More and more business owners who have websites are asking themselves, “what is ADA website compliance?” The answer to this has yet to be fully defined and agreed upon, but this article provides a background and synopsis of ADA compliance for website accessibility.
The Origin of Accessibility on The Internet
On July 26th, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. In 1999 WCAG 1.0 or “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” was introduced by W3C, then in 2008 WCAG 2.0 was released. As of 2018, WCAG 2.1 was released to further comply with ever-changing technology.
With these guidelines the concept of how to make the web accessible for all users is becoming clearer. But we’re still not quite there yet as a society. Not because we don’t know best practices, but because the information isn’t top of mind when a site is being built by inexperienced designers or who, unfortunately, intentionally cut corners to save time.
Why Your Website Should be ADA Compliant
61 million adults in the United States live with a disability and 59.6% of those live in a household with internet access. Of the top 1 million websites only 2% are considered fully accessible.
While absolute full accessibility for all kinds of disabilities is a virtuous goal, it takes a lot of work and can limit creative styles. Most laws today reference that a “reasonable attempt” to make your website accessible is required. This aspect comes into play when lawsuits against website owners are brought into court or demand letters.
If your website is not accessible to a variety of users, you not only open yourself up to lawsuit claims but you are losing potential clients who may have difficulty navigating your online presence. So, it makes good marketing sense to have an accessible website for users with disabilities.
What Dedicated Designs Does for Our Clients
WCAG breaks compliance down into three tiers. First there is the A Tier, which is the most basic compliance. Then AA Tier, which is the ideal compliance as it covers mobile accessibility and assistive technologies like screen readers. And finally, the AAA Tier which it is good to aim for but is generally more technical than will be necessary for all sites.
When our web design and development team builds a website, our clients automatically get A Tier compliance up to the lowest level of AA Tier. We also offer more complex compliance reviews and upgrades for your site. So, what does this all entail?
First, we will conduct a series of scans of your site on desktop, mobile, and attached documents. Generally, we find errors at this phase that require code changes. Some common accessibility issues can include:
Images missing alt text
- Usually someone who can’t see well or who is blind will use a screen reader. Having alternative text descriptions for an image will help them understand what is happening on the page.
Visually ordered but audibly disordered layout of content
- We often find that the content on a page is good, but as a screen reader progresses through a page it ends up out of order, even if it looks in order visually. Adjusting the code tags fixes this issue.
Missing aria labels and groups
- Aria labels describe what functional parts of a page do, and aria groups add those descriptions to groups that further explain the context of your functional parts.
Those are the more common errors we see, then as we run more scans, especially on mobile we see larger errors, such as:
Responsive content misaligned
- Any content that is automatically moved on a mobile page tends to fall out of sync with the context of the site. We need to rewrite the layout if this happens. The majority of hard-of-seeing users are on mobile because they have the ability to quickly scale a page up and down with pinch zoom.
Word Docs and PDFs are not accessible.
- All text and images should appear in the website code instead of a document where assistive technology cannot interpret them.
Video subtitles or audio descriptions
- Recently, if your video is served through YouTube or Vimeo there are automatic subtitles, but if you are hosting your own video, we may need to create hardcoded subtitles and/or audio descriptions.
This Sounds Difficult
It can be, but W3C and WCAG both recommend either hiring an ADA Compliance team member or using a consulting firm. This is for two reasons. As stated above, you’re losing clients and viewers if your website isn’t accessible to people with disabilities. More frequently, companies are being sued for a lack of ADA Compliance.
This is where Dedicated Designs comes in. We are here to review and update your website so that it meets ADA accessibility requirements at a reasonable level, so you don’t have to worry about loss of traffic or an ADA website compliance lawsuit.