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Website Accessibility: Risks, But No Rules

In compliance, sometimes things are black and white (for example, the requirement to provide an adverse action notice within 30 days is found in 1002.9(a)(1)(i)). Other times they’re grey. And the grey areas can be where you’ll find some of your greatest potential risks.

A current – and sure to be ongoing – example is website accessibility. Lawsuits alleging violations of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) are on the rise. In 2015 alone, there were over 40 website accessibility cases under the ADA filed against well-known companies such as the National Basketball Association, Sprint, J.C. Penney, and Home Depot.

In general, these lawsuits claim that websites contain digital barriers that limit the ability of the visually impaired to access the site. These individuals use assistive technology, such as screen reader software, to convert web page text to synthesized speech or a digital Braille display. However, for the screen readers to work with a website, the web developer must program the site for compatibility.

To make matters worse, there are currently no rules governing website accessibility. Although the Department of Justice has indicated as far back as 2010 that they intend to issue these rules, just last November they announced yet another delay – to sometime in 2018. (Keep in mind these will be proposed, not final, rules.)

CUNA Mutual and other insurers are urging credit unions to begin making adjustments to their website’s accessibility as soon as possible. Luckily, there is some guidance in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. Some recommendations in the guidelines include:

  • Providing text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms, such as large print or Braille;
  • Provide alternatives to prerecorded video-only content;
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content, including separating the foreground from the background.

So, how should you proceed? Ignore? (No doubt tempting, with all on your plate…but not wise.) Form a task force, and get it fixed by next Friday? (Ambitious, but kind of crazy.) How about start planning? Or, at the very least, start planning to plan! Baby steps are still steps!

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