If you aren’t already aware, the ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was enforced several decades ago as a way of preventing discrimination against disabled people. Their policy states that disabled people should have full or equal access to the enjoyment of goods, services, privileges, advantages or accommodations in any public situation.
What is ADA compliance?
You might have already guessed, but ADA compliance simply means making sure that your public business follows the regulations set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act. How does this apply to my website? Up until recently, there has been some confusion about whether online websites should have to comply with the same rules as physical establishments. Title || of the Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced to make sure that there was no confusion, and that website experiences work well for all citizens—including those with disabilities. According to this very actionable technical guide from Digital Authority Partners, as of 2018, ADA website regulations and rules apply to all website and design businesses.
Why does my business have to follow it?
First and foremost, it’s a legal requirement. There were over 1000 lawsuits made against websites that weren’t ADA compliant in the first year alone. You really don’t want to risk civil class action lawsuits and potential consequences, like fines or instructions to spend thousands to make your website ADA compliant, if you don’t do so in the first place. You’ll lose business. You might think it doesn’t matter because your target audience isn’t disabled people, but when 1 in 4 Americans has a disability, you are going to encounter a disabled person on your website at one point or another. If people with disabilities cannot access your website, then you will lose potential customers that could contribute a lot to your overall revenue. Your website must also be accessible if your website receives federal funding or assistance, or if you hold contracts with the government. If you aren’t, you could potentially lose major contracts and find yourself struggling to replace the money lost.
How can I check to see if my website is ADA compliant?
The first thing most companies do to check if their website is ADA compliant is to use the Web Content Accessibility Tool. This will tell you if your website is compliant, and if it isn’t, it’ll tell you how serious of a problem your violations are. It’s worth keeping in mind that this website will only look at how your site is coded, and therefore cannot be used as a tool to completely clear you of ADA non-compliance. For peace of mind, and to guarantee that you will have no further issues, it’s worth working with an expert website agency to conduct a website ADA compliance evaluation. Employees within these agencies will manually go through your website to determine what more is needed for you to be ADA compliant. They will then prioritize these improvements, and provide you with recommendations on what you can do to fix your issues to become ADA compliant.
What do I need to do to make my website ADA compliant if it isn’t already?
It can seem daunting to have to make changes to your website to comply with legislation you don’t quite understand, but it needn’t be. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) makes it easy to understand the expectations from legislators, offering owners of websites 12 guidelines they must follow to make sure their websites are compliant.
These are split into four sections, which are:
This part of the guidelines is all about making sure that your website can be viewed equally by everyone, regardless of their disability. This is specifically relevant towards those with visual impairments.
1. You must make sure you are providing text alternatives for any non-text content, like pictures or videos. This will allow assistive technology to change the content into whichever form someone needs to help them understand it, which includes large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language.
2. Provide alternatives for time-based media.
3. Create content that can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure.
4. Make it easier for users to see and hear content. This may involve separating the foreground and background by using different colors so that a user can clearly distinguish between the two. This guideline also means you cannot use contrasting colors, or hard to read a text, on your website.
This next part is all about how your website can be navigated.
You might think this is pretty self-explanatory, and covered by hiring a decent web designer, but there are other things you need to consider when becoming ADA compliant.
5. Make your website navigational with the use of a keyboard alone. Some people with disabilities may struggle to use a mouse, so you must make sure someone won’t need a mouse to navigate your site.
6. Provides users with enough time to read and use the content.
7. Do not design content that is known to cause seizures. Under this part of the legislation, videos with flashing images that last for longer than three seconds are strictly prohibited.
8. Provide ways of helping users navigate, find content, and determine where they are on your website. Understandable
This part of the guidelines is all about making sure that your website can be easily understood by anyone
who should visit it.
You need to think about those who may use assistive technology, making sure that your text doesn’t have errors in it that may make it difficult for someone to understand the content. It also involves those who may not have the intellectual ability to understand complex language.
9. Make text content readable and understandable. Don’t use language that people cannot easily distinguish, even if your website is targeted towards people within a certain industry.
10. Make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
11. Help users avoid and correct mistakes. This means you should display clear messages when someone does something wrong on your website. Simply telling them they have made an error is not enough.
This part of the guidelines is all about making sure that your website continuously updates their technology and code to make sure that it adapts to new assistance aids as they come onto the market.
12. Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technology.