When it comes to ADA compliance (Federal Americans with Disabilities Act), most people usually think about physical accommodations such as wheelchair access that businesses and local establishments need to have in place.
However, the ADA regulations also extend to the online world which means your website needs to be accessible to all Internet users.
If you’ve been wondering about website accessibility and how to make your website ADA compliant, you’re in the right place. It’s a critical part of developing your WordPress site and requires as much attention as your content.
In this post, we’ll explain what it means to have an ADA compliant website, why website accessibility matters, and how to make sure your website adheres to the ADA compliance regulations.
What Is ADA Compliance?
The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and mandated that all sectors should provide the same rights and opportunities to people with disabilities as they do for those without.
As such, ADA compliance means adhering to the standards and guidelines set forth in the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. These standards mandate that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to Internet users with disabilities (such as vision impairment or hearing loss) as well as users who don’t have any disabilities.
According to Title I of ADA, any business that has at least 15 full-time employees and that operates for 20 or more weeks every year, has to comply with the ADA regulations.
In addition to that, under Title III of ADA, any business that provides public accommodation must also comply with ADA regulations which includes both physical and digital accommodations.
Why Does Accessibility Matter?
According to statistics, 54% of all disabled adults in the US use the internet on a daily basis. As such, having an ADA compliant website ensures that they can access and use your website in the same manner as people without disabilities would.
Here’s why accessibility matters.
- Accessibility is one of our basic human rights according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. It’s also a part of the ADA. If your website is not accessible, it’s not ADA compliant which means you could get into legal trouble. Consider for a moment that in 2018, more than 2000 website accessibility lawsuits were filed.
- An accessible website leads to a bigger audience since more people can navigate and use it without encountering any problems.
- An ADA compliant website can benefit your Search Engine Optimization. A website that’s ADA compliant means proper semantic markup, correctly labeled links, forms, and other elements. As such, it becomes more discoverable by search engines which can then use proper markup to index your site faster and rank it higher.
Before we dive into making sure your website is ADA compliant, it’s important to mention that disability also refers to people who have temporary disabilities.
This includes people who might have broken their hand or elderly people who suffer from vision impairments due to their age. It also refers to people living in areas with poor internet connection speeds.
What Is An ADA Compliant Website?
To put it simply, an ADA compliant website is a website that’s usable by everyone. If your website is ADA compliant, it means people with disabilities should be able to use it in a way that works for them, while those without disabilities can use it and navigate it in a way that works for them, as well.To put it simply, an ADA compliant website is a website that’s usable by everyone. Click To Tweet
What Are ADA Regulations When It Comes To Websites?
The tricky part about making sure your website is ADA compliant is that there are no strict or clear rules that apply specifically to websites. However, that doesn’t mean you can skate by and ignore ADA compliance.
While the ADA doesn’t offer a set of guidelines that you can follow and apply to your website, most organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Keep in mind that these guidelines aren’t legally required, but they do represent a good reference point to ensure your website is accessible. By following these guidelines, your website is more likely to be compliant with ADA than by not implementing these practices.
According to the WCAG guidelines your web content has to be:
- Perceivable which means the content on your website and user interface elements must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive them. This includes offering alternatives to text or assistive technologies so sight-impaired persons can perceive your content.
- Operable which means your website has to be easy to navigate. This includes offering keyboard accessibility so users with disabilities can access your content.
- Understandable which means your content must be easy to comprehend. This includes making your content readable and offering input assistance as needed.
- Robust which means your website content is compatible with assistive technologies and other user agents that facilitate content interpretation.
In layman’s terms, this means that your website visitors should be able to perceive, use, and understand your website content with ease. Meanwhile, various user agents such as web accessibility tools for disabled users should easily understand that same content.
These four points are the core principles of accessibility. Miss one of them and your website is not considered usable by people with disabilities. Therefore, it’s crucial that your website meets all four accessibility principles.
As such, there are a number of rules to follow and implement if you want to make sure your website is accessible and ADA compliant.
What Happens If My Website Is Not ADA Compliant?
Even though there aren’t any official ADA regulations to make your website compliant, a non-compliant website poses a great problem. As mentioned earlier, you could face a lawsuit and a pretty hefty fine.
