In July 1990, President George H.W Bush signed and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. Ever since, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been making updates to improve ADA website compliance. in 2010, the DOJ set standards that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities. This is called the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
ADA compliant websites provide an online experience accessible to everyone, including disabled users. All business websites must be ADA compliant. Why is this so important? There are approximately 48.9 million people in the United States with a disability. Moreover, there are 34.2 million people in the United States with functional limitations. Hearing or visual impairment and epilepsy are common disabilities. Non-ADA-compliant websites can impact people with these disabilities.
Complying with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design
Title III of the ADA requires that every owner, lessor, or operator of a “place of public accommodation” provide equal access to users who meet ADA standards for disability. You have to accommodate ADA on websites because they are considered public places. How do you know if your website is ADA compliant? The first step is to review your site according to the guidelines set by the WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
The WCAG is a set of recommended actions. It is not enforceable legislation. However, it forms the backbone of many online accessibility laws around the world. WCAG standards have been the guiding accessibility principle in the European Union and other countries since 1999. The best measure available for making sure your website is meeting criteria is the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines.
There are four groups of accessibility issue categories under WCAG. Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust, or P.O.U.R.
- Perceivable – issues that affect users ability to find and process information. For example, providing audio descriptions for video content and images.
- Operable – issues that impact the reader’s ability to navigate the site. For example, ensuring all functions on the site can be operated using only a keyboard.
- Understandable – issues regarding the user’s ability to discern and comprehend the information on the site. For example, composing clear error messages and how to correct them
- Robust – issue involving a websites ability to meet the changing needs of the disabled. For example, testing compatibility with all new and leading screen readers.
Website Requirements to Ensure Compliance with ADA
To qualify for ADA compliance you have to meet several website requirements. Below are some of the most critical components to support ADA compliance:
- Readability is extremely important. Furthermore, the contrast between light and dark can impact a person’s ability to read and differentiate text. Many website owners use light grey fonts on a lighter background or very fancy fonts that are difficult to read. Avoid putting a light font on a light background.
- Add alt text to all images on your website. Alt text is a text alternative designed for images. Why is alt text so important? Visitors to your website may need to use assistive technology such as speech readers or text to speech software. This software will read the alt text out loud instead of the image. There are some rules to remember when reviewing ADA compliance for alt tags. These will ensure the alt text’s optimal compliance.
- Every <img> must have an alt=attribute
- Describe the information, not the picture. Explain what information the picture contains rather than what the picture looks like.
- Active images require alt text. For example, if the image opens a link to another page, the alt text should tell the user what the link does.
- Images that contain information require descriptive alt text. For example, the alt text should be a brief description of the information.
- Decorative images should have empty alt text. Empty alt text informs the reader to ignore the image. Screen reader users don’t need to know about decorative images.
- Keep your alt text to 125 characters or less. Many screen readers will only read up to that amount of characters.
Other Tips to Consider:
- Title Text provides users with a tooltip. When your users hover over the image, a box will pop up containing the title. This could be helpful with images that have titles but no captions.
- Charts and infographics are visually appealing but not ADA friendly. There is not enough space in alt text to describe infographics. It’s better to describe this information in the body text on the page.
- If you abbreviate a name with an acronym, the letters must be separated in the alt text so the screen reader will read each letter aloud.
Need Help Ensuring Your Website is in Compliance with ADA Requirements?
It can be challenging trying to make your site ADA compliant. There are a few options to audit your website for ADA compliance:
- There are regulatory specialists who can analyze your site for compliance issues. These specialists can be costly. They will produce a full report that will explain what is out of compliance and how it needs to be fixed. You then will need to collaborate with your technology specialists to make the necessary compliance changes. This is another expense. It also requires the developers to create a replicated website that is ADA compliant. However, the issue with this solution, besides cost, is that it is a one-time review of your website. As you make changes and add content and images, the new edits may not be in ADA compliance. Therefore, periodic reviews and changes will be necessary to ensure ADA compliance along with technology updates.
- There are also companies that have developed automated software tools that will conduct a review of your website. It will also create a list of out of compliance issues that need to be corrected. These tools are typically less expensive than a manual review by a human. However, the tools do not always have the capability to review every component of ADA compliance. They do not correct the issues on the website. They also need to be used regularly to ensure compliance is maintained as you make website changes and additions.
The Westmark Group’s Choice:
We recently worked with a client and researched all ADA compliance choices. The first 2 choices mentioned above are costly. They will not provide the constant peace of mind needed for a small business to ensure ADA compliance. However, we came across an online tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning called accessiBe. accessiBe has revolutionized web accessibility. It has made the prospect of a fully accessible internet realistic for the very first time. This tool requires an annual fee. You add a simple code to the website. The tool appears as a web accessibility icon on the bottom right of the website. Once clicked by someone in need, they can identify their need and the tool will adjust the website to support that need. It does not change the existing website code. This is the first and only automated solution that turns websites completely accessible in compliance with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
Lacking ADA Compliance Lawsuits
Many businesses don’t consider ADA website compliance until they are faced with legal issues. Recently, ADA website compliance lawsuits have been brought to huge brands including Amazon, Nike, Rolex and more. ADA non-compliance can cost your business fines of up to $75,000. ADA compliance lawsuits have been on the rise since 2016. From 2016 to 2019, lawsuits have increased 8% with hundreds of lawsuits filed every month.
Adapting your company’s website to be ADA compliant is important. This ensures a great experience for every single client regardless of their abilities. Adding ADA compliance to your website has become simpler with today’s technology. The Westmark Group is a full-service digital marketing company that effectively markets your company online and, most importantly, keeps your company online compliant.