The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) exists to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Most people assume this only applies to physical locations like an office building or shopping mall. However, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice took steps to clarify that the ADA also applied to potential online barriers. A change in administration and more recent court rulings have muddied the waters around what constitutes ADA compliance.
Why Should I Worry About ADA Compliance?
While there are currently no formal rules in place from the government around ADA web compliance, that could change with a new administration. Making your website compliant with ADA standards also increases your audience reach. It’s just good policy to make your site available to the 20 percent of the population living with some form of disability that affects their online usage.
I recommend following the standards outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It’s the best way of protecting yourself and your business against potential lawsuits brought by a disabled person who had difficulty accessing or navigating your site. So, let’s see how well your current design and layout stack up against some essential WGAC recommendations.
1. Text Alternatives for Non-Text Content
Videos and images go a long way towards making your website more attractive and informative. However, what about those people who can’t view your pictures or listen to the content of your videos? There should be an alternative method for those with disabilities to get the same information.
One way you could become ADA-compliant is by adding an audio cue when someone with a visual impairment hovers over an image. Do the same thing for inputs and other controls on your site like buttons and drop-downs.
You can also provide a text description or transcript of audio from videos for individuals dealing with a hearing disorder. Don’t forget to include clear, descriptive page titles, headers, and links that convey the meaning of the content that follows. Include alt tags on all icons, field, frames, and other page elements. These
2. Functional and Usable
Ask yourself the following questions when assessing the usability of your webpage layout.
- Do you have your menus and links organized in an understandable way?
- Have you applied consistent styling throughout your website (using headers, footers, proper html tags)
- Is there a focus indicator box that highlights your links and fields?
- Can you access different sections of the site using keyboard shortcuts?
- Is there a site map available?
- Do you have a default language set for your website?
- Can users make corrections before submitting a form?
- Do you have a skip navigation link (visible or non-visible) at the top of the page?
Try to avoid using images or colors that could trigger reactions in people with seizure disorders. If you’re using sliding text or other visuals to enhance your website, make sure you give people enough time to absorb and use the information.
3. Readable and Understandable
One way to improve the readability of your website is by giving users the ability to increase the size of the text. You should also look at the contrast of your text with the background color or images used on your website.
Does the combination make it easier or harder to interpret the meaning of the text? Aim for a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 against any backdrop to ensure ADA compliance.
Be careful about using color in conveying the meaning of elements on your page. Make sure you include an alternative for readers who have trouble distinguishing the differences between colors.
Ensure Your Compliance With ADA Standards
The above highlights are just the tip of the iceberg in making your website ADA compliant. Tools like accessiBe help you make the technical improvements needed for full compliance in within 48 hours versus spending weeks and months tracking down every minute site detail. Take advantage of their free 7-day trial if you need help meeting ADA compliance standards.