Why Your Site Needs an Accessibility Disclaimer

Web accessibility can be an easy thing to ignore, until it isn’t. Over the past year and a half, more and more organizations have been hit with lawsuits stemming from their site’s alleged lack of accessibility. Adding to the challenge is the ever-changing landscape of the web. Not only do pages and sites change over time, but standards do, too. With the enforcement standards of web accessibility so difficult to parse, web environments so prone to change, and increased litigation mounting, make no mistake: Every organization should be paying attention to accessibility.

The question that remains is how to go about the task. Unfortunately, there’s not necessarily one right answer. As mentioned in the above Wall Street Journal article, some companies have claimed to have been named in multiple lawsuits stemming from web accessibility, even after attempting to remediate their sites. Given the current landscape, it’s not enough that every business should take the time to make their site more accessible – you need to make sure everyone knows about it, too.

Because you can never guarantee that your site is fully accessible, you should place an accessibility disclaimer on your website. The disclaimer doesn’t have to be long, but it can make a difference. A good example of such a statement can be found on the National Association of Realtors’ site. Taking the time to draft and publish a short disclaimer not only signals that your organization has considered the issue, but also provides a clear way for concerned parties to inform you of any potential blind spots.

An accessibility disclaimer can also help you stay ahead of potential legal entanglements. While such a statement alone won’t help you much from a legal standpoint, a disclaimer that accurately conveys the scope of your attempts to make your site accessible will preempt accusations of discrimination. Keep in mind, however, that you’re still liable for actually making your site truly accessible. Signaling that accessibility is a priority for your organization can help your brand in many ways, but only if you actually follow through.

So, what should an accessibility disclaimer actually entail? The short answer is that your lawyer should determine that; Duo is a web design firm, not legal counsel. That being said, there are a few things to look for in an ideal accessibility disclaimer:

  • Standards Followed – It’s important to be transparent about which set or version of accessibility standards your organization is trying to meet, such as the WCAG.
  • Affirmed Commitment – A strong disclaimer will make it clear that you’re dedicated to making your site accessible.
  • Contact Info – In the event that an aspect of your site doesn’t meet accessible standards, your disclaimer should include appropriate contact info for anyone who is encountering problems.

Alternatively, if you’re in a hurry to put something up, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created an accessibility statement generator. This tool allows you to put together a boilerplate statement about your organization’s commitment to WCAG standards.

Whichever option you choose, publishing an accessibility statement on your site should be a priority. Not only does it offer you a preemptive measure of defense against claims of inaccessibility, it shows to your users that you’re taking their experiences into consideration. Regardless of your industry, demonstrating a proactive and receptive approach to web accessibility reflects well on your brand.>

Given the importance of brand identity and the growing risk of legal action, accessibility can no longer be ignored. Luckily, you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility alone. A partner like Duo can help with both accessibility remediation and user experience design, working with you to create unique digital platforms that everyone can use.

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