Association Hosts Town Hall on New DOJ Web Accessibility Guidance Under ADA
The long-awaited guidance falls short of providing legal clarity, according to guest speaker Kaufman & Canoles attorney John Bredehoft who has represented several credit unions sued for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act-related website violations.
Bredehoft points out that guidance issued by the DOJ in March has little legal impact since it does not include regulations with explicit standards. However, it does confirm DOJ’s position that businesses open to the public, including financial institutions, should ensure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.
Bredehoft says credit unions should continue to apply the latest version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) referenced in the guidance. Here are some of the recommendations:
• Sufficient color contrast between text and background.
• Text cues instead of relying on color alone to convey information.
• Text alternatives (alt text) that can be read by a screen reader to convey the purpose of an image.
• Video captions.
• Labels for online forms requiring information from the user.
• Text resize and zoom capability.
• Headings that allow users to navigate and understand the page layout.
• Navigation using a keyboard instead of a mouse.
The DOJ guidance recommends using a combination of automated accessibility tools with manual reviews of websites to ensure accessibility.
Bredehoft suggests credit unions take steps to protect themselves when using third-party vendors, “When you have an agreement with someone providing a third-party service through on your website, there should be both a requirement that it be accessible and that they indemnify you is someone sues you.”
Since 2018, over 100 credit unions have been sued, with most cases being settled and about a dozen dismissed by the courts. Bredehoft says even if a lawsuit isn’t successful, it costs time and money and is a major distraction.
Without explicit standards, the DOJ’s new guidance still leaves credit unions and other business that serve the public, vulnerable to ADA compliance lawsuits. Bredehoft says continuing to test and review website accessibility is critical until the government offers clear guidance and explicit standards.
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