As your business evolves and grows in this digital age, it becomes increasingly important to ask, “Is my website ADA-compliant?” Websites serve a significant purpose in today’s business realm. In any competitive space, it’s important for your website to be accessible to everyone regardless of disability or ability.
Your website must also comply with all laws and legal requirements to excel in the digital economy, so we prepared this guide to help you honor those obligations. Let’s start with the definitions before delving into compliance and its importance.
What Is ADA, and Why Is It Necessary?
ADA compliance refers to adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a 1990 civil rights law. The ADA aspires to protect the rights of persons with disabilities from discrimination in various areas of public life, including:
- Public accommodations.
While the ADA doesn’t explicitly mention websites, courts have interpreted it to apply to the digital realm, leading to ADA compliance for websites and other digital platforms.
ADA Compliance for Websites and Its Importance
ADA compliance for websites means ensuring people with disabilities can access and interact with digital content and services just as effectively as individuals without disabilities. Considerations include people with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.
By achieving ADA compliance, websites become more inclusive and accessible to a broader audience, promoting equal opportunities and enhancing user experience for all visitors.
The Types of Disabilities and Their Web Accessibility Challenges
Different disabilities present unique challenges when it comes to web accessibility. Some examples include:
1. Visual Impairments
Visually impaired folks rely on screen readers, braille displays, or screen magnifiers to access web content.
2. Hearing Impairments
Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals may need captions or transcripts for multimedia content.
3. Motor Disabilities
Users with motor impairments may require keyboard navigation and alternatives to complex gestures.
4. Cognitive Disabilities
Individuals with cognitive impairments might benefit from clear, consistent organization of the website’s navigation and content.
Critical Components of ADA Compliance for Websites
You need to consider particular components to achieve ADA compliance for websites. These include:
1. Accessibility Guidelines
Adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which were curated by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines provide specific criteria for making web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
2. Alternative Text
Provide alternative text descriptions for images, allowing screen readers to convey image content to visually impaired users.
3. Keyboard Navigation
Ensure all functionality and content are easily accessible via keyboard, as some individuals may have difficulty using a mouse.
4. Video Captioning and Transcripts
Include captions for videos and provide transcripts for audio content to make them accessible to users with hearing impairments.
5. Color Contrast
Maintain sufficient color contrast to ensure text and other visual elements are distinguishable for individuals with visual impairments.
Why ADA Compliance Matters
1. The Legal Implications of Non-Compliance
Failure to comply with ADA guidelines for websites can lead to legal issues, including lawsuits and claims of discrimination. Businesses and organizations have suffered adverse litigation for inaccessible websites, resulting in settlements and judgments requiring accessibility improvements.
2. Expanding Your Audience Reach
By ensuring ADA compliance, businesses can tap into a larger audience of people with disabilities. This demographic represents a significant market segment that should not be overlooked, and making your website accessible can help attract and retain these customers.
3. Improve User Experience for All Visitors
ADA compliance doesn’t only benefit people with disabilities. It also enhances the overall user experience for all visitors, leading to increased customer satisfaction and better engagement with your website or digital platform.
How Do I Know if My Website Is ADA Compliant
1. Using Online Accessibility Evaluation Tools
There are various online tools available that can help you assess the accessibility of your website. These tools scan your site and provide reports on potential accessibility issues. Some popular tools include:
2. Manual Testing and User Feedback
Our laws and legal requirements vary and are so nuanced that automated tools can miss specific issues. Hence, it’s essential to manually test your website and consider user feedback for a comprehensive assessment.
Test your website using keyboard navigation, screen readers, and other assistive technologies to experience it as users with disabilities would. Additionally, encourage users with disabilities to provide feedback and insights on their experience.
3. Conducting an Accessibility Audit
Consider hiring a professional accessibility consultant or an audit firm specializing in web accessibility to evaluate your website thoroughly. They can provide detailed reports on accessibility gaps and recommendations for improvement.
Ensuring ADA Compliance for Specific Content Management Systems (CMS)
1. ADA compliance considerations for WordPress
Utilize accessibility-focused themes and plugins, add alternative text for images, and follow best practices for content creation within WordPress.
2. ADA Compliance Considerations for Wix
Choose accessible templates, add alternative text for images, and ensure the website’s elements are easy to navigate using a keyboard.
3. ADA Compliance Considerations for Shopify
Select themes prioritizing accessibility, provide descriptive alt text for images, and test keyboard navigation throughout the site.
Training Your Team on ADA Compliance
Educating your team on ADA guidelines and best practices is paramount to complement your compliance with the technical requirements. Encourage continuous learning, discuss strategies for addressing accessibility gaps, and create a culture of inclusivity within the organization.
Go further and create an internal accessibility policy outlining organizational guidelines and procedures. It will also help create awareness and motivate your team to make sure your website is ADA compliant.
Staying Up-to-Date with ADA Guidelines
1. Changes and Updates to ADA Regulations
Keep up with any updates or changes to ADA regulations and ensure your website complies with the latest guidelines.
2. Following WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
WCAG is a set of internationally recognized web accessibility guidelines. Stay informed about the latest version and follow its recommendations for making your website accessible.
Real-Life Success Story: How ADA Compliance Improved Website Performance:
Ecorenewed.com is a sustainability blog that has led the sustainability movement since its launch. At its initial build and launch, its Google accessibility score was 87%, which is already impressive. But after following WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines, the website’s accessibility score increased to 95%.
The website became more usable for folks with eyesight impairments and opened the doors to a larger audience. After making their website ADA compliant, Ecorenewed saw an increase in:
- User engagement.
- Returning visitors.
- Conversion rates.
As this case study shows, ADA compliance can bring tangible benefits beyond legal requirements. Businesses and organizations should make their websites accessible to reach more customers and improve the user experience.
ADA compliance for websites is essential for businesses and organizations so all users, including those with disabilities, can access their digital platforms. It also opens up a more extensive audience potential and improves customer satisfaction.
You can ensure your business website complies with ADA regulations with the proper guidance and tools. Working with Jarod Thornton Studio and Adopt The Web gets you ahead of the curve for website accessibility. Contact us today to learn more about our services.