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7 Steps to Website ADA Compliance

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is known for creating new standards in business and commerce for those with disabilities. Title iii of the ada prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. For a complete overview about the ADA, Section 508 and more please see our blog post “Why Website ADA Compliance is so important”. This article is focused on how to achieve website ADA compliance.

These days, as the internet becomes more central to our everyday lives, the ADA is beginning to apply the same standards for public accommodations to websites, requiring business owners and webmasters to create and manage their sites with digital accessibility in mind.

With these changes to how the ADA is applied, everything about a business website needs to be reconsidered from the ground up. Everything needs to meet the ADA’s standards across the four categories laid out by them, and adhere to standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

What is ADA Compliant Web Design?

An ADA-compliant website is one that’s designed with every possible user in mind. It allows people with disabilities, such as vision or hearing impairments, the accommodations necessary for it to be usable, and it’s extremely important to get it right. Just as important, an ADA compliant doesn’t only serve people with disabilities — many of the considerations and implementations serve regular users with varying preferences in the way they access websites.

In 2010, the Department of Justice said that it intended to adjust the Americans with Disabilities Act to cover how websites work to make them fully accessible to people with disabilities. Then, in 2016, the DOJ said in a landmark case involving the University of California, Berkeley that the school should adopt the standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG (currently WCAG 2.0).

Since then, and many lawsuits later, those guidelines are now widely accepted as the standard model for ADA compliance.

That said, making sure your site is ADA compliant takes some serious work. Accessibility isn’t the kind of project you can start and finish in a day. That said, here are seven steps to follow that’ll give you a general idea of what it takes to build a more inclusive and accessible website based on the WCAG standards.

Steps to ADA Compliance

1. Audit Your Current Website

Before you dive into making your website ADA compliant, you need to understand where you’re currently at. You can audit your website using tools like Google’s Lighthouse or even manually test it with screen-reading software. ADA compliance requires standard accessibility across four categories, , the success criteria are:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

These four categories are each extremely important, and they cover a tremendous amount of technical and design-related details. Neglecting even one of them is enough to completely break your website’s ADA compliance.

2. Make Sure to Use the Right Photos and Graphics

A significant part of ADA compliance is using the right photos and graphics for your website. Flashing images, for example, can induce seizures, so there are standards in place for motion graphics to prevent this. All the images on your site should also have robust descriptions and captions to assist people with visual impairments.

3. Pay Attention to Typography and Alt Tags

Typography is also a big part of accessibility. All text and website content should be highly legible, so choosing from fonts that are easy to read such as Georgia or Open Sans is of the essence. Also avoid putting light fonts on light background colors or dark on dark. This causes extraneous eyestrain for people with disabilities, and sometimes for people without them, so it’s important to use good color contrast.

You also need to make sure to provide alternate text, or alt text, for all the components and images on your site so that screen readers can read aloud what each element is.

4. Make Features Organized and Logical

A big part of ADA compliance is usability. In other words, your website needs to look and behave in such a way that it doesn’t confuse users.

Menus, links and functionality should be clear and well-organized. Forms should be well-labeled and easy to submit. A visitor to your website — disabled or otherwise — should be able to use your site without much friction.

5. Use Standard and Symantec Tags

Making sure your website is ADA compliant goes further than the design. There is also a very large technical aspect that businesses simply can’t ignore. This means that all the code on your website needs to be semantically valid.

All of your HTML and CSS tags should be standardized, and every document on your site should provide a robust text-based alternative. Almost all website-building platforms like WordPress mostly do not adhere to ADA standards out of the box.

6. Make the Website Keyboard Friendly

Your website needs to be operable and accessible using only a keyboard — hence the “operable” category in ADA compliance. Many people can’t use a mouse or pointing device and need a keyboard or keyboard-centric controls to access a website. Not ensuring your website is accessible in this way is a surefire way to flunk compliance.

Auto-playing videos or videos with countdowns also hinder keyboard navigation significantly. Any business wants to make sure that all of these video interactions are fully keyboard-friendly. Neglecting this kind of functionality can wreak havoc on keyboard usability scores.

7. Stay Updated on WCAG and ADA Changes

The most important step for website compliance is that you need to stay up-to-date on changes to the WCAG and ADA. Accessibility isn’t something you do and then never worry about — it’s an ongoing process that can take weeks or months to get right. As new accessibility practices emerge and the WCAG and ADA evolve, an astute webmaster adopts these changes and stays ahead of the curve.

Design an ADA Compliant Website That Works For Everyone

ADA compliance doesn’t have to be a full-time job for you — there are assistive technologies that can help. An automated website remediation tool takes care of all the above with little interaction from you and your business. Better still, these tools continuously monitor your site, checking for new content and ensuring it’s ADA compliant on the fly.

Making sure your website is ADA compliant takes a lot of work, but at the end of the day, building a product or service that’s inclusive and accessible is a win for everyone. More happy visitors mean more business. It’s the right thing to do.


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