Are Your Comms Apps ADA Compliant?

Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act may not be top of mind related to unified communications, contact center, and real-time communications capabilities, but a Florida case suggests that perhaps they ought to be.

The issue at the heart of this case is the ability to use screen reader software to allow blind or visually impaired individuals to read text displayed on computer screens using speech synthesizers or braille displays. The plaintiff claims he can't use his software to obtain coupons, refill prescriptions, and know what's on sale -- and is suing more than 60 companies as a result.

Computer screen can mean a multitude of things. Consider the Internet of Things and user choice of devices, and the potential scope of liability extends from not just being able to know what's on sale but the use of any number of Web apps and services.

The judge in the case, Robert Scola of the Southern District of Florida, wrote, "The ADA does not merely require physical access to a place of public accommodation." With this, businesses can expect that any virtual presence come under the same legal requirements as physical locations -- and this brings to mind UC, contact centers, click-to-dial/click-to-chat and WebRTC applications. Are we providing the same capabilities to users with disabilities as we are to everyone else?

Scola cited Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, as the standard. What is WCAG? WCAG 2.0 is a technical standard with 12 guidelines organized under four principals:

  1. Perceivable -- Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive
  2. Operable -- User interface components including navigation must be operable
  3. Understandable -- Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable
  4. Robust -- Content must be robust enough so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users including assistive technologies.

Each guideline includes testable success criteria at three levels: A, AA, and AAA. "If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web," WCAG states.

WCAG 2.0 provides recommendations for making Web content more accessible. These guidelines intend to make content accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities, not just blindness and low vision. WCAG outlines accessibility recommendations that address deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these disabilities. In addition, WCAG provides tools and resources to test and meet guidelines for online content.

For whatever reasons, the Department of Justice is delayed in this matter, and legislation is once again behind advancing technology. Society continues wrestling with changes needed in how we conduct business in light of convergence, cloud, and communications.

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