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Firm Management

Does Your Website Pass the Compliance Test?

What do Burger King, Harvard, and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. have in common? They have all been sued for their website’s lack of meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in relation to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).


What do Burger King, Harvard, and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. have in common? They have all been sued for their website’s lack of meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in relation to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

Title I of the ADA indicates any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for 20 or more weeks every year is covered by the law. Title II refers to compliance for state and local governmental agencies. Title III states businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodation,” such as hotels, banks and public transportation, are also required to comply.

If you (or your clients) meet any of those descriptions, is your website safe from a lawsuit? Here’s how to tell.

What is WCAG?

The Web Accessibility Initiative states that it was “developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

The Guidelines explain how website developers can make web content, such as text, images, sounds, structure, and presentation, more accessible to people with disabilities.

There are three acceptability levels for website compliance, including:

A = below average;

AA = standard (where most sites are and should be); and

AAA = exceptional.

Dangers of Non-Compliance

In addition to a potential lawsuit for your firm, there is also the risk of damaging your firm’s reputation, brand, and sales.

Compliance Checklist

In short, there are four things to tackle when it comes to WCAG compliance. They are:

1.      Fix your website in accordance with the Guidelines

2.       Test the site with persons with disabilities.

3.       Reduce or eliminate your site errors.

4.       Write a robust, custom web accessibility policy.

For an in-depth checklist, view “The Ultimate ADA Website Compliance Checklist: 2020 Edition,” by Glenmont Consulting. It covers website presentation, content alternatives, individual user control, website usability, assistive technology considerations, and customer support recommendations.

How To Test and Fix Your Website

Free and simple-to-use tools like WAVE and SortSite allow you to enter a webpage URL for scanning. Both tools do a good job of listing errors, warnings, and accessibility features found on the page. Each also has a paid version allowing you to scan a full site and to gain access to reports.

Developer-focused tools like aXe, Pa11y, and tota11y require coding knowledge to implement and to use them successfully. They, too, are efficient scanning and reporting tools. However, they may be difficult to understand if you do not have website coding skills.

If you have a WordPress site, there are a many plugins already on the market that work well, including WP ADA Compliance Check Basic, Accessibility by UserWay, and WP Accessibility. They are free to install; but, it does take time to decipher the results and correctly implement changes.

It’s Your Call

If you’re launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, consider adding this to the developer’s task list.

If you do not plan to update your site, think about how this risk could derail sales and tarnish your firm’s reputation. Then decide if you should test a few, important webpages to determine if revisions are needed.


Becky Livingston has over twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and technology in financial services and engineering firms. She is the President and CEO of Penheel Marketing, a boutique marketing firm specializing in social media and digital marketing for CPAs. In addition to being a marketing practitioner, Becky is also an adjunct professor, author, and speaker. With a graduate degree from Pace University in Information Systems, Becky also holds undergraduate degrees from two other colleges and also has a Certificate in Corporate Training from NYU. She is also an active member of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM). Connect with Becky’s firm on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, and YouTube.

See inside April 2020

AICPA News: April 2020

AICPA News is a roundup of recent announcements from the association.


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