Usablenet Assistive and the Department of Transportation’s Mandate on Web and Kiosk Accessibility

September 1, 2015

By Josef Pevsner, Business Development Executive

Today, the internet has evolved beyond the imagination of anyone who first witnessed its creation and rise in the 80’s and 90’s.  The early drafters of ARPANET in 1969 likely never considered how this technology would transcend communication, commerce and education, and the incredible societal growth that would occur as a result.  You can use the internet to do a myriad of things, from research a project, to buying/selling goods and services across continents, to posting pictures of your cat sleeping, etc… 

It is this universal ability to access so much in such a short time that has allowed us to experience the global scale that we do today in so many aspects of life.  Given the nature and importance of the internet, it only seems right and fair that it be accessible by as many people as possible, to afford everyone the opportunities and advantages associated.  Unfortunately, the technology has evolved so much, yet regulations regarding its accessibility for those who might otherwise have difficulty has not evolved in kind.  People with a wide variety of disabilities and illnesses cannot use the internet the same way that most of us can. 

This problem is persistent, and although many website providers do take this into consideration and strive to make their sites accessible to all, many do not.  It was with this in mind that the World Wide Web Consortium published its Web Content Accessibility Guide (WCAG) first in 1999 (WCAG 1.0 – Effective 2005), then again in 2008 (WCAG 2.0 – Effective 2012).  The WCAG 2.0 outlines a standard set of 12 guidelines for web content accessibility in three levels of increasing strictness, A, AA, and AAA.   The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accepted the WCAG 2.0 in 2012. 

While the WCAG 2.0 is an international standard for accessibility, laws in the US and most of the world have yet to apply it to all websites.  The law only states that companies should take “reasonable steps” to make their websites accessible, and does not mention the WCAG.  In the past 4 years however, a number of high-profile lawsuits and widespread support for stricter laws has caused the Department of Justice and other regulatory bodies to reconsider the stance of the law.

 In 2013, the Department of Transportation adopted an amendment to the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which covers website and on-site kiosk accessibility for airlines and airports.  The mandate will make all websites comply with WCAG 2.0 AA standards for core services, then for all content.  The law goes into effect in phases starting in December of 2015, and will leave airlines that do not comply vulnerable to litigation.  The Department of Justice is mulling over similar legislation about site accessibility, which would apply to many businesses across every industry.  This legislation is long-coming, and finally sets a legal standard and precedence to make the internet accessible for all.

Usablenet Assistive is a solution for companies - airlines specifically, given the circumstances – to conform to the WCAG 2.0 AA standard before any legislation goes into effect from either the DoT’s mandate or the pending DoJ decision.  Our Assistive services helps create an Alternative Conforming Version (ACV) of a company’s site, offered in text-only format, that allows users with a plethora of disabilities to effectively use the site.  The ACV maintains all of the original site’s functionality, including all content and the roadmap of the site. 

Airlines like Delta and Virgin America have already come on-board for Assistive.  Many more are coming to us to attain a technology partner that has a proven track record in conforming and maintaining compliance to the legislation.  In addition, we do Assistive for retailers like The Container Store, manufacturers like Textron, and many education programs and municipalities, from Appalachian State to the City of Miami.

The importance of making dynamic, accessible content available to all on the internet has come to a head.  Legal bodies have taken notice, and have begun to take action.  Usablenet Assistive offers a premier service that addresses the needs of companies, without causing undue burden, and also addresses the ever-important needs of end-users, who might otherwise not be able to use a site due to a disability.

View all of our products and services for web accessibility here.

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