The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a hot topic right now, and has many people wondering if their website is ADA compliant.
The act was introduced in 1990 to help protect people living with disabilities and provide them reasonable accommodation in public areas.
While most of this applies to physical shops and locations in the real world – the ADA carves a digital space for people with disabilities under certain circumstances as well. Here is what you need to know about ADA compliance for websites and how it applies to you.
Does my website need to be ADA compliant?
There are some important things to remember when making your website ADA compliant. First off – if your website needs to be compliant at all.
There are two important business types that fall under the ADA requirements – businesses under Title I and businesses under Title III.
Title I businesses – These businesses operate 20 or more weeks per year, and have at least 15 full–time employees.
Title II businesses – These are businesses that fall under the umbrella of “public accomodation”, such as banks, hotels, and forms of public transportation.
These types of businesses must be ADA compliant by law. However, that is all.
Very small businesses, bloggers, etc are not required to comply with ADA at this time. With that said, what is acceptible now may change later. And these sites may still choose to become compliant if they choose in the name of accessibility. For now, if they do not fall under Title I or III of the ADA, they have no obligation to do so by law.
What is the point of ADA compliance?
Like the regulations surrounding the ADA in the physical world, the ADA is designed to afford people with disabilities ease of access to websites they may need to interact with.
For instance, a blind person should be able to book a hotel online using a screen reader with ease. Likewise a person with epilepsy should be able to access their bank account without fear of triggering a seizure.
ADA compliance is not about giving people with disabilities special treatment, it is simply giving them reasonable access to many of the services people use regularly.
What does it mean for my website to be ADA compliant?
Here’s where the ADA get’s tricky when it comes to your website. Website ADA compliance has not been settled in the law. That is to say, while we have guidelines about ADA compliance, there is no law saying what does and what does not make a site compliant.
Naturally, this makes things a bit more confusing.
Luckily, there are some very helpful standards available. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, now the WCAG 2.0, is the industry standard for accessibility online.
The WCAG 2.0 has three levels of compliance: A, AA, and AAA.
Althought, at the AAA level of compliance, the look, feel, and even performance of a website are all significantly hindered, making AAA compliance very impractical. Generally, A or AA levels are the acceptable levels.
Now, WCAG compliance is broken down into 4 main goals based on changes:
Perceivable – the information on the site must be presented in a way that is simple and easy for users to perceive. This would include making the alt text for images, buttons, and links say what they actually are, so a reading software could help the person navigate the site.
Operable – The site must be easy to use and navigate in a variety of ways. For example, users should be able to navigate the site using only a mouse or keyboard.
Understandable – Information on the site and the general user experience/operation of the site must be easy to understand. This includes common issues the person may encounter. For instance, using very clear, descriptive reasoning for error messages to appear when a form is filled incorrectly.
Robust – The site and content must be robust enough to be utilized reliably by a variety of tools, browsers, and assistance technologies. For example, a site that operates well on chrome but not Firefox would not be robust.
Actually becoming ADA compliant
Now, while the WCAG 2.0 is the standard of accessibility, it is very technical. It may stand for accessibility, but it itself is not very accessible.
Enter, the Web Accessibility Standards (WAS). the WAS breaks down accessibility guidelines in a much simpler way. Anyone who needs their website to be ADA compliant should look at and follow the complete WAS guidelines. With that said, here is a quick breakdown of what a person can expect to make their site compliant:
- Descriptive text
- Clear titles and subheadings
- Nested headings
- Clear, descriptive forms
- Descriptive, accurate alt text
- No unreadable images of tex
- Closed captioning on videos
- Transcripts for videos
Control and usability
- No automatic pop-ups
- No automatic video
- No automatic audio
- No other unexpected changes to the site
- Adjustable time limits before timing out
- Language tools
- Keyboard only access
- Focus indicator
- High color contrast
- Distinct links
- Zoomable text
- Consistent layout
- Consistent navigation
- Descriptive links and headers
- Title tags
- Language tags
- Labeled input fields
- Clear, simple forms
- Ability to skip to main content
- Clean code
- Important submission – users must have the ability to review important information, such as personal info or financial info, before finalizing
- Simple search function
- The ability to skip forward in navigation
- Accessible sitemap
Should your website become ADA compliant?
On paper, not that many websites need to be ADA compliant. However, ADA compliance on a website is an important accessibility option for many people, and may mean the difference between a happy customer… and a customer who shops with your competitor.
There are a few key reasons to make your site ADA compliant:
- It shows that you care – While scoring “good points” with the internet is probably not high on the priorities list, creating happy customers always is. Going out of your way to show you care for your customers by making your site compliant may make some very loyal customers
- May boost SEO – Making your website available for more people may give you a boost in the SEO ranks, potentially opening you up to even more customers.
- Legality – With the wave of ADA lawsuits and questionable lawyer practices going around, making your website compliant as soon as possible will help you avoid legal trouble down the road.
In the end, not every website is going to need to be ADA compliant. However, taking a few simple steps to make your website more compliant can be very helpful for people trying to access it.
While many steps are simple and can be done in your down time, some require a more knowledgeable hand. Luckily, NewMedia.Agency can help make your website ADA compliant and save you the stress.