Making your business accessible becomes increasingly complicated as shoppers move online and technologies advance. The straightforward accessibility methods like wheelchair ramps and sign language translators won’t work on the internet. Building an ADA-compliant website involves adding accessibility features to each web page so that everything is fully accessible to disabled individuals and non-disabled users alike.
Understanding different ADA standards and fulfilling each one is challenging. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about ADA regulations and how to meet them with your website content.
What Is ADA Website Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) began in 1990 to help people with disabilities receive fair treatment in physical locations, like public transportation. As more of the basic activities of life moved online, disabled persons, particularly with visual disabilities, struggled to complete necessary website processes and transactions. The ADA compliance standards became confusing, as many debated if the internet was a “public place” as defined in the initial act.
In 1998, the government passed Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1978, stating that all federal agencies (excluding non-profits, public schools, colleges, and universities) must follow ADA compliance across their website and communication channels. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice created the ADA Standards for Accessible Design to bring these practices to commercial websites.
The federal regulations help visually impaired screen readers, people with hearing impairments, and others gain equal access to web content.
Why It’s Important To Meet ADA Compliance
Creating an ADA-compliant website allows people with disabilities to participate fully in your site. When you improve accessibility, you reduce your risk of an ADA lawsuit and enjoy a few indirect benefits.
- Improve the user experience: Improving accessibility issues involves editing the website’s navigation to make it easier for users to find information. Improving the navigational experience for access purposes paves a better path for all your users.
- Increase website traffic: Without digital accessibility, you lose all visually or hearing-impaired visitors. By meeting ADA compliance, you open your website to all groups of people, increasing web traffic and potentially attracting more customers to your business.
- Boost SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of editing your website to appear higher in search results. Google crawlers rank accessible website pages higher than content that fails to meet ADA compliance. Making a website easier to use for disabled persons also makes it easier for bots to crawl, thus improving your spot on search results pages.
- Create a positive reputation: Customers view your site as more professional and welcoming than the competition when you achieve ADA compliance. Website owners that don’t prioritize accessibility might receive backlash from the public.
- Normalize website accessibility: As companies increasingly embrace assistive technologies, the more normalized website accessibility becomes. Doing your part to meet accessibility compliance helps people with visual impairments and everyone under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Who Should Follow ADA Requirements?
Is ADA compliance mandatory for all websites? The ADA requires you to meet website accessibility guidelines if your business falls into one of the following categories:
- You provide a service that benefits the general public
- You are a government agency (local, state, or federal)
- You have at least 15 employees
Even if you don’t fall into these categories, we still advise that all businesses follow ADA basic principles and recommendations. The technical assistance laws continue to include many gray areas that are hard to understand. Your business could expand, and you don’t want to end up with a lawsuit.
Aside from keeping lawsuits away, building an ADA-compliant website allows you to reap the benefits we discussed above. Your web designer can make the necessary changes without excessive time or resources, so every business should do so.
Can Someone Sue You for a Non-ADA-Compliant Website?
Yes, and it happens frequently. In the United States alone, 61 million adults live with a disability, and 75% of them use the internet daily.
Using these figures, 47.75 million U.S. adults with disabilities surf the web every day and could encounter a site that isn’t accessible enough for their needs. If they do, they can sue. If your business site is inaccessible, you could face digital accessibility lawsuits.
The number of digital accessibility suits annually filed in federal courts has surged from 814 in 2017 to close to 3000 in 2021. These range from hearing-impaired individuals suing news sites for lack of closed captioning in news videos to a blind plaintiff receiving $4,000 in June 2021 after suing Domino’s Pizza for its website’s inaccessibility.
How To Make Your Website ADA-compliant
Adjusting your site to meet ADA expectations means offering easy-to-understand content, a convenient navigational experience, versatile media consumption options, and equal experiences across each page. To achieve these needs:
Make It Screen-Reader Accessible
Screen readers analyze and convert website text into an audio file for visually impaired individuals. Make sure all of your site content, including alternative texts, is accessible to screen readers.
Use Alt Text Behind Images
Alternative text describes the purpose of an image. Add alt text behind any visual media on your site so screen readers can explain the content to visually impaired individuals. You can also add relevant keywords to increase your SEO rankings.
