My name is Kris Rivenburgh. I’m an attorney and the author of The ADA Book. I’m also the founder of Accessible.org.
So that I can efficiently provide a transcript and closed captions, I will read from the transcript itself.
As of this video’s publication, for private entities under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), technically, website accessibility isn’t even a requirement. However, in practice, generally, website accessibility is a requirement. But accessibility statements haven’t been a focal point of litigation so typically we only see them mentioned as subparts in filed complaints or settlement agreements.
So are accessibility statements required under the ADA?
Practically, where website accessibility is required, it stands to reason that accessibility statements should be too.
It is my contention that posting a strong accessibility statement is a best practice for material compliance. But why is it a best practice?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has invariably required website accessibility notice and feedback in its settlements concerning digital accessibility. Because the DOJ is the regulatory and enforcement agency for Title II and Title III of the ADA, I consider the DOJ’s mandates in private enforcement actions to be best practices for ADA compliance.
You’re very likely watching this video because of your desire to stymie litigation through compliance with Title III of the ADA so it’s a good idea to take note of these best practices from the DOJ.
Back to the DOJ – in its January 2022 Kroger settlement, specific to accessibility statements, in a section marked, “Website Accessibility Notice and Feedback,” the DOJ required:
- a notice, prominently and directly linked from the kroger.com homepage and from the Vaccine Registration Portal
- a statement of Kroger’s policy to ensure that persons with disabilities have full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of Kroger through kroger.com
- the notice shall include a link to send an email and a toll-free telephone number (which shall accept calls made using video relay services) where customers with disabilities can request assistance if they experience technical difficulties with the website
Let’s break these stipulations down into general requirements:
- Provide conspicuous notice from your homepage
- State a commitment to accessibility
- Provide multiple means of contacting support and providing feedback
What are these requirements getting at?
I think the DOJ wants to see organizations address and commit to accessibility.
Moreover, the DOJ has mandated notice or accessibility statements because they want users to have a readily available way of getting support in the event they need assistance. Additionally, the feedback provision functions in multiple ways including a means to improve accessibility through user recommendations and a light reinforcement of that organization’s commitment.
DOJ Settlement vs. Practice
Having read through many DOJ digital accessibility settlements, I believe that the settlement stipulations establish a ceiling for compliance. The DOJ’s settlements have resulted from agreements with larger entities such as Kroger, H&R Block, QuikTrip, Hy-Vee, Carnival Cruise Line, and others.
Thus, just because your organization doesn’t offer a toll-free phone number that accepts calls using video relay services, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re violating the ADA.
It’s best practice if you can offer this level of support, but if your organization doesn’t have the capacity, it’s good if you can follow where the DOJ is going with this stipulation.
Which is providing a means of contact that allows for communication in the case that support is needed or a user has feedback to improve accessibility.
Although currently there is no technical requirement under the ADA that you post an accessibility statement, it’s best practice to do so.
The good news is that writing an accessibility statement can be a fairly quick exercise and yet it can be immensely impactful in helping users with access.
If you would like help with an audit or remediation, you can find out more about accessibility services at Accessible.org.
I also help with accessibility statements.
Furthermore, I highly recommend you read The ADA Book. The ADA Book is quick and to the point and helps everyone understand the legal landscape and the different elements in play when making a website or other digital asset accessible.