How Website Accessibility Certification Works (for ADA Compliance)
Here’s how web accessibility certification works in 2023:
- There is no current legal prescription on what makes a website accessible (the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t specifically state how to make a website accessible).
- However, you can get a reputable organization (such as Accessible.org — this is me) that specializes in web accessibility to certify that you have met a version and conformance level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This document is called a statement of conformance.
- You’ll need to have your website audited (and likely re-audited after remediation) by the organization issuing the conformance statement.
- Then you can request certification.
- If the company worked on your asset gives you a green light (no accessibility issues are found) after a re-audit (after your development team has completed remediation), you’re eligible to receive a statement of conformance (a construct of W3C) and/or the company’s own accessibility certificate.
By the way, if you sign up for the ADA Compliance Program at Accessible.org, you can your website both audited and remediated (fixed) at the same time and then get certification without the re-audit (because the remediation was done for you).
You can learn more at Accessible.org.
The most efficient way to do this is to go to a reputable accessibility company from the beginning.
You’ll have this company audit your website, then remediation takes place (whether in-house, through a third-party, or through the accessibility provider), and, then, re-audit after remediation.
If you’ve gone through one company to go through all of the steps (and they offer certification / conformance statements), then you can get certification issued.
Note: Making a website accessible involves a manual accessibility audit and the remediation of issues at the code and content level. There are no instant solutions to web accessibility and any vendors selling one are telling you that their offering (and any corresponding certificate) is worthless.
Here’s the common path to the issuance of website accessibility documentation.
First, a web accessibility company will work to ensure that the primary pages and screens of your website are in conformance with all the relevant WCAG success criteria, corresponding to the version and conformance level you are targeting, such as WCAG 2.0 AA, 2.1 AA, or the latest, 2.2 AA.
The process of certification typically includes the issuance of a formal document, which features the logo of the issuing company and a detailed conformance statement. This statement is a very nice document that you can then link to from your website’s accessibility statement, providing a transparent and credible declaration of your website’s compliance efforts.
It’s important to note that no reputable company will issue what is known as an “ADA website compliance certification.” This is due to a couple of key reasons.
First, there are no universally agreed-upon parameters that clearly define what makes a website legally accessible. Secondly, no digital accessibility companies are official governing bodies, nor are they agents of the government or licensed by any government entity.
Despite this, obtaining a statement of conformance or an independent certification is a significant step. It serves as a testament that your website has been independently evaluated and deemed to meet the stringent requirements of the WCAG, whether it’s 2.0 AA, 2.1 AA, or even the more recent 2.2 AA as finalized by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative.
Conforming to the latest version of the WCAG standards is a robust strategy. It significantly fortifies your position against any claims that your digital asset does not meet the “meaningful access” standard set forth in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Furthermore, going above and beyond by adopting legal and practical best practices is highly advisable. This includes the regular posting of an updated accessibility statement, engaging in consistent user testing, and conducting thorough audits of your website. These proactive steps are instrumental in ensuring that your online property is not just compliant in theory but in practice as well.
In summary, while you may not be able to obtain an official ADA digital compliance certificate, by rigorously following these guidelines and procedures, you effectively acquire the practical equivalent of such a certificate. This comprehensive approach to web accessibility demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and ensures that your website is accessible to all users, aligning closely with the spirit and requirements of the ADA.
If you’re trying to attain certification of training or proficiency, you can get this where training is offered.
For example, ADACompliance.net (my training platform) offers a certificate upon completion of the WCAG Course.
Learn about the ADA website compliance legal landscape and services marketplace.
Working on WCAG 2.2 conformance? Study the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with my WCAG 2.2 checklist.
Are you new to ADA compliance and website accessibility? Read my website accessibility for beginners introduction.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is just one of the laws that concerns website accessibility. Read my 504 compliance website and 508 compliance website guides. Companies with employees in Ontario may also be interested in my AODA website compliance requirements explainer.
What exactly is a website accessibility audit? My write-up on audits will help you understand what goes into an ADA website audit.