Lessons Learned in ADA Compliance
As lawsuits related to the Americans with Disabilities Act swept Florida, we all had to figure out what to do. Some cities took down their website content entirely; others considered costly remediation. Meanwhile, contractors scrambled to provide accessible documents to their government clients. Business Watch worked with industry experts to develop a practical approach to ADA compliance for governments and contractors. Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons.
In 2018 the U.S. government scrapped unique federal rules and adopted global guidelines produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Case law supports Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA as the current standard for accessibility of websites, and PDF/Uniform Accessibility provides requirements for PDF document accessibility. Nothing is “100% compliant,” but organizations that take meaningful remediation actions and adopt (and follow) a clear policy of compliance generally have good outcomes in court. (Note: On February 27, the W3C published the first public working draft of WCAG 2.2, which at press time was expected to be released in April.)
The First Steps:
At Business Watch, we assessed our ADA compliance and wrote an Accessibility Statement declaring our commitment to those with disabilities but also acknowledging the areas where we won’t be able to achieve accessibility right away. You should always follow your attorney’s advice.
We spoke with the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government, the Florida Association of City Clerks and many private firms offering training in website accessibility and document remediation and learned some tricks of the trade. We rebuilt our website to meet ADA requirements and created templates for common documents in an accessible format to lessen the workload moving forward.
One of the biggest lessons we learned is that remediation services regularly outsource to overseas workers. Think about it. You’re asking a service to embed code into your documents, and you want to ensure they come back free of viruses and ransomware. We wanted to find a company with vetted employees who are bonded and insured, a dedicated security officer, state-of-the-art encryption, etc.
Business Watch remediation service:
Most importantly, we learned that we’ll never be ADA experts. So, we partnered with a worldwide leader in ADA document remediation that met our security requirements. Together, we created an easy solution to remediate documents to current standards and put that service on the Business Watch website. We also obtained a $10 million insurance policy to back every document.
This is a solution for governments and contractors. Governments are requiring that documents from vendors be accessible, but most companies have no idea how to meet ADA standards. This service allows contractors to supply their documents in an accessible format. Governments that don’t have enough remediation expertise in-house can use the service on an ad hoc basis. When it absolutely must be right (such as with budgets and CAFRs or when responding to a public records request for an accessible document) anyone can use the Business Watch professional remediation service, which is backed by the $10 million insurance policy.
As we learned our own lessons on the ADA front, the need for reliable ad hoc remediation became apparent. Business Watch Inc. is committed to finding solutions for local governments and our contractor members. We hope this serves both well.