Feb 13, 2024
In the United States, hundreds of lawsuits are filed each year against organizations that fail to demonstrate compliance with web accessibility laws. However, if an organization is working to prevent these lawsuits, and meet the needs of people with disabilities, an accessibility statement is the way to communicate that commitment.
What is an accessibility statement?
An accessibility statement is a public information page that relays an organization’s digital accessibility commitment, acknowledges the needs of people with disabilities, and may provide information on the accessibility of its content. By providing an accessibility statement, organizations can show their commitment to inclusivity and compliance with anti-discrimination laws.
However, when required by law such as the European Union (EU) web accessibility directive, accessibility statements must be transparent and should mention any elements of a website that don’t meet accessibility goals.
Is an accessibility statement required?
While no law in the U.S. requires private companies to provide an accessibility statement, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) that created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), recommends it.
However, the situation is different for government agencies. For example, some U.S. states may require agencies to post such statements, public bodies in countries that implement the EU Web Accessibility Directive must provide an accessibility statement, and organizations covered under theAccessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA) must publish a policy about their commitment to accessibility.
Why an accessibility statement is important
Accessibility statements are important because they demonstrate an organization’s commitment to inclusivity and legal compliance with anti-discrimination legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. By providing a clear statement, organizations also communicate that they prioritize the needs of people with disabilities along with all users. Offering a contact option in or alongside the accessibility statement inviting customers/users/visitors to inform the organization of an accessibility question or comment is also a great way to encourage feedback and provide an alternative to filing a legal complaint when an accessibility issue is found.
While meeting legal requirements may often be a primary goal of posting an accessibility statement, it’s also a great way to explain accessibility features so visitors can have the information they need to have a positive web experience. Additionally, it contributes to the broader awareness of web accessibility best practices, encouraging other web and digital content owners to work towards a more inclusive digital world.
How to write an accessibility statement
An effective accessibility statement clearly outlines an organization or business’s commitment to web accessibility. Here are some best practices for writing an accessibility statement:
- If your organization is taking strides towards accessibility, state your organization’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. It can tie back to your brand’s values or can simply address why digital accessibility is important to your company. A portion of Level Access’s accessibility statement explains as follows: “Level Access was founded to make the digital world accessible for all.Our program is rooted in providing a robust platform solution which incorporates manual accessibility evaluations, user testing, automated accessibility scans, training and supporting clients who are invested in making their digital assets accessible.”
- If required, list the laws your site complies with. If the law doesn’t require that of your statement, an alternative is to mention the standard you strive toconform to. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide the standards a website needs to meet to be accessible. For example, your website may conform with either the most recent version of WCAG or an earlier version of WCAG, depending on what is required in the legislation that applies to you.
- Identify specific inclusive features that have been incorporated into your website. This can include accessibility features and assistive technologies that are compatible with your site. Explain any other ways that users can customize the site to their needs. As previously stated, when required by law, it’s also important to mention the areas where your website may lack accessibility, and what you’re doing to rectify the issue.
- Provide contact information for any feedback, FAQs, or alternate format support. Include email addresses or phone numbers that customers can use for assistance.
Of course, it’s also extremely important to make sure your accessibility statement is accessible! Ensure that a link to your statement is easy to find as it will likely be revisited by customers several times. You can review our accessibility statement for a helpful example.