If you go online and search for major digital marketing trends for 2021, authors will go on and on about Artificial Intelligence, Parallax Animation, and Scrolling Transformations. What they’ll fail to tell you however is the biggest one of all: that starting January 1, 2021, all public websites must meet the WCAG 2.0 Standards.
What is WCAG?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines has been around for years now with Version 2.2 originally promised in November 2020. Unfortunately, it has been pushed to 2021 but with an existing draft that should be more or less the entire content of this new regulation.
The WCAG is made in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a way to include people with disabilities in the use of the internet. A groundbreaking law passed in 1990, the ADA was made to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities as everyone else. Since its passage into law, the ADA has gone through several revisions to make sure that it encompasses all walks of life – including internet use.
Have you ever wondered how those with color blindness use colored webpages? What about those who are blind or deaf or are not able to use a mouse? These are all situations that the WCAG has prepared for and that YOU should adopt as a web owner for 2021.
Who Needs to Comply?
Every territory has different requirements as to who should comply. Your site may or may not be included. The widely accepted standard is that Federal and State run websites should comply strictly with WCAG since they are for public use. However, following the WCAG guidelines is really for your best interest as it helps widen your market pool.
Interestingly enough, the ADA does not refer to WCAG specifically as the template to follow in order to comply with the purpose of the law. However, it has been upheld by jurisprudence that WCAG is a sufficient guideline to be followed by websites who want to comply with the ADA.
What does this mean for privately owned websites? The case of Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC in 2017 answered this particular questions. The requirement for accessibility was imposed on Dominos for their inability to create a website and app that was accessible. In the same case, it was decided that if a company is found to be non-compliant with ADA, the Court can compel compliance through the execution of WCAG Guidelines.
Simply put, private websites do not have to strictly comply with WCAG. However, private websites are STILL REQUIRED TO BE ACCESSIBLE, otherwise they may be held liable under the ADA. From here, it can only be concluded that private websites need substantial compliance with WCAG to prevent liability under the ADA.
2021 Digital Accessibility Trends
So what exactly is in WCAG’s 2021 data accessibility requirements? Here’s what you should know:
Alternative cognitive test. If your web page has a Captcha – you need to provide alternative ways to verify the user. This is because Captcha is very vision-dependent and some of your visitors may not have the faculty for this.
Icon size requirement. If you have linked icons or any other interactive targets, they must meet a specific size requirement. The minimum is at 44 by 44 CSS pixels which can include the white space around it. Remember though that this must be read together with the earlier versions of WCAG which requires that all target icons must be clearly described. Hence if you’re putting a link, there should be a description of exactly where that link will take the user.
Customer service. Providing excellent customer service is always a must but the WCAG 2021 trend takes it a step further. Under guidelines, you have to put the Help option in a visible and permanent space. Don’t have it move around the page or make it difficult to find the link.
Visible controls. Make sure all controls are always visible in stark coloring on the page. Most sites require that a mouse hover over a control before it lights up, which can be problematic for keyboard users. In line with this, your website should have the option of being navigated purely by keyboard.
Prefills with security. Security will always be a priority in any digital trend – especially with most people now making payments online. WCAG however require a pre-filling function for forms if information has been previously entered. The exception is if you’re putting in a password or confirming it on the site. Don’t forget that this should be read together with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which protects certain oral and electronic communications from being intercepted, accessed, and disclosed to unauthorized third parties. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should also be taken into account as it lays down the guidelines to protect users from the unauthorized use and access of their information.
Sliders and focus indicators. A focus indicator or basically the indicator telling you where your mouse is – should be starkly distinctive from the background. Sliders on the web page should also be controlled via the keyboard as an option.
Publications. Clear and concise distinction is one of the hallmarks of WCAG guidelines. Older versions require that all headings and subheadings be clearly marked. With the update, this requirement now extends to all electronic publications. All these documents must be clearly numbered and each version must be the perfect copy of the other – up to and including the page numbering.
Giving users enough time to use the content. If you offer online tests or quizzes, there must be the option to adjust the time of the user. Specifically, the amount of time spent on a test should not affect the scoring of the test.
Note that these latest trends are in addition to the existing WCAG guidelines. If your site isn’t compliant with the earlier versions yet, you have to make sure all the basics are covered first! Since the 2.2 is still a draft, you also have to make adjustments upon the release of the official document which should be available in the coming months.
Bringing in the Professionals
With digital accessibility comes a widened market as you welcome more visitors in your site. Unfortunately, it can also be tough to make all the necessary changes to your domain – which is why it’s often better to hire a third party for the job. Providers like ADASiteCompliance.com are ahead of the game with their solid system that checks your website. Often, these third-party providers have a clear grasp of the legal requirements in your State, ensuring that the ADA is not the only statute met. They can offer a comprehensive approach that guarantees perfect compliance to welcome the 2021 market.
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