What changing accessibility standards in the US mean for organizations

The standards for web accessibility in the US are changing.

Earlier this year, the United States Access Board approved a ruling to update the current Section 508 standards, which have been in place since 1973. The board has adopted several Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 criteria, and organizations have 12 months to adhere to them.

Certainly, it’s easy to point to the government and public education industries – which receive federal funding and thus are often under more intense scrutiny – when it comes to abiding by these criteria. But private organizations need to be aware of these new standards and already be working towards them, too.

In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf took Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – both private institutions – to court over online content that was deemed inaccessible due to a lack of closed captioning.

Although such proceedings have serious ramifications, accessibility compliance is about more than not getting sued. “It’s about doing right by your customers, having an inclusive user experience, and being able to say you’re at the forefront of accessibility,” says Ceasar Chevalier, regional manager for Squiz US.

Accessibility also has a number of business benefits for organizations. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has shown that an accessible website can lead to improved search results, reduced maintenance costs, and wider audience reach.

The task of measuring and improving compliance, however, can be daunting for many organizations. “So often, companies look at these guidelines and feel like it’s an insurmountable problem,” says Ceasar. “That’s why it’s vital to begin monitoring your accessibility today.”

By taking an iterative approach and tracking your progress over time, you’ll be in a better position to assess and improve how you measure up to these new standards.

Put your users first with Squiz’s Accessibility Auditor

“If you’re looking towards 2018 and worrying about complying with these new accessibility standards, the first thing you need to ask yourself is if you’re using the right tools," Ceasar says. Squiz’s Accessibility Auditor could be the answer for many organizations.

Built on Funnelback technology, the Accessibility Auditor allows you to measure your web content against a range of accessibility criteria. It identifies and reports issues and then provides recommendations on how to address them.

How is it different from other available tools on the market? Three factors make the Accessibility Auditor stand out from the crowd.

1. It has an intuitive, interactive, and easy-to-use dashboard

The Accessibility Auditor monitors compliance using its dashboard, which is where the flexibility of the tool shines, “You can control the sections of the site you want to audit,” Ceasar explains. “So, if you or your team manage only one section of the site, you can generate a compliance report for only those pages.”

Once the Accessibility Auditor runs your audit, the dashboard outlines any accessibility issues that the tool has found. By clicking on an issue, you’ll go to the infracting  code on your site, where you can quickly identify and resolve the issue.

You can also download conformance reports as CSV or PDF files, and the tool can automatically email them to those within the organization responsible for meeting accessibility requirements.

2. It’s simple to set up, with no hidden fees

“The beauty of the Accessibility Auditor is that you can deploy it anywhere; it doesn’t need any complicated integration,” says Ceasar. This makes for minimal set-up effort with just about any website or technology.

In fact, unless you’re looking for a more bespoke solution, Squiz will set up the Accessibility Auditor for free. Once we set up the tool, we’ll work with your organization and continue to index your site as you address and improve your accessibility standards.

3. It’s available both on premise and in the cloud

Many accessibility tools on the market are cloud-based. And although that works for a lot of organizations, many – especially those in government industries – have restricted data that they don’t want indexed in the cloud.

“We worked with a government agency that had employee records and other sensitive documents, and for them, a cloud-based tool just wasn’t an option,” says Ceasar. “That’s where we came into play for them.”

Squiz’s Accessibility Auditor is available both in the cloud and on premise, meaning that it’s agile enough to be the right fit for a wide range of organizations, whatever their requirements.

We’re the accessibility experts

Although the WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines have only recently been brought to the table in the US, they’re not new. Many governments around the world have already enforced these standards, and Squiz has been working alongside them. “Squiz understands accessibility better than most other agencies,” says Ceasar. “We’ve been operating with WCAG 2.0 for years.”

Squiz works with thousands of multinational organizations, including many in the government and higher-education sectors that are following these standards. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you meet accessibility standards so your website is inclusive for all of your users.

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