital resources accessible to those with disabilities.

A recent study conducted by Ovum and Crownpeak searched an average of 2,500 web pages for each Fortune 100 company and found 815,600 accessibility issues in total.  Some of the most common issues included failure to indicate when a link will open in a new window, lack of accurate alt text for images, and inaccurate headings.  

These compliance failures are often the result of a lack of in-house expertise, and a lack of standard accessibility procedures for content creators to follow.  Often in large corporations there are so many people and departments creating content that it’s difficult to make sure everyone involved understands how to make content accessible, and a lack of standard accessibility procedures perpetuates this issue.

By neglecting to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities, who make up nearly 20% of the population and who have an annual discretionary spend of over $200 billion in the United States alone, companies are leaving billions of dollars in potential sales on the table. For companies who otherwise are at the top of their industry, this is a big loss and offers enormous potential for improvement and growth.

Check out our blog Web Accessibility, it’s Good for Business for more information about how your business can benefit from becoming accessible to everyone.

Web Accessibility, it’s Good for Business

Students with disabilities should have just as much of an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and pursue their chosen careers as those without. While many colleges have worked to become accessible and make all of their classes, materials, and resources usable by everyone, some of the professional exams that must be conquered after achieving a degree are less accessible.

One example was the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam, which did not offer tools to make questions accessible to those with blindness or low vision. A recent taker of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam alleged that she experienced discrimination because the Exam was not made accessible to her due to her visual disability. In order to take the test, she would need to have a human assistant read her the questions and the Authoritative Literature supplement, which is a reference document to be used during the test, which she felt would hinder her performance.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) agreed to make necessary changes to the exam so that exam questions can be magnified and/or read aloud by screen reader technology. This allows exam takers to independently access both exam and resource materials, and be accurately tested on their knowledge, not their disability.

MCA to make Art Accessible Blind/ Low Vision Patrons

In light of a barrage of recent lawsuits against fifty different art galleries in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is taking steps to make sure that everyone, regardless of ability, is able to enjoy their displays. Each work of art is being carefully described by text so that visitors to their website will be able to view, read about, or listen to a description of the piece. 

Often, because observing and understanding art can be a very personal, subjective experience, it can be difficult to describe it without personal biases or interpretations. To help create the most effective, objective descriptions, they’ve developed a cloud-based software called Coyote, which “provides a system for creating, reviewing, and managing the language used to describe art,” according to artsy.com.

Once a description is entered, it must also be reviewed and approved by a different editor to prevent any unintentional personal biases. This software is a first of its kind and is currently free and living in the cloud so that any other art institutions can also use it to make their pieces accessible to those with visual disabilities as well.

According to current editors at MCA, the most difficult part is creating descriptions which are succinct, complete, and clear, while understanding that what is succinct, complete, and clear to one person may be different to another, especially in terms of the abstract art for which the museum is famous. To alleviate that concern, editors have developed a style guide for users to determine what information should or should not be included, and how to describe elements without using jargon or getting too unnecessarily specific.

Ideally, the current editors plan on developing two descriptions for each image- one short, default description for screen readers to pick up, and an alternative, longer, optional description including more nuance and a deeper understanding of the image.

Time’s up for Waivers- Video Games Must Now Be Accessible

While video games have technically been required to comply with 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) since Obama signed it into law in 2010, video game companies have been able to avoid compliance by using a series of waivers. However, the last of these waivers expired in December of 2018, meaning that compliance is now the law for all newly released or updated video games. Failure to meet these compliance standards “within reasonable effort and cost” could result in mediation and fines, as well as customer complaints.

These newly enforceable regulations specifically relate to communication between gamers within the video game itself, concerning mainly the chat functions. While this is a very narrow section of the industry to regulate, video game creators have been cognizant of the needs of those with disabilities in other ways thanks to AbleGamers, a nonprofit dedicated to the video game accessibility. AbleGamers have successfully encouraged game developers to look beyond the basic regulations and make video games accessible entertainment for all.

Even Queen Bey Isn’t Immune from Digital Accessibility Litigation

Beyonce’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, was hit with a class-action lawsuit in January 2019. A blind New York woman experienced numerous difficulties while navigating Beyonce’s website, Beyonce.com.

A blind New York woman experienced discrimination when she was unable to successfully navigate around Beyonce’s website, Beyonce.com, using her assistive technology. Simple digital accessibility barriers like a lack of accessible drop-down menus, navigation links, and alt text for pictures make the site nearly unusable by fans who are blind or have low vision.

According to the lawsuit, website visitors who are blind or low vision were,  “denied access to the enjoyment of goods and services offered by Beyonce.com, during the relevant statutory period.” Basic website tasks such as accessing information and purchasing tickets or merchandise are impossible, subjecting blind or low vision users to “unlawful discrimination.”

Music is one thing that can be enjoyed equally by those with and without sight, and the fact that Beyonce’s website is exclusively usable by sighted individuals is particularly hurtful to the plaintiff. While compensatory damages, court costs, and legal fees are also requested, the plaintiff’s main request was that the website be remediated to be fully accessible to those with disabilities.

This lawsuit is part of an increasing trend to use litigation to encourage companies with public-facing websites to make their websites fully compliant with ADA Section 508 and accessible to those with disabilities. While these charges don’t typically result in punitive damages, they do force companies into compliance so that others with similar disabilities no longer face discrimination.

Ready to become compliant? Check out our consulting to see how we can help.

Not sure if you’re compliant or not? We can help you determine what your website needs to attain digital accessibility.


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Nina Overdorff

Nina comes to Equidox with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”