If you keep up with digital or web development trends, you may have heard of ADA compliance. Maybe you’ve even heard about it in the news because of recent lawsuits against companies like Domino’s Pizza, Winn-Dixie, and Kylie Cosmetics.
If you haven’t heard of it, “ADA compliance” refers to the American Disabilities Act published by the Department of Justice, which requires all public spaces remove any barriers which may prevent an individual with a disability from accessing them.
How Does ADA Compliance Apply to Websites?
Now when you think of making public spaces accessible, you probably think of things like wheelchair ramps, having braille on signs, or having a handicapped bathroom. However, an area that the ADA covers that many people don’t consider is the web.
This may seem strange to some – but consider a visually impaired person who must use a screen reader or someone who can’t use a mouse or trackpad and must navigate with an assisted keyboard. If the website is not developed to be accessible to these standards, that individual would not have the same access to the information, products, or services available on that website, and that’s why web compliance is extremely important. As of 2010, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed to set standards for making websites accessible to users with disabilities.
Most courts have interpreted the ADA’s reference to a “public space” to include websites, and have ruled in favor of the plaintiff in ADA web compliance lawsuits. As previously mentioned, many companies have faced lawsuits after users have been unable to access information on their website and filed complaints. Additionally, by having content that is not accessible to users with disabilities, you are missing out on a large segment of consumers being able to access your business’s information.
The latest standards for ADA web compliance are the WCAG 2.1 which was published in June of 2018. The WCAG features 12 guidelines for web developers to make a website’s content accessible to those with disabilities. The guidelines feature four major categories: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. They each also contain testable success criteria that can be used to measure the usability of your website.
What Are the Standards for Website Compliance?
The official WCAG documentation contains an exhaustive list of all the criteria that fall under each guideline and making your website compliant is an extensive process that requires a professional audit and evaluation of your websites needs.
To get an idea of what goes into making a website compliant, here are some of the top elements of WCAG under each of the four categories that your website should have:
- Images should use alt text to have a textual counterpart to describe the content
- Pre-recorded a live audio should have captions and transcripts
- Any visually presented information should be available through text for the users
- Color should never be the sole means of conveying information or prompting a user
- All the website’s functionality should be available through the use of a keyword, without getting “stuck” on any individual components
- With any content that moves, blinks, or automatically updates – users should have enough time to read and use that website’s content
- Websites must avoid flashing content that could trigger seizures in people with epilepsy or other neurological disorders
- All pages should have informative titles, headings and labels that properly describe the page’s content and hierarchy
- The language of the content of the website should be defined and programmatically determined
- Websites should operate in a way that is familiar and predictable, navigation and labeling should remain consistent between different pages.
- When users are entering input into the website, any input errors are automatically detected and provided text descriptions
- Websites are developed to be as compatible as possible with assistive technologies such as screen readers.
How Do I Make My Website Compliant?
Firstly, find an agency that specializes in web compliance. Many DIY website platforms like Squarespace or Wix won’t include everything you need for accessibility, and many web agencies may not be well-versed in accessibility. From there, they can run an audit of your website and identify all the areas that do not meet accessibility standards. Then, they can gauge the updates that need to be made to your site and determine a timeline, budget, and plan of action to update your site.