“The ADA doesn’t require conformance to WCAG 2.0, but many businesses are working to do so as a measure of risk avoidance and because WCAG 2.0 AA standards are generally accepted to be the standard that affords maximum accessibility yet is still attainable,” says Kristina Launey, attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
“Some states also allow for recovery of actual or statutory damages,” Launey adds. “And if the DOJ were to pursue an enforcement action—which we haven’t seen under the Trump administration—potential penalties are $75,000 for a first violation and $150,000 thereafter.” Which all add up to great reasons why it pays to fix your ADA noncompliant website now, without further delay, believes Sharon Rosenblatt, director of communications for Accessibility Partners LLC in Silver Spring, Maryland. “In my line of work, we see numerous examples of ADA violations,” says Rosenblatt, who herself is disabled. “One example is online chat capabilities. Many users of assistive technology, like a screen reader, cannot use online chat because it’s coded in Flash or not keyboard-accessible.”
And that’s where speech tech can help, says Steve Cook, chief technology officer of AppTek. “A speech-enabled site makes content more accessible and, in some cases, simpler and more intuitive. For example, a shopping site can convert product descriptions into voice-searchable and audible listings,” Cook says. “The trick is designing for flexibility and fidelity.”
The experts suggest you implement robust compatibility with speech recognition software and closed captioning, apps, and readers. Use an automatic speech recognition (ASR) engine that can be incorporated through APIs or be included into your stack. Be sure your ASR and text-to-speech/screen readers are speaker-independent so they can work for all users. “Choose a design that helps you avoid being locked into any one solution,” Cook adds.
Lastly, remember that while these efforts can be costly and time-consuming, “they’re nearly always cheaper than settling a lawsuit,” Rosenblatt says. “They can also pay you back in the form of feel-good corporate social responsibility, positive press, and customer and employee retention.”