Americans with Disabilities and WCAG 2.0

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications. It is the first comprehensive civil rights legislation aimed at creating equal access for people with disabilities and has come to have a number of implications for online content.

Title II

Title II protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by state and local government entities, regardless of whether they receive federal funding. Websites and any video content therein are included as part of Title II.

Title III

Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodations or businesses that are generally open to the public. The original standards set forth by Title III of the ADA were designed with regard to physical spaces meant for public accommodation. Recent statements by the Department of Justice (DOJ) have made clear that online content and services are also considered a public accommodation.

WCAG 2.0 Guidelines

The DOJ is still in the process of developing specific regulations on how to achieve ADA compliance on the web. In the face of unspecified and pending legislation, many organizations are looking to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), specifically Level AA, as a minimum standard. Many governmental entities, including New York City government and European Union, have already adopted Level AA as their standard.

Level A

To conform to Level A guidelines, online content producers must provide the following:

Offline Captions: Prerecorded video content with audio must have closed captions.

Video Description: Prerecorded video content with audio must have video description OR text video description (media alternative) that is accessible using screen-reader technology.

Level AA

To conform to Level AA guidelines, online content producers must provide the requirements of Level A, as well as:

Live Captions: Live streaming videos must have closed captions.

Video Description: Prerecorded video content with audio must have audio description.

Captionmax has provided ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliant closed captioning and video descriptions to many government and corporate clients. We are one of a handful of companies who offer video description and text video description as a way to meet WCAG 2.0 standards.

Additional Resources:

Americans with Disabilities Act
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Section 508

After being amended in 1988, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 required Federal Agencies to make their electronic and information technology, such as websites and web documents, accessible to people with disabilities. This law is applicable to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Agencies must provide accessible information to employees with disabilities and the public that is comparable to the same access available to others.

Section 508 Refresh

A final ruling was issued on January 18, 2017 in which accessibility requirements for information and communication technology in the federal sector were updated. This ruling refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 225 of the Communications Act as well as updates and reorganizes both Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines. These changes are due to changing market trends and technologies. Requirements involving other guidelines and standards are unified both in the U.S. and abroad regarding standards by the European Commission and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The refresh references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0. This means that the rule not only applies to websites but to electronic documents and software as well.

Additional Resources:

Overview of the Final Rule
Section 508
Section 504