For example, a first-time violation can get you a fine ranging between $55,000-$75,000. Repeat violations can get you a fine that goes all the way up to $150,000. In addition to that, if you’re receiving federal funding, repeat violations of ADA compliance could lead to a loss of funding.
However, the fines and a lawsuit are not the only risk associated with not having an ADA compliant website. Your brand reputation could also suffer which ultimately leads to a loss of revenue and existing customers.
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How Do I Make My Website ADA Compliant?
So now that we’ve covered what an ADA compliant website is, let’s take a look at how you can make sure your website falls into the ADA compliant category.
As mentioned earlier, most organizations turn to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines when trying to make sure their website development efforts are ADA compliant. The first version of the WCAG guidelines was published in 1999 and the second one followed in 2008. The most recent version of the guidelines was published in 2018.
What Can I Do To Reach Compliance?
- Don’t rely on colors alone to differentiate links and buttons from the rest of your website content. Make use of question marks and asterisks so color-blind people can easily understand they’re looking at a link or a button.
- Use high-contrast colors such as black text on a white background or vice versa. Avoid using similar colors with the assistance of a color accessibility checker.
- Eliminate animated GIFs, flashing animations, and other content that can cause a seizure.
- If you’re using a content management system, opt for one that has accessibility recommendations in place. A CMS like WordPress is accessible from the start so you’ll have an easier time making sure your website is accessible and therefore ADA compliant. This makes WordPress development often a top option for those prioritizing ADA compliance.
- Check your website on various screen sizes and ensure it adjusts accordingly. If necessary, adjust position and presentation of main elements on the page in a manner that makes the most of out of the available space.
- Avoid using CAPTCHA whenever possible. If you can’t avoid them, at least keep them required only for authorized users. CAPTCHA is deemed inaccessible.
- Make sure your website supports braille to allow blind people to easily navigate it.
- Your website should also support the ability to make the text bigger using a mouse as well as using a keyboard.
- Content such as images, videos, and audio files should have text alternatives. This can include transcripts and text-based descriptions.
- Organize your content with the proper use of headings and subheadings. This will also make your text easier to read and understand even by search engines.
- Opt for clear and concise language to ensure your content is easy to understand. Explain or define industry or any other kind of jargon, complicated technical terms and any abbreviations you use.
- Pay attention to your text size and line width. Set them to the size that maximizes legibility and readability.
- Instead of using “Click here” or “Read more” for your link text, provide descriptive text.
- Don’t set links to open in a new window or a new tab without user interaction. Rather, notify them that the link will open up in a new tab or a new window.
- Your buttons and menu items have to be accessible with both a keyboard and a mouse. Your users should also be able to highlight links and menu items using both. This applies to drop-down menus as well as any menu items in the drop-down menus.
- Your website navigation should be accessible via a keyboard.
- Each page on your site should include skip links at the top so users can immediately jump to the main content.
- Each form field should have a proper label and provide input assistance along with warning and confirmation messages. The messages should be easy to understand even for color-bling people.
- You shouldn’t set media elements to play automatically when a visitor lands on your site. Instead, always include play controls on video and audio files so your visitors have control over it.
- Elements such as <div> and <span> don’t usually receive focus when they are used for interaction. Such elements should have a tabindex set.
- If your website offers downloadable media, make sure to provide descriptions for any buttons that may trigger those downloads to start.
- When it comes to media content, video and audio files should include transcripts, closed captioning or sign language.
- Elements such as accordions and tabs should use WAI-ARIA roles to provide meaning for their functions and states.According to the Guidelines, implementing the recommendations listed above will make your website accessible to a broad range of people with disabilities. It will also make it more usable for those without disabilities.
Is My Website ADA Compliant?
After you have implemented the changes listed above, you can test your website for accessibility. There is no shortage of website accessibility checklists and tools online that can help you evaluate your site and determine if it meets accessibility guidelines.One such tool is WAVE Evaluation Tool, a website accessibility checker extension that’s available on the Chrome Extension Store.
Once you install the extension, it will give you visual feedback on the accessibility of your website. You’ll be able to see icons and indicators on your site that will point out any lingering accessibility issues.
Having an ADA compliant website means making your website more accessible to all internet users. Sure, it requires extra effort upfront but it also brings about many benefits and keeps you out of legal trouble.
By following and implementing the tips in this article, you’ll be well on your way towards having an ADA compliant website.