The Hybrid Approach to Digital Accessibility

Digital accessibility isn’t a one-time fix, and a changing legal landscape means that website owners need to adopt a mindset of 24/7 compliance with web accessibility standards.  

However, this can seem quite literally like a never-ending effort, particularly for large organizations with extensive digital properties that launch new or updated content on a daily basis.

But it doesn’t have to be. The good news is that the right tools are out there, and an emerging method offers a way to keep up with compliance –without the ballooning costs and complexity.

The Implication of Digital Accessibility’s Shifting Legal Landscape

Legal action against businesses with inaccessible websites has increased steadily over the past few years. In 2017, 814 digital accessibility lawsuits were filed, and by 2018, that number had swelled to more than 2,250, according to legal firm Seyfarth Shaw. These lawsuits allege discrimination under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires equal access in places of public accommodation. More and more often, courts are interpreting Title III to apply to websites.

As the number of lawsuits grows, so does the imperative to maintain ongoing compliance with WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the gold standard for removing barriers that prevent the disabled population from fully using digital content). Compliance with WCAG will help you avoid the most common web accessibility issues that trigger lawsuits alleging discrimination.

Even if liability exposure wasn’t a factor, there are many other compelling reasons to ensure that all users have an optimal experience with your website, from brand-strengthening to better business practices to inclusivity as an ethical principle.

The Debate: Change the Source Code vs. Make a Quick Fix

Traditionally, website owners choose one of two general routes to compliance:

Make changes to the source code, or make all fixes as quickly as possible on the server side.

The first option results in perfect, “clean” code from the outset. The downside, however, is that it’s more time-intensive, and while you’re in the process of making fixes to the code, you remain exposed to liability for non-compliance. Developers often aren’t as familiar with digital accessibility, either, as that doesn’t impact their core business, and that can make it difficult to get the code exactly right.

The second option provides an immediate quick fix on the user side, changing the user experience and bringing the site into compliance. The source code doesn’t get updated at all, however, so noncompliance is still a risk moving forward.

Each path has a pretty significant downside. But a new hybrid approach means that website owners no longer have to sacrifice either timely fixes or the peace of mind that comes with long-term compliance.

What Are the Benefits of a Hybrid Approach?

Using a digital accessibility tool that operates as a hybrid solution gives organizations the flexibility to make changes fast, removing the pressure of “compliance ASAP”, but also allows permanent changes to the source code. Here’s how:

  • Fix issues immediately. With this method, you can automate immediate fixes on a virtual layer that sits “on top” of your website’s HTML. This allows for automated fixes to the site’s user experience without the need to change the source code.
  • Make permanent fixes as time allows. Meanwhile, you can enable tools and instructions for your development team to make permanent fixes on the source code. This removes the pressure of needing to fix issues immediately, since many are automatically addressed on the virtual layer.
  • Educate your IT staff. The hybrid approach offers a way for developers to incrementally grow their own knowledge of digital accessibility standards, coding and technical requirements.

Faster, More Cost-Effective ADA Web Compliance

The Make-Sense solution uses a hybrid approach to reduce the cost and complexity of digital accessibility. The platform continuously monitors and provides real-time fixes to keep websites compliant with WCAG standards. Start your journey today toward better web accessibility for all users.