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ADA and the Internet: ADA Settlements – Policies, Public Statements, and Personnel

Written by: Beth Crutchfield

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

Web Accessibility Policy

Most settlements have a requirement for a web accessibility policy and DoJ settlements have been including them for some time. Generally, we would agree that requiring a defined, written, and widely distributed digital accessibility policy is a best practice.

One item we would recommend to include is the ability to update the policy upon written notice to the other party. If they choose not to object, the new policy would go in place. If they choose to object, you get together and sort it out. That gives you a way to update the policy without having to change the initial agreement.

It is equally important to document your organization’s exceptions, or limitations, to which the Accessibility Policy is applied. If there are areas that cannot be brought into conformance at the time the Web Accessibility Policy is implemented, it is important to document those within the Policy to ensure scope is clear.

Public Accessibility Statement and Feedback

Making a public-facing statement about your organization’s focus on accessibility is a best practice as well as a documented requirement in most settlement agreements. This statement provides high-level information about the accessibility work of the organization and methods to contact the organization about accessibility issues.

We recommend having an accessibility statement regardless of whether there is a settlement in place. It helps communicate accessibility issues to the organization. When under a timeline to bring a site into compliance, this is also crucial to make sure items in need of repair are being tracked properly.

If you have a feedback form, be sure your organization controls the form and the routing of the data. Further, the form data would be private to your organization for use in operational improvement.

A critical component tied to the establishment of a Web Accessibility Policy and Statement is ensuring your organization has processes built out to address any feedback or complaints received through this channel. Being able to illustrate the issue resolution process is key.

Organizational Structural Requirements

Our general experience with overly prescriptive structures is that they don’t actually result in better outcomes. In fact, they often cause the organization to get stuck with an ineffective structure. The focus should be on reporting and evaluating data flowing back and forth. This can be accomplished within any efficient internal organizational structure.

We have also seen a settlement require a cross-functional committee charged with monitoring and maintaining conformance across all sites and applications. While this is a good idea, in practice not many organizations have an active committee of this nature. Given that, if you opt to create a committee, we recommend developing it during year four or five, after your accessibility program has gotten its legs under it.

Stay away from structural prescriptions whenever possible and focus on outcomes. Additionally, ensure that the web accessibility coordinator role is one that lasts beyond the tenure of the initially appointed individual to ensure long-term success and accountability.

Stay Tuned…

Watch for the next installment in this series, ADA Settlements – Testing and Bug Fixing