3D Virtual Tour Accessibility for ADA Compliance

Someone emailed me asking, how to make 3d virtual tours using the Matterport platform accessible / ADA compliant.

The tour in question was similar to that of those virtual tours found on apartment sites or home listing real estate sites.  Also, I know car websites use them.

One Solution

Here’s the best path to accessibility I know of for interactive virtual tours:

Accompany the virtual tour with a video that includes an audio description and closed captioning. Obviously the video wouldn’t cover every last angle or detail but it would be generally representative of navigating through the various spaces in the tour.

You will also want to ensure that the virtual tour controls are keyboard accessible, with descriptive texts or alternative texts. The Matterport tour I reviewed doesn’t have keyboard-accessible controls and traps keyboard focus within the tour window.

I think providing a video alternative will be the best route towards ADA Compliance as 1) you’ve made a good faith effort towards accessibility and 2) you’ve made an alternative that generally conveys the content.

Someone else may have another idea.  If you do, I’d love to hear it (kris@accessible.org).

Legal

As far as ADA Compliance, we have no formal guidance or legal prescription on what to do, so it’s impossible for anyone to say definitively what the legal threshold for accessibility would be.

However, the recommendation I have made in this post is in congruence with WCAG 2.0 AA so you’d be hard pressed to find how this doesn’t provide full and equal use under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Of course, you can still receive a demand letter or lawsuit.  You can’t stop a wayward plaintiff’s lawyer from suing you.

Keep in mind that the ADA isn’t the only statute in play here.  If you have a real estate website, the Federal Housing Act (FHA) could come into play.  Also, claims can be made under state anti-discrimination laws such as the California Unruh Act and New York State Human Rights Law.

Cost

The creating separate alternative videos aspect to this is time-consuming and potentially costly (depending on how many videos you have).

If you’re a small business, could you legally have an argument with the “undue hardship” provision of the ADA?

I think a court would certainly be open to an undue hardship argument but it’s 1) the cost to get there and 2) uncertainty on the decision that puts a lot of friction in the process.

Also, even if one district court rules favorably (yes to undue hardship), it doesn’t mean the circuit court will agree (if the decision is appealed), and there are 10 other district courts as well as state courts that are not bound by the one decision. That’s important to keep in mind because most websites can be sued (correctly) from anywhere.

In a Nutshell

You can make a virtual tour accessible by providing an alternative that effectively conveys the content of the virtual tour.  This isn’t a perfect solution (it’s infeasible to capture every single detail) but it is the best option I see.

The problem is video alternatives are expensive to make and time-consuming.

A few videos aren’t too bad but if you have dozens+, there isn’t an efficient (fast and cost effective) way to complete the task.