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Aurora Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Image Credit: ADA National Network

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law thirty years ago on July 26th, 1990. Since 1990, the ADA has evolved to become the cornerstone of civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in places of public accommodation, employment, and other aspects of everyday life.

The ADA has evolved over the years to provide broader protections for people with disabilities. Some recent changes include:

  • In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the definition of disability to make it easier for people with disabilities to seek protection under the ADA. Learn more about the ADA Amendments Act
  • On July 23, 2010, the US Attorney General (Eric Holder) signed an amendment to revise ADA Title II and Title III guidelines to include ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Final rules went into effect on March 15, 2011.
  • On November 26, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed a rule to clarify business obligations under Title III of the ADA. The rule requires that owners and operators of movie theaters provide captioning and audio description for movies that are produced with these accessibility accommodations.

The ADA ensures that individuals with disabilities can receive critical services and supports including state and local government services, and public accommodations provided by businesses.

ADA Titles

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 consists of three titles:

  • ADA Title I covers equal access to employment for people with disabilities. This act prohibits private employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, job placement, training, advancement and other aspects of employment.
  • ADA Title II ensures that people with disabilities can access critical services and supports provided by state and local governments. Learn more about ADA Title II
  • ADA Title III protects people with disabilities from discrimination in areas of public accommodation including restaurants, shopping centers and other places of business. ADA Title III has been more recently interpreted by the courts to include virtual places of accommodation (i.e. the Web). Learn more about ADA Title III

Accessibility Challenges

Despite the promise of the ADA to make inclusion universal for people with disabilities, there are still many obstacles to accessing goods and services. Online services, which are not explicitly covered by ADA Title III, are often difficult or impossible to access with assistive technology devices such as screen readers, braille displays, screen magnifiers and more.

To make matters worse, The US Department of Justice recently punted on the issue of online accessibility — as it tabled rulemaking on website accessibility. This essentially leaves the important issue of website accessibility up to the courts to decide. Also, while many attorneys are eager to help people with disabilities, lawsuits over online accessibility accommodations are a lengthy and difficult process.

Conclusion

At Aurora, we believe that access to online services is a fundamental right for people with disabilities. The US Department of Justice should revisit the issue of online accessibility, and work to codify accessibility Guidelines (i.e. the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) into law under ADA Title III.

The stakes could not be higher, as the accessibility of the World Wide Web, and the inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of life are in question.

Check out our website, and learn more about our services at: https://www.aurorahawaii.com/ .


The Promise (and Potential Pitfalls) of Automated Accessibility Solutions

Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the promise of transforming every aspect of our lives. From self-driving cars to autonomous robots, AI-powered solutions are revolutionizing industry and transforming the way we live, work and play.

AI-powered accessibility solutions are an emerging field in accessible technology—and could one day make the Web universally accessible to people with disabilities. These bolt-on accessibility solutions promise a quick fix for accessibility and are alluring for businesses facing accessibility lawsuits or other compliance issues. But buyer beware— there are limitations to automated accessibility solutions, and these limitations could subject businesses to unexpected liability.

Aurora recently completed an audit of popular AI-powered accessibility solutions, and while we were impressed with some features, we did find accessibility errors in sites using these technologies. Common errors included:

  • Images with low quality alternate text, and decorative images with non-empty alt text.
  • Keyboard accessibility problems including missing keyboard focus, elements not receiving focus, keyboard trap, keyboard focus contrast issues, and other problems.
  • Incorrect heading structure.
  • Contrast controls that cause text in buttons and other controls to become unreadable.
  • Video content missing a media alternative or text-transcript.

Despite the promise of automated accessibility solutions, there are many limitations to the technology that prevent these solutions from being totally effective in remediating accessibility barriers.

Common Accessibility Errors

Here are some common accessibility errors that we identified in our analysis of automated (AI-powered) accessibility solutions:

Low Quality Image Descriptions

AI solutions for image descriptions currently rely on OCR or other technologies to determine image content and meaning. Unfortunately, these technologies cannot determine if an image is purely decorative or has semantic meaning. Also, complex software may be able to identify an object in an image but determining the purpose of an image in the context of page content is much more difficult for machines. While Facebook and other large tech firms have had some success with automated image recognition, this is an emerging field, and there is much work to be done.

Keyboard Accessibility Problems

Keyboard accessibility problems can be difficult or impossible to identify and diagnose without human testing. AI-powered solutions can identify and attempt to fix common keyboard accessibility problems, but there are many problems that they may miss.

Ensuring that websites work seamlessly with a keyboard requires manual testing to verify that menus, form controls, and other components work well with a keyboard only.

Video Captioning Errors

Companies like Google offer auto captioning for video content to provide a stopgap or bridge to accessibility. Problems with auto captions are numerous and include missing speaker identification, grammatical and captioning errors, timing problems, and other errors. Videos with low-quality audio or background music can make accurate auto captioning difficult or impossible for speech recognition software. While this technology continues to evolve, human captioning is superior to automated captioning to ensure conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Other Considerations

Legal Liability

Having an automated accessibility solution in place might discourage website owners from having their websites tested regularly to verify and document accessibility compliance. This means that websites could have undetected accessibility barriers and expose business owners to unexpected liability.

