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ADA and the Internet: ADA Settlements – Fitting Accessibility Compliance into Your Product Lifecycle

Written by: Beth Crutchfield

This is the third installment in our ADA and the Internet Series

If your organization is involved in web-related ADA litigation, one of the most important things your legal counsel can do is fight for a realistic accessibility compliance timeline. We have seen settlements with timelines in the 1-2 year range. In our experience, trying to get a system into a high level of compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA standards in anything less than two years is exceptionally difficult.

Our general recommendation would be a five-year remediation period as that allows for the best cost efficiency and quality while still delivering within a reasonable timeframe. Another viable alternative is for the client to agree to make some key areas accessible sooner and negotiate a longer remediation period for the rest of the website.

Compliance timelines are all, ultimately, specific to the business reality and process of the settling party. Further, the timelines don’t account for the full complaint or litigation lifecycle, which can mean that work is underway a few years in advance of the actual agreement. While a reasonable timeline is key, we also recommend getting solutions rolling as soon as possible.

Compliance Calendar

The first thing to consider when creating a compliance calendar as part of a settlement is ensuring it is in sync with the existing development calendar.

You’ll want it to work around things like:

  • The busy season (Q4 for many organizations)
  • Code freeze
  • Development cycles
  • Training cycles
  • Professional conferences / events

The best way to avoid this issue is to pull in some product managers or owners from each asset covered under an agreement and get a high-level sense of the development calendar. We don’t need specific weekly dates—more on the order of “Don’t commit us to anything between September to November.” That way, we make sure nothing in the agreement conflicts with the ebb and flow of their year. Ideally, the timing in the agreement should complement their work.

Web Accessibility Training

Settlements often have requirements for web accessibility training. Make sure that the date for the training matches a reasonable internal date. For both cost and training efficacy, the key is to be able to implement this in some efficient, scalable fashion rather than have to do any kind of classroom-based trainings. We recommend a three-tier approach:

  • A 30-minute, all-hands accessibility awareness
  • Role-specific trainings
  • Opt-in advanced technical training

Be sure that the settlement language is not overly specific about the type or approach of the training, but instead defines the desired outcome of the training. If both parties can agree to the outcome, there should be much latitude afforded in how to achieve that goal.

Stay Tuned…

Watch for the next installment in this series, ADA Settlements – Third Party Solutions & WCAG Carve Outs