Beginning in August of 2016, the issue of website accessibility under the U.S. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as it relates to websites became a rather important topic of focus for my clients (and me personally), particularly because I work so closely with community bankers.
Seems a law firm out of the Pittsburgh area started sending “letters requesting settlement” focused on the financial industry claiming discrimination on behalf of plaintiffs located in a variety of states where my clients are located based on ADA and WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
In an effort to better understand the claims and to help my clients properly respond, I started to educate myself on the issue. I discovered there were a lot of differing opinions, ways to achieve compliance and strategies that website owners can take to help their site become more accessible.
At the very basic level (and in a perfect world), the best approach is always to make sure that the raw HTML code for a website follows WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) 2.0 standards. More information on WCAG 2.0 can be found here. However, the luxury of a complete makeover or access to the technical expertise and budget, may not allow for this to happen. So, in the interim, that presents some challenges as a website owner works towards achieving compliance.
At the heart of it, we must not also forget the human element that’s behind the issue. Sure, when you get a letter from an attorney that may accelerate your plan to become accessible because nobody liked to be sued. But with 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States having a disability of one form or another, making sure that your website is accessible also may open up opportunities into a new customer segment. That’s roughly 53 million people in the U.S. alone!
At WSI’s global convention this past year in Toronto, I shared an ADA update with WSI’s top brass, as well as several of my colleagues. Not surprisingly, there was a lack of awareness on this issue as few other consultants spend as much time with community bankers as I do. However, everyone agreed this was an important issue. We formed a Web Accessibility Committee (and yours truly was tapped to spearhead the effort).
To help educate our customers and the general public, WSI organized a webinar on the topic of ADA compliance and website accessibility for Friday, January 13th at 1 pm Eastern. In case you missed it, you can click on the big green button below for access to the webinar recording and presenters' slides.
» Web Accessibility Webinar Replay and Slides »
You'll hear from the following individuals:
Introduction: Mark Dobson – Kick things off for WSI
As the Co-Founder & CEO, Mark Dobson has been with WSI since its inception in 1995. He has an extensive background in business development in several industries dating back to the early seventies. His knowledge of the development of human potential and the understanding of behavioral patterns has been instrumental in developing the WSI System over the course of the years and of overseeing the day-to-day management operations of the business.
Moderator: Eric Cook – Serving as Web Accessibility Committee chair for WSI
Eric Cook is a “recovering banker” of 15 years and in 2017 starts his 10th year as a consultant with WSI. In August of 2016 he became acquainted with the impact ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can have on a website, as one of his long-time clients received a demand letter requesting settlement for disability discrimination. Since that time, Cook has made it his mission to not only help his clients understand the ADA/WCAG guidelines and how to become compliant, but how WSI can lead the charge to not only help businesses and organizations get compliant, but better serve consumers with disabilities in the United States.
Special Guest: Amanda Maisels
Amanda Maisels is a Deputy Chief in the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and has worked in the disability rights arena for 15 years. The Disability Rights Section enforces Titles I, II, and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ms. Maisels has handled a variety of cases enforcing the ADA.
Some of the more notable matters she has worked on include a lawsuit against the state of New York involving institutionalization of adults with mental illness, a lawsuit against the City of Baltimore regarding zoning discrimination against residential substance abuse facilities, and a settlement agreement with Washington Hospital Center to improve the accessibility of its medical equipment and facility for individuals with mobility disabilities.
Ms. Maisels graduated from Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Special Guest: Chris Hofstader
Chris Hofstader was born in 1960 in suburban New Jersey. He wrote his first computer program at age eleven at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where his father was leading a chemistry text book project. Chris would graduate from high school in 1978, join a long forgotten punk rock band as its vocalist, enroll at NYU and, in 1979 started his professional career making software for Lincoln Savings.
In 1983, Chris relocated to the Boston area where he worked with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for a while before moving into the more lucrative world of proprietary software. After losing the last of his useful vision, Chris joined a company called Henter-Joyce (two mergers and acquisitions later, now called VFO Group), the largest company in the software industry used by blind people business. At HJ, Chris would lead JAWS, its popular screen reader, from a marketshare estimated at 35% to a dominant 83% of the market. Since leaving Freedom Scientific (one of the names that the former HJ would have), Chris has written a very popular blog and has worked as a contractor in the accessibility field.
As this issue evolves, WSI will continue to keep tabs on what website owners need to be doing to not only ensure they are “compliant,” but more importantly are doing all they can to ensure an accessible experience for all website visitors. You can also visit ADA to learn more about how WSI may be able to help with your compliance efforts.