Congrats, You Launched Your New Website!
You have saved your hard-earned dollars. Hired the best website design and development team in town. Worked diligently on writing your killer content. Invested the time and energy to ensure your site is written according to Google’s algorithms. Taken every imaginable step to ensure your website is being promoted socially.
But wait! While taking all these necessary steps, was creating an ADA compliant site one of them?
A majority of those polled will say NO.
For starters, what is ADA compliance? The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes a requirement that certain businesses make accommodations for people with disabilities. Web content is included in this requirement. Basically, your web content should be accessible to the blind, deaf, and those who need to navigate by voice, screen readers, or other assisting technologies.
There are no clear accessibility guidelines.
When it comes to ADA website compliance, there are no clear rules. That doesn’t let businesses off the hook, though. If your business falls under ADA guidelines, you are responsible for providing an accessible website that accommodates users with disabilities.
In a nutshell, ADA compliance is a bit subjective, which leads this website requirement open to interpretation. Basically, an ADA compliant website allows “reasonable accessibility” to Americans with Disabilities. By making a good-faith effort to achieve reasonable accessibility for users with disabilities, businesses can get ahead of the regulatory curve in developing a compliant website and avoid potential lawsuits.
Does your business fall under those that need to be ADA compliant?
- Businesses that fall under Title I, (businesses that operate 20 or more weeks per year with at least 15 full-time employees), or Title III, (businesses that fall under the category of “public accommodation”), are covered by the ADA.
- There are no clear regulations defining website accessibility. I would suggest to err on the side of being compliant.
- Failure to create an ADA-compliant website could open your business to lawsuits, and financial liabilities. It can also harm your brand reputation. You do not want your place of business to be considered as one that is not sensitive to the needs of American’s with Disabilities.
“Reasonable accessibility” of a website means ensuring that individuals who are visually impaired or hearing-impaired or those who must navigate by voice are still able to meaningfully engage with the content on your website.
Here are some common ways businesses address reasonable accessibility issues:
Start by getting the guide: Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines offer recommendations on how to make your website accessible.
- Audit your website’s code. Have a developer review the code and CSS to ensure best practices are being utilized and clean up outdated code. You can conduct your own audit using WAVE Web Accessibility Tool or Google Chrome’s WAVE too.
- Create alt tags for all images, videos and audio files: Alt tags allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to view. Alt tags describe the object itself and, generally, the purpose it serves on the site.
- Create text transcripts for video and audio content: Text transcripts help hearing-impaired users understand content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
- Identify the site’s language in header code: Making it clear what language the site should be read in helps users who utilize text readers. Text readers can identify those codes and function accordingly.
- Develop a consistent, organized layout: Menus, links and buttons should be organized in such a way that they are clearly delineated from one another and are easily navigated throughout the entire site.
- Offer alternatives and suggestions when users encounter input errors: If a user with a disability is encountering input errors because of their need to navigate the website differently, your site should automatically offer recommendations to them as to how to better navigate toward the content they need.
- Review your website’s styles and elements, such as headings, buttons and links. Keep in mind “all” types of users who access your website, including those who experience disabilities. For example, if your site’s navigation incorporates lighter, smaller fonts on light backgrounds, this may be illegible for some users.
- Utilize web writing best practices when developing content. Keeping your website content simple and conversational can help users scan content easier. Using headlines and sub-headlines can also help break out content into smaller bites or sections. For abbreviations and acronyms like FBI, include periods between the letters, to help screen readers pronounce them properly.