Our Guest blogger this week is Kim Planet, Chief Solutions Architect, Kalio
Web accessibility lawsuits are occurring at an alarming pace. Understanding the legal and technical guidelines of what is mandated is often tricky and confusing. Although the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) laws don’t formally specify compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set of technical standards, private business sites have to be accessible, and it’s well-accepted that compliance with WCAG is the best way to achieve that standard. Unfortunately, this growing trend in claims is also due in part to the significant complexity in implementing the WCAG guidelines. As a result, the painful reality is that the majority of sites do not meet these standards.
Resolving issues manually or without technical expertise can be a struggle or even cause additional accessibility problems. Further complicating matters is that by its nature, ecommerce is driven by dynamic change, continually coming in from all directions. Often, the number of people contributing to the site increases the challenge to remain in compliance. In this environment, not having a plan to protect your business from these accessibility claims could leave merchants with significant legal exposure.
There are a variety of accessibility tools capable of flagging issues and evaluating your site for compliance. WAVE (web accessibility evaluation tool) is a free community service by WebAIM and assists organizations in building and maintaining accessibility. Axe is a testing toolkit developed for dev teams to test ad-hoc single-page tests or hundreds of pages integrated into continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) processes. These tools are designed to help a competent web developer accomplish accessibility compliance. However, knowing how to interpret what the tools are flagging requires expertise. A partnership with technical professionals with current proficiency and a deep understanding of a rapidly changing site can quickly clear out violations and ensure ongoing compliance.
Not all web developers understand these guidelines, so working with an expert that understands these requirements is critical. Beyond the specific technical changes needed, there is a need to define a business process for managing and monitoring your website’s accessibility compliance over time. Putting these processes in place once you complete your initial remediation will be critical for your success. Ensuring that you review compliance after each website project and then doing a quarterly site audit will help you keep on top of your compliance.
Having mandated practices documented and in place is a great defense, and if you know what you are doing, it can be fairly simple. Understanding HTML is not the only expertise required, and nothing compares to a close, intimate relationship with a technology partner skilled in the process. Recommendations for innovation on implementation and auditing guidelines, being on top of useful tools, knowing how to make the right changes, and education of what it means to maintain a compliance protocol requires expertise.
High-performing websites require ongoing and continuous maintenance. While getting in ADA compliance may require significant effort the first time around, the effort typically decreases moving forward. Finally, establishing and monitoring a quarterly re-audit practice with documentation is a good path to ensuring accessibility compliance and can serve as a strong defense against future legal claims.
I’m happy to help answer any questions you may have about this matter. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Planet is the evangelist of the Kalio vision orchestrating solutions that deliver highly-maintainable web sites that out-perform their competition. She brings Kalio the benefit of over 22 years of software development, project management, and eCommerce experience. As the Chief Solutions Architect, Kim is responsible for the successful implementation of our KalioCommerce customer websites, placing a heavy emphasis on quality and overall customer satisfaction.
Prior to joining Kalio, Kim served as Vice President of Information Technology for Schaeffer’s Investment Research, a leading financial publishing company. In that capacity, Kim led the successful development and redeployment of the company’s business-to-consumer eCommerce website and email campaigns.
Kim was founder of KAP Technology Services, which provided consulting to the Mayo Clinic on the development of an electronic diabetes management system. Kim also served in leadership roles for several prominent companies, including Digineer, Software Synergy, Lexis-Nexis, Great American Insurance Company, and Convergys.
Kim earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Engineering Technology from Ball State University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Ball State University.