Third-Party Integrations and ADA Compliance: What if Your Website Relies on an Inaccessible Product?

Oftentimes we are reliant upon third-party integrations to offer features or abilities on our websites or mobile apps or whatever the digital asset is and we don’t have complete control over these third-party integrations.

So in these scenarios we can only do so much customizations, right.

Like we have access to settings, we can change certain settings, but we can’t edit the code we can’t we can’t get into the components where we need to to change accessibility and make sure that these third-party integrations are accessible and/or conformant under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

So, for example, this comes up many, many times when I am working on my website – so let’s say I want to- you could add a social activity stream where it integrates let’s say your Instagram stream onto your website or it could be having a live chat feature or maybe you want to use a learning management system to offer something and that learning management system needs to be accessible or there could be a user accounts that are that are being served.

For example, with banks a lot of times banks are reliant upon some type of third-party system or platform to to display account information.

It could also be an ecommerce plugin so when we think of like WordPress sites the ability to sell products off these WordPress sites, a lot of times we’re relying upon third-party plugins.

It might be a payment system it could be Stripe or PayPal and that’s not to say these are inaccessible. That’s just to give you an example that we are we rely many times on third-party integrations in the and the use of our digital assets.

So what what can you do if these third-party plugins are not accessible or they create there are certain accessibility issues that are known and cannot be edited on your end.

So here are a few options and I’m not and I think there are more but I’m not going to get into every one but here are some common default responses that I have.

One is you can remove the integration, you can search for an alternative you could go to the provider and ask for what is commonly referred to as a VPAT more technically correct is referred to as an ACR.

So a VPAT is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template and the meaning the common usage meaning is you’re asking for an accounting of the accessibility of a product or service.

An ACR is the technical the technically correct term. It refers to an accessibility conformance report and that is the completed VPAT but VPAT is the common usage.

So you could ask this provider, hey can you give me a VPAT or an ACR on your on the accessibility of your product.

They likely don’t have one but asking for it can introduce can be a way of introducing we would like to see these changes made.

Asking for changes to be made is another consideration.

Offering your own audit and or specific request.

So this could be a way of telling this vendor- and sometimes vendors don’t quite understand what’s happening but if you already have an audit and you know the issues that exist.

This is actually a really nice thing to present to the vendor or the provider and let them know we’ve already done this for you what we’re doing is we’re pointing out where your plugin, where your widget, where your platform, where app, etc. is inaccessible here’s what we need you to fix and we’re handing it to you.

And so we just need your developers to take care of this on there and some I think a lot of times the providers don’t understand what’s actually happening they think it just in encumbrance upon them when you’re actually doing them a favor.

And so another option here is to explain to them try to explain to them the business case benefit for them.

If they can make their product- if they can make that accessible that is such a benefit.

And I know personally because I look over and over again I’m just searching- I’m going to- I’m on page 7 of Google or I’m using alternative search engines trying to find these different products that are actually accessible.

It’s actually even very difficult as we’re headed into 2023, it’s very difficult to provide to find products that are actually WCAG conformant and not just they’re not just speaking to accessibility but you can tell they’ve actually addressed it.

Another option is to bring up your renewal.

A lot of times these are software as a service, these are ongoing subscriptions, you could try to leverage your next purchase.

And another option – and this is one you’ll want to talk over with your counsel – if you know there’s a limitation you know that there’s nothing you can do about it. You are you are stuck because you need this provider it’s already integrated into what you do you already have too much reliance on the product to undo everything or it would just be a tremendous expense to do so, you can name the known limitations in your accessibility statement and disclaim them.
Now that could invite litigation.

If you look at it another way it could also be alerting your users to any practical considerations they need to make when using it you could you could also offer an alternative – for example, emailing a request.

This isn’t a perfect solution, but it is something that’s at least worthy of consideration and talking over with your counsel.

And I wanted to mention something in the ADA that speaks to the difficulty when you’re when you’re using a when you’re when something you’re offering isn’t accessible and the making it accessible isn’t readily achievable.

So under Title III Subsection 2 subsection A Sub-Subsection (iii)(a) failure to takes such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with the disabilities excluded denied services segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services unless the entity can demonstrate that taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the good service facility privilege advantage or accommodation being offered or would result in an undue burden.

So focus in on that undue burden. The reason we are sourcing so much to third parties is because we need people that are- we need organizations providers that are specialized in these things because we- we just don’t have the capacity to offer all of these functions and features ourselves.

So I think that’s a worthy reference and something to keep in mind; we’re in a gray area here.

So it’s I think you could easily argue there could be an undue burden to this.

But when there’s litigation because of inaccessibility and it is due to a third-party integration having this technical technically strong argument doesn’t serve well because it costs to defend against litigation.

So it is a difficult spot when you do have a third-party integration but there are a number of options to run through and consider.

Each one really needs to be decided and evaluated with your counsel because there is- there is such a large- there’s so much risk at stake because this is a highly litigious area, but when it comes to third-party integrations and the good news is I think that we will see improvements.

We will see more and more products offer accessibility because it does makes sense from a business point of view not necessarily because they’re so concerned about accessibility.

Some are, I have seen some that really do care but many like everyone will care when they realize what the tremendous advantage especially now there’s a tremendous advantage if you offer a product or service and you incorporate accessibility into that product or service, it is a tremendous advantage and you will have many people signing up and paying an additional premium because it is worth it.

I know firsthand, I’m always looking this is this is a constant theme in my searches I’m looking for something that is WCAG conformant and products are very hard to- these products that are that have paid attention and our captain format are extremely difficult to find.

When I find one, I will- especially when there are no other options I will gladly pay far above the alternative prices because it is worth that much to me and it makes everything that much easier.

So these are these are some of the considerations when it comes to third-party integrations.

I wrote the book on ADA compliance as it applies to digital assets, it’s the ADA book.

This will- The ADA Book will provide more context around this discussion and help you understand more the practical environment when you are trying to make your digital assets accessible.