Important Accessibility News You May Have Missed

Over the holidays a couple of pieces of important Web Accessibility related news came out that you definitely want to be aware of.

Expertise Matters

In late August, a Judge in the US District Court for Southern Florida decided in favor of a plaintiff in the case of Gomez vs. GNC. The judgment isn’t all that surprising, because most lawsuits that actually go to court are found in favor of the plaintiff. The important part of the judgment is what the court said about expertise – namely that expertise matters.

If you read through the PDF of the judgment you should pay particular attention to the 2nd half of page 8, starting with “GNC’s Website has not Remedied the Violations of the ADA”. Here, the court lays out one of GNC’s biggest mistakes: relying on an internal employee to provide expert who really wasn’t an expert. Some quotes from the judgment:

“Dolegowski lacks specialized knowledge or experience on web accessibility…”

“Dolegowski does not know the success criteria of the accessibility checking software relied on by GNC…”

“Because he is not at least minimally qualified to opine on web accessibility, Dolegowski does not satisfy the first prong of the Daubert analysis..”

“Dolegowski’s lack of experience in web accessibility and the unreliability of his opinions outweighs any potential helpfulness…”

As always, being proactive is far better than being reactive. But when the lawyers come knocking on your door it is also important to have real experts helping you.

21st Century IDEA act

On December 20, 2018 the president signed the 21st Century IDEA Act into law. If you work for the US Government, government contractor, or sell to the government, this one is important. Overall, the new law is all about modernization, but there’s also something very big for accessibility in there:

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, an executive agency that creates a website or digital service that is intended for use by the public, or conducts a redesign of an existing legacy website or digital service that is intended for use by the public, shall ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that any new or redesigned website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service—

(1) is accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 …”

Keep in mind that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has been around since 1998, so on the surface does not seem like a big deal. The practical difference is that in practice, federal agencies have been charged with figuring out how to manage their own compliance with Section 508. While the obvious expectation is that the agencies would ensure everything is accessible, there wasn’t much in the way of enforcement.

Section 3b of the law describes various requirements around reporting compliance with the Act to Congress and 3d describes providing a public report on compliance as well.

As we always say at Tenon: it is better to get in front of accessibility as soon as possible. This new law makes it obvious that the clock is ticking.

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