Web Accessibility, Structured Negotiations and DOJ Rulemaking
On July 26, 2010, the United States Department of Justice issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the issue of website accessibility. The Advanced Notice asks a series of questions for the public to answer to help the Justice Department in its rulemaking process.
This post provides information, resources and examples of large commercial websites that have been designed to meet accessibility standards. These sites are operated by some of the largest entities in the United States, including Bank of America, Major League Baseball and CVS. These entities and the others referenced here have made their websites accessible without litigation as a result of Structured Negotiations and other advocacy efforts.
The accessible websites highlighted in this post demonstrate that web accessibility is not only possible, but that it has been implemented for many years in complex environments by some of the country’s largest commercial entities. This information is intended as a resource for individuals and organizations preparing comments in response to the DOJ ANPRM. Comments are due on January 24, 2011. Additional information relevant to the DOJ web accessibility ANPRM will be available on LFLegal.com in the coming months. You can also follow LFLegal on Twitter. If you have or know about a site meeting WCAG 2.0 standards, please use the Contact Page to let me know.
This post is about the websites of large commercial entities. You may also be interested in the post about how a small business — the Law Office of Lainey Feingold - meets WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. Read the post about LFLegal and web accessibility.
- Information about U.S. Commercial Entities with Web Accessibility Initiatives
- Information on the Web Access ANPRM and how to file comments
- Simplified Summary of this Post
U.S. Commercial Entities with Web Accessibility Initiatives as a Result of Structured Negotiations
Major League Baseball Web Accessibility Initiative
In 2010, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) the digital arm of Major League Baseball, the American Council of the Blind, the Bay State Council of the Blind and the California Council of the Blind signed a landmark web accessibility agreement. MLBAM agreed that its main site (www.mlb.com) as well as the websites of all 30 major league baseball teams, would meet Success Criteria Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0.
Major League Baseball’s commitment is announced on its Accessibility Information Page:
MLB.com has utilized guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to implement functional improvements to MLB.com. We are working to ensure that all content on www.mlb.com and all content on the club sites satisfy Level A and AA Success Criteria set forth in WCAG 2.0. — MLB.com’s Accessiblity Information Page
Resources about MLB’s Web Accessibility Initiative
- Visit Major League Baseball’s Accessibility Page which includes a link to MLB’s FAQs about accessibility
- Read the 2010 ACB/MLB web accessibility press release
- Read the 2010 web accessibility agreement signed by Major League Baseball and the blind community
- Visit the Major League Baseball category on this website to read a short summary, with links, of all Major League Baseball posts on LFLegal.com
United States Credit Reporting Agencies Agree to On-Line Access
In 2008, the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — agreed to make on-line credit reports conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Information provided in credit reports is highly sensitive. Working with the American Council of the Blind and blind individuals in the Structured Negotiations process, the credit agencies developed a telephone-based audio CAPTCHA that has proven effective for the more than two years the agreement has been in place.
Accessible Credit Report Resources
- Visit the joint credit reporting agencies’ portal for obtaining accessible credit reports
- Read the 2008 Accessible Credit Report Agreement
- Read the 2008 Accessible Credit Report Press Release
Bank of America Web Accessibility Initiative
Bank of America was the first Bank in the United States to sign a web accessibility agreement with the blind community. In 2000, the California Council of the Blind, several blind individuals and the bank signed a landmark agreement in which the bank agreed to make its website, including on-line banking accessible to people with disabilities.
Bank of America’s Accessible Banking Portal includes a link to information about its commitment to web accessibility. The page states that
We’re continually enhancing our Web environment to increase accessibility and usability for all of our customers. These enhancements are based on universal design and priorities one and two of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). — Bank of America Accessible Banking Web page
Resources about Bank of America’s Accessibility Efforts
- Visit the Bank of America Web Accessibility Page
- Read the March, 2000 Bank of America accessible web site agreement
- Read the March, 2000 Press Release about Bank of America’s commitment to web accessibility (part of the bank’s Talking ATM press release)
- Visit the Bank of America Category on this website to read a summary, with links, of all posts about Bank of America accessibility (including website, Talking ATMs and alternative formats) on LFLegal.com
Web Accessibility and Other Banks
While the first, Bank of America is not the only financial institution with an on-going commitment to web site accessibility. Other banks who signed web accessibility agreements include the following
Bank One / Chase Bank and Washington Mutual
In 2001, Bank One signed a web accessibility agreement with blind advocates in Chicago. When Chase purchased Bank One some years later, it maintained the commitment to accessibility. Chase later purchased Washington Mutual, another financial institution that had reached a web accessibility agreement through Structured Negotiations. The Chase website confirms its ongoing commitment to web accessibility:
Chase is actively engaged in efforts necessary to meet online usability and web page design requirements recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. — Chase Accessibility Page
Resources about Bank One, Washington Mutual, and Chase Web Accessibility Efforts
- Visit the Chase Bank Accessible Banking Page
- Read the 2001 Bank One web accessibility agreement
- Read the 2002 Washington Mutual web accessibility agreement
Wells Fargo and First Union (Wachovia)
Although its Structured Negotiations agreement with the California Council of the Blind and others in the blind community addressed only Talking ATMs and alternative formats, Wells Fargo Bank has taken a leadership role in on-line accessibility. The Bank’s Accessibility page notes that Wells Fargo’s “services include an accessible Web site” and bears the seal of an award of honor from the National Disability and Business Council.
