Content Engineering for ADA Compliance

Web content accessibility has become a hot topic this year.  WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) have historically only been a focus point for governmental and non-profit websites.  Commercial organizations are starting to take notice after a wave of recent lawsuits.   

Today’s first impression trial verdict finding retailer Winn-Dixie liable under Title III of the ADA for having an inaccessible website suggests that public accommodations should focus on their website accessibility efforts now.
— Seyfarth Synopsis

In June, Winn-Dixie found themselves on the wrong side of an ADA lawsuit for website accessibility issues.  Retailers Hobby Lobby & Blick, and the Five Guys restaurant brand are also litigating similar claims.  

WCAG 2.0 level AA seems to be the standard that most are focusing on.  If you want some background on that, I'd point you to Amanda Shiga's Accessibility in Sitecore Builds post and this WCAG 2.0 checklist.  

So, what does content engineering have to do with ADA compliance?  Well, a website with a strong content model and semantic markup is going to be easier for a sight challenged visitor to navigate.  Screen reader software like the JAWS screen reader is going to be able to parse page content more clearly and provide navigation options to the visitor.  

Take a look at section 1.3.1 of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines -- Info and Relationships.  It speaks to 'information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text'.  Or, in short-hand, we need to provide smart content.  

Let's take frequently asked questions (FAQs) as an example.  FAQs are common in many sites.  The FAQ is a specific content type, that includes a question, an answer, classification tags, and maybe associations with other related FAQs.  If we mark-up the FAQs with descriptors, we're presenting smarter content for the screen readers to consume.  And, since the screen reader is a machine, we can surmise that other machines would benefit from this structure as well.  Other machines may include chat bots, marketing automation software and voice control devices like Alexa and Siri.

If you find yourself reviewing your current website for WCAG compliance, think about your content model and mark-up as well.  Some of the adjustments you make may have benefit beyond simply ADA compliance.