With the upcoming changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, it is essential to stay up to date on the latest requirements to maintain compliance. The recent proposal made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in August 2023 concerning electronic communication regulations is a major development that could have a significant impact on how organizations, particularly government bodies, share information.
Prior to this point, document accessibility was somewhat encompassed within the broader scope of Section 508, albeit not explicitly and directly tackled. However, with the recent proposed adjustment to the ADA regulations, electronic documents would be directly and explicitly addressed. Consequently, any digitally shared document must be rendered accessible, encompassing formats such as PDFs, Microsoft Word, and Excel documents. Essentially, this covers virtually any type of document shared or provided to the public.
What implications does this hold for you? Well, it signifies that there are regulatory changes underway. Initially, these changes will directly impact state and local government public entities, compelling them to ensure accessibility in everything they share within a two-year timeframe. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not part of a government entity, so I don’t need to be concerned,” you might not be grasping the broader perspective. In reality, this will eventually have an impact on you one way or another. Consider how accessible parking spaces were initially introduced and gradually became a requirement for any building or establishment; similarly, these new document accessibility regulations will eventually extend to encompass everyone.
Consider this perspective: Between 2017 and 2022, there was a significant surge in website accessibility lawsuits filed in Federal courts, escalating from 814 cases to 3,255 cases. This represents a staggering 300% increase, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. It’s worth contemplating how this figure will continue to grow, especially when not only websites but also their document contents are subject to accessibility requirements.
Given that the expenses associated with website accessibility lawsuits can range from $35,000 to as much as $1 million, one must seriously consider the implications of neglecting the accessibility of their documents. It becomes crucial to proactively plan for document accessibility to avoid potential legal and financial repercussions.
According to information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 285 million people globally who have visual impairments, with 39 million of them dealing with complete blindness. This suggests that approximately one in every ten individuals worldwide faces some level of visual impairment. The incidence of visual impairments is progressively escalating, mainly due to factors such as macular degeneration, eye conditions linked to diabetes, and vision problems associated with aging. These elements are driving a substantial rise in these statistics, underscoring the growing importance of ensuring document accessibility.
The time to make your publicly facing documents accessible is now. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the law. Accessibility laws are becoming more well-defined and enforced, so taking steps to make your documents accessible now can help you avoid the costly fines and legal fees mentioned above.
One way to ensure that all of your website documents meet accessibility standards is to use a tool like AccessibilityNow® DocMD. DocMD can help you discover all of the documents hosted on your website, test them for compliance with the highest standards, such as WCAG, PDF/UA, and/or HHS, and provide you with an easy and fast way to remediate any non-compliant documents.
In addition to discovering, evaluating, and remediating website documents, DocMD also provides a continuous monitoring process. This process runs scheduled automatic recurring crawls of your website to ensure that all documents remain accessible. This makes it easy to maintain a healthy and compliant website even after all documents have been made accessible.
For additional information on enhancing the accessibility of your website documents, please explore our AccessibilityNow® DocMD page. For all your document and communication accessibility needs, visit our AccessibilityNow® Solutions page.