What is ADA compliance and Web accessibility?

Compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has a specific meaning when applied to software. It describes the degree to which people with physical and/or mental disabilities are able to safely use software. Disabilities range from those we easily recognize, such as deafness, blindness, and paralysis, to ones that may not be as readily apparent, such as dyslexia, epilepsy, poor eyesight or arthritis.

A non-compliant website is one on which a disabled person cannot perform critical actions. A person with a certain type of colorblindness, for example, may not be able to use a form that instructs the user to “press the green button to continue.” A person who is hard of hearing may not be able to benefit from a website video that does not have closed captioning or sign language. A user with limited motor function may not be able to use a website that requires a mouse. Websites that consider these use cases and accommodate them are considered “accessible.”

Why is ADA compliance important for collections law firms and agencies?

Making it easier for more people to do business with you online always reduces cost and increases revenue, but there are other important reasons to make your website accessible.

1. Your clients are asking for it.

Most of our customers that service large national creditors have told us that their clients are demanding that consumer-facing websites and portals be ADA-compliant—that they are accessible to people with disabilities. Some have even asked us to provide signed attestations that payment sites we build and operate on their behalf are ADA-compliant (they are).

2. You might get sued if you don’t.

The number of lawsuits filed against businesses for failing to make their websites ADA-compliant increased significantly from 2016 to 2017, and appears set to continue increasing through 2018. Suits against Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. and 1-800-Flowers have received the most press attention, but collections firms and agencies have also faced a large number of suits.

3. It is extra important if you collect taxes

In January 2017, the Obama administration released a major rule updating Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The new rule requires federal agencies to adjust procurement procedures so that all new websites adhere to the WCAG 2.0 (more on this standard below). Because a number of state statutes refer to Section 508, the rule impacts state as well as federal agencies.

How do I reach ADA compliance?

All consumer-facing web interfaces, including your website, payment site, mobile apps, and self-service portals should be built (or rebuilt) according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

WCAG 2.0 are the international standard for accessibility. The Guidelines have already been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and over 20 countries.

Most importantly, Web-accessibility-related litigation explicitly references WCAG 2.0 as the standard by which accessibility should be assessed, and Section 508, described above, references WCAG 2.0.

Keep in mind that both technology and regulation have a habit of changing over time. It is therefore critical to make sure that whoever is managing your consumer-facing software makes WCAG 2.0 compliance part of their standard practice.

How do I comply with WCAG 2.0?

WCAG 2.0 are detailed specifications published by the Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which expands and improves them over time. You can review them yourself here, but you may want to ask your web developer or vendor for help understanding how it will impact you.

The changes you will have to make to your consumer-facing websites and apps will vary widely depending on how they are currently designed. In some cases, you will just need to adjust some font sizes, weights, and colors. In other cases, you may need to rebuild the site from the ground up. The more interactive your site, the heavier of the accessibility burden. We recommend working with developers who are certified by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) and asking them to attest that your site meets at least the AA level of compliance.

Collections firms interested in fully accessible payment websites should click here.

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