100% ADA compliance is a lie

Fears about ADA compliance have spread through credit unions like a plague. Here’s the truth about “being compliant.”

I’m a founder of an award-winning credit union website design agency called BloomCU and I know ADA compliance is a massive concern right now—and rightfully so, because many credit unions have been served demand letters and lawsuits.

In my conversations with dozens of credit unions, I’ve learned there is a common misunderstanding about ADA compliance. I’m writing this article to help credit unions gain a correct understanding of ADA compliance so they are better prepared to handle the challenge.

The fallacy of 100% compliance

I recently had a client email me this question: “Will the new website created by BloomCU be fully ADA compliant at launch?” That is an interesting question to answer because, the truth is, there is no such thing as “fully” compliant.

To be “fully compliant” implies that a website follows the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines perfectly and unambiguously. However, 100% compliance is almost impossible for any credit union website to achieve because many of the guidelines are complex and nuanced, and there are endless shades of disabilities.

User1st, a company that specializes in ADA compliance solutions, provided us an estimate of what it would take for one of our clients to attempt 100% compliance and it would literally cost somewhere in the ballpark of $500,000; and that’s not because User1st is expensive (in fact, User1st offers the best value we’ve seen for auditing and remediation services; I delve into ADA services below), but because 100% ADA compliance is unrealistic. Obviously, spending a half-million dollars on compliance would be a little crazy. That just isn’t reasonable.

ADA compliance isn’t a pass-fail test. Rather, it’s a spectrum; a website can be more compliant or less compliant. The more compliant a website is, the lower risk there is for a demand letter or losing a lawsuit.

A better strategy: mitigate risk

Given that 100% compliance is unreasonable, the strategy you should pursue is one of risk mitigation. I’m not a lawyer, but in my digestion of comments made about compliance lawsuits, I understand that if a credit union is making a reasonable effort to be ADA compliant, then they are in a good position under the law.

Now I have to make a disclaimer, of course.

Disclaimer: Neither Derik Krauss nor BloomCU LLC are providing legal advice. For legal advice about ADA compliance, consult an attorney. This article does not replace the official WCAG 2.0 guidelines, nor does it provide an official or legal interpretation of the guidelines.

While 100% compliance is practically impossible, the following three steps have emerged as best practices for mitigating ADA compliance risk.

  1. Strive to follow WCAG 2.0 Level AA in design, code, and copywriting
  2. Regularly audit your website
  3. Fix issues revealed by audits

We recommend these steps to our clients, but also to any credit union looking to better serve the disabled community and protect themselves from litigation.

At BloomCU, we take the lead in guiding our clients through these steps and follow Step 1 as we develop websites. Now, let’s talk a little bit about Step 2.

ADA Services for Credit Union Websites

In accounting, third-party auditors verify a credit union’s books and check for potential errors. In ADA compliance, a third-party auditor offers a similar value proposition: the auditor verifies compliance work that has been done during design, copywriting, and coding, and reveals any accessibility issues that need to be fixed.

We spent hours investigating ADA auditing solutions to find the best services to recommend to our clients and we’ve summarized our findings in this guide:

A Guide to ADA Services for Credit Union Websites

Even though 100% compliance isn’t reasonable, a good website developer and the services evaluated in our guide can help you be more compliant than not and mitigate much of the risk. Ultimately, you should talk with your legal counsel, weigh the costs and benefits of ADA services, and make a plan for your credit union.

Derik Krauss

Derik Krauss

Derik is a cofounder of BloomCU, an award-winning website design agency for credit unions. His agency's design work has received recognition from CUNA (Diamond Award), TheFinancialBrand.com, and others. He ... Web: bloomCU.com Details