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DOJ weighs in on ADA compliance
After many months of silence, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued an updated statement about its perspective on websites and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
While waiting for the new guidelines, bank website agencies like BrownBoots were doing their best to prepare for a specific — legal — position, bracing for a series of government-mandated rules and regulations. Now that the DOJ has stated its case, some website vendors might find themselves scrambling to catch up.
But not BrownBoots!
The bad news
In many ways, the DOJ’s updated position was merely a reiteration of its original stance that websites are, in fact, covered under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Banks and credit unions specifically are mentioned in Title II as businesses that are open to the public.
While the DOJ’s position already provided a few examples for ensuring website accessibility, it still doesn’t state any standards for measuring compliance, let alone technical direction. Instead, the DOJ’s guidance references the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 Standards, specifying the use of WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria.
And yet the DOJ has recently enforced criteria from WCAG 2.1, a newer version. Added to that ambiguity are several other gray areas:
- The guidance states businesses have “flexibility in how they comply with the ADA’s general requirements” but does not definitively declare what the minimum level of compliance must be for a public website.
- Missing entirely is guidance on third-party/vendor code compliance.
- Forward-thinking agencies also crave clarity on if/when a website must comply with upcoming versions of WCAG; while 2.1 has been released, we know 2.2 and 3.0 are already in the works.
All things considered, DOJ didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know — and weren’t already doing.
The good news
Even before the new statement from the DOJ, BrownBoots was committed to building bank websites that adhere to the WCAG 2.1 criteria, aiming to satisfy all the Level AA criteria (and even some AAA criteria), including:
- Maintaining acceptable color contrasts in text
- Providing text cues when using color in text and not using color alone to give information
- Using text alternatives (i.e. alt text) in conjunction with images
- Recommending the addition of captions to videos
- Including labels, keyboard access and clear instructions for online forms
- Optimizing mouse and keyboard navigation
- Providing a means for users to report accessibility issues
Building WCAG 2.1 (Level AA)-compliant websites means we don’t have to retrofit any of our existing bank sites. Neither must we adjust our process for designing and coding bank websites to come.
Of course, with WCAG 2.2 and 3.0 on the horizon, we will continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of accessibility to ensure all visitors to our bank websites enjoy an optimized experience — even as the DOJ struggles to catch up.