In 2008 Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia, a company that was the outgrowth of an earlier merger between First Union and Wachovia. In 2003 First Union signed a web accessibility agreement with the North Carolina Council of the Blind and other blind organizations and individuals.
Resources about Wells Fargo and First Union Web Accessibility Efforts
- Visit the Wells Fargo Accessibility Page
- Read the 2003 First Union web accessibility settlement agreement that includes a commitment to meet WCAG 1.0 Level AA Guidelines.
LaSalle and Fleet Banks
In 2001, Fleet Bank was the first New England financial institution to sign a web accessibility agreement with the blind community in Massachusetts, including the Bay State Council of the Blind. In 2004, the LaSalle Bank’s agreement with the blind community in Illinois also included web accessibility provisions. Both these institutions were subsequently purchased by Bank of America.
Resources about LaSalle and Fleet Web Accessibility Initiatives
- Read the 2002 Fleet Bank Accessibility Press release
- Read the 2005 LaSalle Bank accessibility press release
Sovereign and Citizens Bank
In 2002 Sovereign Bank signed an agreement with the Bay State Council of the Blind and others to make its website accessible to blind and visually impaired customers. Two years later, Citizens bank also signed a settlement agreement that included a commitment to web accessibility.
Resources about Sovereign and Citizens Bank Web Accessibility Initiatives
- Read Sovereign Bank’s Accessibility page
- Read the 2002 Sovereign Bank settlement agreement
- Read the 2002 Sovereign Bank press release
- Read the 2004 Citizens Bank press release
National Retailers Agree to Make Their Websites Accessible
Banks are not the only commercial entities to adopt web accessibility as a business practice. In 2008 and 2009, first Rite-Aid, and then CVS and Staples, signed web accessibility agreements with the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind and its California affiliate. These institutions agreed to meet Priorities 1 and 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, the version of the guidelines in place at the time of the negotiations.
Resources about CVS, Rite-Aid, and Staples Accessibility
- Read the 2008 press release announcing Rite-Aid’s Web Accessibility initiative
- Read the 2008 Rite-Aid web accessibility agreement, in which the company agreed to meet priorities 1 and 2 of WCAG 1.0.
- Visit the CVS Accessibility Page
- Read the 2009 CVS web accessibility agreement
- Read the 2009 joint web accessibility press release issued by CVS, ACB, AFB and CCB
- Read the 2009 Staples web accessibility agreement
- Read the 2009 press release announcing the Staples web accessibility settlement
Details of the DOJ ANPRM and How to File Comments
Information about the DOJ Web Accessibility ANPRM
The DOJ’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) was issued on July 26, 2010. In the Notice, the DOJ asks 19 questions about web accessibility, including the potential impact of proposed regulations, potential compliance difficulties, the availability of resources to assist in designing accessible websites and related questions. Read the web accessibility ANPRM on the Department of Justice website.
The accessible websites highlighted in this post demonstrates that web accessibility is not just possible, but that it has been implemented for many years in complex environments by some of the country’s largest commercial entities. (Full accessibility has also been implemented on smaller sites: this website, of the Law Office of Lainey Feingold, was, for example, one of the sites achieving WCAG 2.0 Level AAA compliance and was featured in the Implementation Report issued as part of the WCAG 2.0 approval process. Read about the WCAG 2.0 process.)
Information about filing comments
Individuals and organizations can submit answers to these questions and provide other comments on line at the Federal Web page for filing comments on web access.
Comments must be submitted by midnight Eastern time on or before January 24, 2011. Model comments and other relevant information is being developed by various organizations. Please use the Contact page of this website if you would like to receive information relevant to responding to the Department of Justice web accessibility rule making.