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Accessibility Certifications, Logos, Badges, Seals, Letters of Conformance…OH MY!

If you are in the market for accessibility consulting services for your website, you have likely noticed that some offer an Accessibility Certification, Logo, Badge, Seal, or Letter of Conformance. The intended purpose is to show that your site has been evaluated or certified to be “accessible”. On the surface this seems like a good idea but if done incorrectly can increase the risk of being targeted by an accessibility complaint letter or lawsuit.

While there is some industry accepted and preferred methods of making a public statement regarding the overall accessibility of your website, these homegrown accessibility service provider certifications offer what is essentially a marketing tool. Reputable firms do exist that will provide accurate and complete testing results along with their certification. Yet, there are many more who may not be as complete in their testing and will still provide a certification that indicates a site is fully “accessible”. It is at this point that you can be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk, especially if the certification is based solely on the results of an accessibility scanning tool.

Currently there are three primary ways to make a public claim of a website’s accessibility support:

  1. WCAG 2.0/2.1 claims & logos. The W3C provides guidance on how to make conformance claims with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This method has strict rules that must be followed. The accuracy of this type of claim is also the sole responsibility of site owner as the W3C does not provide validation of these claims.

  2. VPATs. The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template [VPAT] has become another widely adopted means of outlining how well a website supports accessibility. While not the original purpose of a VPAT, many non-federal government organizations now require VPATs for software and web services, largely due to the lack of a better alternative.
  1. Accessibility Statement. An Accessibility Statement is typically the best method to make a public statement regarding a website’s level of accessibility. Just as with Accessibility Certifications, Logos, Badges, Seals, Letters of Conformance, etc., if an Accessibility Statement is worded poorly, it can increase your risk of an accessibility complaint. While an Accessibility Statement is the most cost effective and easiest method of making a public statement around accessibility, it is recommended to work with an experienced accessibility services provided to ensure you are properly protecting your organization.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with using a vendor specific accessibility certification if you understand the potential risks compared to the perceived benefits. Don’t fall for the marketing pitch and do your homework!

If you would like to find out more how to best make public claims regarding an organization’s website level of accessibility support, our team of experienced accessibility professionals who are part of the Compliance Sheriff Accessibility Consulting Practice group would be happy to discuss the subject. Also, sign up for our upcoming webinar on the same topic.