Promoting Best Practices

Automated accessibility remediation could cause developers to ignore accessibility, result in poor development practices, and cost business owners more money in the long run.

Ownership

AI-powered accessibility solutions add a layer of accessibility to your website and help to interpret and change markup that poses an accessibility barrier. Unfortunately, when you stop paying for services, you lose all accessibility features and the benefits that come with them.

Cost

The cost of automated accessibility solutions could easily surpass the investment required to build an accessible website for your business. For smaller websites (costing a few thousand dollars), the investment to build an accessible website would pay for itself in 2-3 years.

Conclusion

While AI holds tremendous potential for making the web universally accessible, there is much work to be done to improve the effectiveness and accuracy of automated solutions. Also, automated accessibility solutions can give businesses a false sense of security, and subject business owners to unexpected liability.

While these solutions are far from perfect, they may be a good temporary stopgap for companies working towards developing more accessible web content.

In conclusion, manual testing is the only 100% effective method to identify and address accessibility barriers. Manual testing with assistive technology will always be a best practice for ensuring that web content complies with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

At Aurora, we recommend both automated and manual testing to identify accessibility barriers, and we offer industry-leading support to remediate accessibility barriers.

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COVID-19 Crisis Highlights the Need for Accessible Websites

In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for organizations and businesses to prioritize accessibility to ensure that people with disabilities have access to critical services and supports. While families endure lock-downs and businesses shutter, the current crisis provides a tremendous challenge and opportunity for businesses to improve the accessibility of online services for people with disabilities.

Healthcare

With doctors and hospitals prioritizing COVID patients, its essential that people with disabilities have full access to online healthcare services. This means providing systems that work seamlessly with assistive technology (AT) devices to allow people with disabilities to:

  • Order Prescriptions and Medications Online
  • Schedule online appointments with healthcare providers
  • Receive healthcare (including mental health counseling) online
  • Use accessible health monitoring and wellness technology

By providing online healthcare services in accessible formats, we can ensure that the most vulnerable members of society have access to critical supports and services.

For Healthcare providers, we offer accessibility audits and certification services to ensure that website and apps are fully accessible for assistive technology users.

Food Services

As restaurants have closed their doors to customers, many are providing online delivery or curbside pickup for customers. For online orders, its critical that websites and apps work well for assistive technology users. Accessibility barriers may prevent AT users from placing orders and receiving deliveries of essential food supplies including:

  • Online grocery orders and deliveries
  • Restaurant take-out and delivery orders

Without access to accessible online services, the most vulnerable members of our society may be forced to visit stores and restaurants in person to get essential items.

We work with restaurants and grocers to ensure that their websites and apps are accessible for people with disabilities. Contact us for a free consultation or request a quote for services.

Entertainment and Well-Being

As people with disabilities seek to avoid exposure to COVID-19, more people are looking at online options for entertainment, exercise, and other activities. It is essential that people with disabilities have access to services that promote well-being in the home including:

  • Virtual yoga and exercise
  • Online streaming services
  • Video and other online communication
  • And more

Aurora provides consulting services for businesses that offer wellness supports and services throughout the community. Please contact us for a free consultation or request a quote for services.

Conclusion

We are in uncertain times with COVID-19. The lack of clarity regarding the duration and scope of lock downs has caused tremendous uncertainty for people with disabilities and the community at large.

To ensure that people with disabilities can receive essential services, and that businesses reach the widest audience possible, we should redouble our efforts to provide accessible online services for people with disabilities.

We are ALL in this together!

Need help with accessibility?

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Orderspoon Takes the Lead in Digital Accessibility

Orderspoon (by 4 Leaf Labs), an online order app for restaurants, has set a new standard for accessibility in the online order space. The customizable Orderspoon app integrates with Clover POS, and has been updated to ensure compatibility with assistive technology devices (including screen readers and braille displays).

Accessibility Features of the Orderspoon App

The Orderspoon app works seamlessly with assistive technology devices, and conforms with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 priority AA).

Here are a few notable accessibility features of the app:

  • Keyboard accessibility – all forms, controls, menus, etc. are usable with a keyboard only.
  • Enhanced Readability – the Orderspoon app meets minimum required contrast levels for WCAG 2.0 priority AA compliance (4.5:1)
  • Ease of Navigation – the Orderspoon app includes consistent navigation systems, skip links, and ARIA landmark roles to improve usability and accessibility.
  • Mobile Compatibility – the Orderspoon app is fully responsive, and text can be resized as needed using browser zoom (up to 200%).

Background

In April 2019, Aurora Design and Consulting was commissioned to help the 4 Leaf Labs’ development team update Orderspoon for accessibility with assistive technology devices. During a three-month period, Aurora staff provided training, email/phone support, and accessibility testing services to update the Orderspoon app for accessibility with assistive technology devices.

As work was completed on the Orderspoon app, we provided accessibility evaluation services (including testing with VoiceOver and NVDA screen readers) to verify and document accessibility conformance with WCAG 2.0 priority AA. For accessibility documentation, we provided a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), accessibility information page, and conformance letter.

