What is ADA compliance?
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible design. It is a civil rights law that prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities in all areas of life, including when using electronic and information technology.
Who is affected?
- State and local government agencies
- Private employers with 15 or more employees
- Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public
“Is it mandatory? No. But should your website be compliant? Most definitely, Yes!”
Currently, there are no clear regulations on whether your website should be ADA compliant which can lead businesses to think they are in the clear. However, there are two factors that can impact your business severely.
- Disabled persons can file individual lawsuits against you if you don’t follow the proper website guidelines. This can implicate your overall brand reputation.
- A non-compliant website will risk your business to lose potential leads if disabled persons are interested in your products or services.
Why you should convert your website into ADA compliance
- Your customers will feel included: Over 70% percent of customers will leave a website if it isn’t accessible. There is high probability of someone with a disability viewing your website in which case you should aim to design it in a navigable and visually helpful fashion.
- Increases your SEO ranking: When your website is crawled, you are providing more information through accessibility elements coded into your website. This will aid various search engines to better understand your businesse objective and rank it accordingly.
- Improve your company’s reputation: Being ADA compliant will portray a more positive outlook for your overall business culture as well as increase the likelihood of people with disabilities referring to your website others.
How do I get Started?
Now that we have a better understanding of what ADA compliance means for your business, let’s focus on which guidelines we need to follow.
WCAG vs 508
When diving deeper on which protocols your website should follow, one should not confuse 508 compliance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). The 508 guidelines are specifically targeted for federal agencies whereas the WCAG serves as a reference to both ADA and 508 as well as most online businesses today.
The ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ Philosophy
Perceivable: Users should have the ability to perceive all the information that appears on your site easily such as text, images, videos, links and more. In any event that a user cannot see your website’s text or hear the audio to your website’s video, you need to provide an alternative solution.
Operable: You want users to have the capabilities to navigate your site and use all its features. Any user, for example, should have the means to use your main navigation, as well as any site tools, like interactive user interfaces.
Understandable: You want users to have the necessary aids to understand your website’s content. That means users can understand your site’s text, images, videos, and tools. For example, your site may include instructions for using the payment submission form.
Robust: You want your user base to have the ability to receive the same overall experience, especially if an assistive technology is being utilised. Content being read out via audio should deliver the same experience as a user visually reading it.
The WCGA principles works in 3 tiers:
Level A: Build a website that some users can access.
Level AA: Build a website that almost all users can access.
Level AAA: Build a website that all users can access.
Key Approaches to Consider:
The guidelines set forth under the WCAG philosophy can range from simple changes that you may carry out in your CMS to more hard-coded elements which may require you to work with your developers.
5 tips to become compliant today:
- Captions & Audio Descriptions: Consider the provision of captions for all your live videos embedded on your website as well as the option to click external links in order to get audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.
- Images & Text: Ensuring that all images contain descriptive ‘alternative’ text can be extremely useful for those with visual impairments. You also want to avoid utilising texts as images in order for assistive technologies to be able read it out loud. Fonts/Texts should be scalable if the user needs to zoom in (up to 200%) with a colour contrast meeting a 4:5:1 ratio.
- Navigation: Users unable to use a a pointing device should be able to navigate the entire website with a keyboard as an alternative. This is especially crucial in scenarios where an exit point can only be conducted with a mouse. Navigation menus should be designed such that reading technologies can parse each subsection with ease for the user.
- ARIA Landmarks: This allows you to add various elements to an area of a page in order to define your main content area or the navigation area for what they’re reading, the content’s location, and where to proceed next. ARIA is a great approach to take as it works well with various existing assitive technologies.
- Error Prevention: Implementing reversal actions such as amending/cancelling financial transactions made on a website which in turn will help reduce the need to seek additional assistance. Consider adding a suggestive features to update invalid data inputs e.g in form fields as well as extending the ‘time-out’ session to allow sufficient time for the corrections.