Add Text to Video and Audio Files
Every video or audio file on your website must have subtitles or closed captions. This text helps hearing-impaired individuals read the video’s narration and content. You can use different tools to transcribe files; some platforms, like YouTube, offer this automatically.
Offer Multiple Contact Methods
Every business should offer multiple ways for users to contact them. If you only provide a phone number, you isolate people unable to make calls. Instead, try offering a phone number, email address, and physical address to provide your customers as many options as possible.
Use Simple English
Avoiding complicated words and jargon helps all website users better understand your content, particularly those with reading or learning disabilities. Try to convey messages in as few words as possible and skip complicated phrases that an average middle schooler wouldn’t understand.
Pick Contrasting Text Colors
Placing light colors on top of each other makes content hard to read. Instead, focus on choosing a palette that highlights text. Usually, dark text over light or white on top of black works well.
Offer Flexible Fonts
You should allow font size adjustments so your visitors can enlarge the text if they struggle to read it in a normal font. You can turn this setting on in the web platform provider you use. Ensure that your page layout doesn’t change when the text size increases.
Don’t Place Text Over Pictures
Never put any text or important information on top of pictures. Instead, write this copy inside of the alternative text box for text readers and bots to analyze. Visually impaired individuals can’t see your images, so they can’t read them either.
Allow For Zooming
Make sure users can zoom in and out on your website pages to see the content easily. You can adjust this setting with your web hosting platform. Try using flexible containers so your layout will stay intact when users zoom in.
More Useful Tips
- Break up large chunks of text
- Use appropriately sized links and buttons
- Don’t use auto-play animations or videos
- Make sure you offer keyboard controls
- Use accessible or skippable CAPTCHAs
- Offer multiple navigational paths
- Set error alerts for incomplete forms
- Offer translated text for non-English visitors
- Use anchor text on all hyperlinks
- Structure pages with the appropriate heading tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.)
- Make PDF files or downloadable content accessible
- Translate all experiences to your mobile apps
- Include a policy page outlining your accessibility efforts
Does Making Your Website ADA-compliant Increase Costs?
Building an ADA-compliant website shouldn’t increase costs. If you’re developing in-house, your designers might have to spend more time creating adequate experiences, though most modern hosting platforms make this easy. When hiring an outside web designer to build your site, most professional companies include these methods across all website packages.
Tools That Can Help With ADA Website Compliance
Luckily, you don’t have to design an ADA-compliant site without help. Many tools exist to help developers understand what areas lack the necessary features. We recommend trying the following tools to check your website’s compliance:
- UserWay: This AI-powered widget is the top web tool for WCAG and ADA compliance. The product allows you to manage all necessary adjustments in a convenient dashboard that measures results.
- accessiBe: This company offers the accessWidget, which automates and simplifies the process of improving your website’s compliance. Rather than manually making the changes, the AI system adjusts the necessary information for you.
- Accessibility Insight: This chrome extension helps you discover your website’s problems so you can learn where and how to improve.
- Section 508 Test for Accessibility: This resource offers solutions and tips on how to meet Section 508 requirements.
- aDesigner: This tool mimics visual impairments so you can easily identify problem areas and improve.
- Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool: You can use this product to identify any flashing content that might create seizure risks on your site.
- Readability Grader: Use this product to determine how easy your content is to read. Identify confusing sentences and simplify them to meet standards.
Global Web Accessibility Standards: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Europe and other regions rely on the WCAG 2.0 level AA as a standard online accessibility policy. WCAG guidelines break accessibility issues into four main groups:
- Perceivable problems with the content, text, and images
- Operable issues with the user experience
- Understandable concerns regarding users’ abilities to comprehend the content
- Robust problems involving a website’s ability to evolve and meet technological needs
Final Thoughts on Building an ADA-Compliant Website
Ensuring that your website is ADA-Compliant is a necessity for any business today. In doing so, you can boost your SEO, expand your customer base to all types of people, and avoid potentially costly lawsuits. It is additionally not a difficult task, especially if you utilize the information above.
We at Connective have ample experience meeting compliance requirements, so you can feel confident that you’re offering a site that anyone can use. If you need an ADA-compliant website, contact us at Connective today at (818) 570-5620 or fill out our online form to get in touch!