Why Making Your Website ADA Compliant Is A Necessity
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was created by congress as a supplement the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin. The ADA was created to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination and to ensure accessibility. In the real world, this applies to the physical accommodation to businesses as building construction and alterations must comply with ADA design standards. While most of us are familiar with these requirements, many of us might be surprised to learn that the same standards apply to the digital world, in particular websites. The standards are to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access content to a website with the same convenience as people without disabilities. As a business, government agency or non-profit organization, you are compelled by the law to remove any technical obstructions that may discriminate against people with disabilities. Failure to comply with ADA design standards may result in fines or even a lawsuit. Do I have your attention now?
In 2019, ADA compliance should be considered a priority when building a website.
With the emergence of the World Wide Web in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it became apparent that website standards were not compliant with ADA standards. The user experience for people with disabilities was frustrating and unwelcoming. Lawmakers acted to extend the protection of people with disabilities to include “goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered by public accommodations via the Internet.” During this time, the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web, began to take root. W3C standards were created in a cooperative with academic institutions, businesses and government agencies in an effort to ensure that WWW does not stand for Wild, Wild West. Unified standards makes life easier for everyone and ensures a more consistent online experience. The standards created by the W3C and the aims of the ADA made good bed fellows. Soon, Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, adopted W3C compliance standards, mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.
Confused? Don’t be. Whether it’s the ADA, Section 508, or W3C-compliance standards, when building a website all you need to concern yourself with is to ensure that it is fully accessible to all people. The W3C established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or the WCAG(v2), a shared set of guidelines, “with the goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.” WCAG2 was designed specifically for web developers and compels them to comply. Under this guidance, there are three levels of conformance defined as: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). Depending on the nature of your organization, these levels will indicate to the government that you are either under compliance or begging for a discrimination lawsuit. In 2017, the Department of Justice passed official guidelines on website accessibility standards to be in line with AA requirements. This is why its is so important that when you work with a web design agency that they comply with the WCAG.
Here are some examples of WCAG guidelines your website should follow:
- Provide text alternatives to non-text content such as buttons, input fields, charts, graphics, images, and anything else that is vital to the user’s experience.
- Add captions for videos, recorded audio and livestreams or broadcasts, clearly labeling alternative text, and providing sign language interpretations for various types of media.
- Make your website accessible by keyboard, so that persons with disabilities can use the “Tab” command to shift from field to field, instead of operating the cursor using a mouse or a touch pad.
- Make the site as easy to navigate as possible by using clear indicators such as large-font text for buttons and controls, clearly labeling headers and menu options, and keeping content logically organized.
- Potentially seizure inducing content does not comply. Examples include
- Avoid bright flashing graphics and audio-visual content with a fast montage to prevent potential seizures.
- Provide users with enough time to navigate the website. This means no flashing instructions or input fields that disappear after a short period of time.
- Use the correct language attribute in their HTML code, so the page loads with the most commonly used language. This also applies to alternative text for images, videos, text-to-speech synthesizers and other multi-media content.
- Close captioning on videos in crucial, especially for the deaf community.
- PDF documents need to be properly tagged so that screen readers can properly interpret non-HTML content.
- Adherence to web development best standards will ensure that content displays properly for all users.
Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
As awareness of the need to create websites that are accessible to people with disabilities, if not for better customer experience than to protect against potential lawsuits, the term “ADA Compliant” has become a marketing term for web design agencies. Do not buy into it hook, line and stinker. As Ronald Reagan once stated, “Trust, but verify”. To ensure that your website is ADA compliant, DEEPBLUE provides a comprehensive audit to ensure that it meets minimal ADA requirements as defined by the government for your industry. Federal and state agencies have the highest standards, followed by large, public corporations. However, if you run a small-to-midsize business don’t believe that you are flying under the radar. ADA compliance should be considered a best practice in web design and it will give you the piece of mind that you are safe from potential litigation while ensuring that you provide the best possible user experience for your customers.