Visit the Orderspoon website to learn how Orderspoon can help you reach more customers, meet accessibility requirements for assistive technology users, and expand your business.

Need Help Updating Your App for Accessibility?

Contact us for a free consultation, or request a quote for services.


National Law Review Publishes Article on Website Accessibility Litigation

National Law Review – August 2, 2019

The National Law Review has published a new article on the growing risk of accessibility litigation. The article covers current legal trends, and some tips to avoid a costly ADA Title III lawsuit.


Why Manual Testing is Critical for Accessibility Compliance

Despite an increasing number of automated tools to evaluate websites for accessibility, manual accessibility testing is more important than ever for evaluating real world accessibility of websites. This is because many accessibility barriers can escape detection with automated accessibility scanners. Also, testing with assistive technology devices is the best way to get a real-world picture of accessibility, and to determine compatibility with common assistive technology devices including screen readers, braille displays, screen magnifiers, and other AT software/devices.

Also, manual tools can be used to:

  • Evaluate the extent and impact of WCAG failures on website accessibility
  • Identify accessibility improvements needed to ensure the best experience for assistive technology users
  • Complete a conformance evaluation and make a conformance claim (aligns with W3C recommendations for evaluating websites for accessibility).

Strengths of Automated Accessibility Scanners

Screenshot of Wave Accessibility Tool for Google Chrome

Automated tools are great for getting a mile-high view of website accessibility. They are also excellent tools for identifying programmatic errors that might impact accessibility such as missing alternate text, duplicate element IDs, empty buttons and links, and other errors. Premium automated tools (i.e. Siteimprove) also have the benefit of scanning larger selections of pages than might be impractical to test manually using assistive technology devices.

Here is a list of some free tools to identify HTML/CSS errors and WCAG 2.0 failures:

Also, there are many premium tools to evaluate website accessibility conformance and to document WCAG failures. Siteimprove, SortSite and Compliance Sheriff allow users to scan a much larger selection of pages to identify WCAG failures.

Strengths of Manual Accessibility Testing

Photo: Blind person using a Braille display

Manual testing involves testing websites with assistive technology devices to evaluate compatibility and identify any accessibility barriers. Manual accessibility testing is the best way to get a real-world picture of accessibility compliance, and to identify significant barriers for assistive technology users.

There is no replacement for real-world testing for accessibility compliance, and manual testing can identify many errors that automated tools might miss including:

Keyboard Accessibility problems – missing keyboard focus, forms and menus that do not work with a keyboard only, inaccessible dialogs, and other accessibility errors.

Contrast Errors – Automated tools are an excellent tool to identify potential contrast problems, but they have some inherent limitations. Automated tools like Wave’s contrast tool do not account for background images, text styling, and other effects that might impact the readability of text.

Error Reporting – problems with form field validation and error reporting can only be evaluated properly using assistive technology devices.

Here are some great free tools that we use for manual accessibility testing and evaluation:

To effectively evaluate website accessibility with assistive technology devices, the W3C also recommends employing both expert AT users and people with disabilities to get a complete picture of accessibility.

Conclusion

Evaluating websites for accessibility requires both manual and automated testing to get a complete picture of accessibility.

Automated tools are an excellent choice for identifying programmatic errors that might impact accessibility, while manual testing is essential to evaluate compatibility of websites with assistive technology devices. Together these tools can be used to evaluate website accessibility, and to verify and document accessibility compliance with the W3Cs Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

Need help with your Website?

Check out our industry-leading audit and evaluation services, or contact us for a free consultation or quote.


First Lawsuits over Disabled Access to Websites make their way to Minnesota

Pioneer Press – Tad Vezner

Echoing a recent trend in other states, for the first time a lawsuit has been filed in Minnesota alleging that websites — in this case, belonging to a county and couple of cities — violate disability law.

Much like lawsuits demanding such things as wheelchair ramps and handicap parking, the suits claim the defendants’ digital real estate is so inhospitable it denies access.


Court Rules Against Dunkin Donuts in Website Accessibility Case

A federal appeals court overturned a lower court and ruled a blind plaintiff can pursue an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against Dunkin Donuts L.L.C. for allegedly having an inaccessible website.

The case is part of a trend, with more courts ruling against companies over the issue of website accessibility, while the number of lawsuits alleging ADA violations related to website access grows dramatically.


Freedom Scientific Announces FREE JAWS, ZoomText and MAGic Licenses in Hungary

Working with the IT Foundation for the Visually Impaired, Freedom Scientific has announced country-wide licenses for Hungary, which could benefit as many as 300,000 people living in the country.

Any individual or entity can now apply to the Hungarian government for a copy of JAWS, ZoomText or MAGic with a free annual license.


Court Permits Website Accessibility Lawsuit Against Hooters To Proceed

June 22 – FisherPhillips.com

A federal appeals court just breathed new life into a disability access lawsuit filed against restaurant chain Hooters, permitting a blind plaintiff who claims he could not access the company’s business website to proceed with his ADA claim—despite the fact that the company was in the midst of fixing its website at the time the lawsuit was filed.


 
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