Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Accessibility Statement (by Demonstrating Commitment)

Sharing the split screen with me is a settlement agreement between United States and Meijer. Meijer is a supermarket chain, and it’s a result of a DOJ private enforcement action. And this one concerns digital accessibility.

But for today’s video, I want to focus on a few things that were mandated in this Settlement Agreement that you can use to bolster your Accessibility Statement beyond just having a minimum Accessibility Statement. We know that you need an Accessibility Statement. In paragraph number 14, it says website accessibility, notice and feedback.

So it says, Meijer provides a notice and shall continue to provide notice prominently and directly linked from the Meijer homepage and the vaccine registration portal with a statement of Meijer’s commitment to facilitate the accessibility and usability of a website and other digital properties for all individuals with disabilities. This notice includes and shall continue to include an email address and a toll-free phone number where customers can provide feedback and request assistance if they experience technical difficulties.

Okay, so that’s the accessibility statement. And that’s one of the two best practices for website accessibility. There is no law that explicitly states you need to have an Accessibility Statement. But here you can see the DOJ is mandating it in private enforcement actions. And this has been consistent throughout the DOJ’s different settlements with all of these various entities. So it is highly recommended to have an Accessibility Statement. And of course, you can have a very bare minimum Accessibility Statement with just a statement of commitment and then contact for assistance and/or feedback. Okay, so that is there. But I recommend bolstering your Accessibility Statement because it reflects well upon your organization. If you are able to demonstrate that you have indeed followed through on your commitment, why wouldn’t you do so?

And so one way to do this is what is in paragraph 15. The DOJ is mandating a website accessibility subject matter expert. So, in other words, a consultant. And it says, Meijer shall continue to retain its current Website Accessibility Subject Matter Expert, and Meijer shall continue to retain this expert throughout the term of the Agreement, etc. So this person is there to advise and consult Meijer on how to improve the accessibility of their website and their portal, etc.

So this is one way that you can invest in a consultant and invest in accessibility and demonstrate it. So if you have hired a consultant, if you have consulted with someone, even if it’s for an hour, I don’t see what the disadvantage would be to include that. In fact, I think it reflects well upon you. It means that you are serious about your commitment, you are investing in accessibility, and you are following through on your commitment.

So, continuing on, it talks about automated testing and manual testing and user accessibility testing group. You have to remember these are mandatory provisions because as a result of the Settlement Agreement. So while these are all great practices and they’re recommended, your organization may not be able to afford them. But just keep in mind, these are things that the DOJ is mandating because they believe that they lead to an accessible website, an accessible experience, etc. So what the DOJ is trying to do is make sure that Mayor’s Digital assets are and remain accessible.

But we’re going to continue down to paragraph 17. And then it says Website Accessibility Training. And then it requires that Mayor shall provide training to all persons, employees, and contractors who develop, maintain or otherwise have responsibility for the content and format of the vaccine, content, personnel and basically the website. And it says this training shall include instruction on how to conform with WCAG 2.1 AA.

So the paragraph goes on. But the point is that the DOJ sees training as extremely important and important enough to mandate it in this Settlement Agreement. So if you have purchased accessibility training, and if you require accessibility training, even though it could be yourself, it could be the few people on your web team, and if you have them go through this training, this is again another way that you can demonstrate commitment, and it’s another easy add to your accessibility statement and it reflects well upon your organization.

If you are undergoing training, if you are hiring a consultant, again, the theme is that these are all leading to a more accessible website, which is a more accessible experience. So the DOJ has done these things on purpose, but we can take from this Settlement Agreement, even though we don’t have anything explicit in the American Disabilities Act law itself, we can take from these private enforcement actions and see what the DOJ is mandating and absorb them as best practices for our organization. And so these are very easy things that you can do. And you can have an Accessibility Statement that really speaks to your commitment, rather than just stating your commitment, so you’re showing how you’re committed rather than just stating you are.

And then so continuing on, the next paragraph is record-keeping and reporting. There are other things you can do, such as appointing a coordinator and developing a policy. And these are things you can do to help execute on accessibility and make sure they happen. But back to a consultant, back to training, these are things that are very easy to do, but they’re also important and they can really carry your accessibility efforts further.

I have training on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. That training is available at ADACompliance.net. I have other training available too. Of course, you can hire me as a consultant. There are other consultants that you can hire through me. And of course there are consultants available. There are literally dozens of consultants out there that would do a fine job, and there is other training as well. But the point is that these are very important and simple, but they’re easy to do. They’re easy to implement. And once you do so, you can add them to your Accessibility Statement.