A big topic of conversation among website owners and developers in recent years is ADA website compliance. In fact, it should be a top priority for all website owners. Your website visitors should be able to access your site’s content with no problem, whether they have a disability or not. You can also face significant fines if your website is not ADA compliant, depending on the state you’re in. Not to mention, having a website that’s not ADA compliant can impact your rankings on Google and other search engines. So, how do you make your website ADA compliant? In this blog post, we what you need to know about ADA website compliance.
Why You Need to Be ADA Website Compliant
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was created to ensure Americans with disabilities have the same opportunities as others. The ADA requires all business owners to make their buildings accessible and accommodating to people with disabilities. However, now that websites are so popular, website owners need to make their websites accommodating as well. Some state courts, such as in California, determine the term “public accommodation” includes websites. This means a non-compliant website is subject to fines. This brings us to our first reason to be ADA website compliant.
To Avoid Fines
When people see the effort it takes to make your website ADA compliant, they wonder, “Why do I need to do this?” Perhaps you run a business and you assume none of your customers have a disability. Or, maybe your website exclusively serves members, in which you know all of them. And, you believe none of them have a disability. Even if you know for certain none of your current customers are disabled in any way, it’s still important that you practice ADA website compliance. The fines associated with not practicing ADA website compliance are severe. Many companies have made the false assumption their employees and customers don’t need any compliance.
Major companies such as Kylie Jenner Cosmetics, Amazon, Burger King, Uber, and even Hulu have been sued for their lack of ADA website compliance. Because these websites or apps did not make their platforms compliant, some faced upwards of 1,000,000 dollars in fines. Clearly, you don’t want your website to leave you subject to fines, so taking the time to make your website compliant is worth it.
To Serve Your Website Visitors Better
The most important reason for making your website ADA compliant is to take care of all your website visitors equally. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you couldn’t view or use a website because of its design? This is exactly what sometimes happens for someone with a disability. And depending on the disability, they may not be able to use some websites at all. This can certainly be a problem, both for the website owner and the visitor. When your website is not ADA compliant, an entire group of people is excluded. To be sure you’re taking care of all your website visitors equally, it’s necessary to practice ADA website compliance.
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How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
At the end of the day, there aren’t clear guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act for websites to be ADA compliant. However, when trying to make your website ADA compliant, there are many initial steps you can follow. Truthfully, being ADA compliant can take a lot of work, but once you make the website compliant, you won’t need to do this process again unless you redevelop your site, or additional ADA requirements are announced. Below, you will find some of the most important considerations for your website.
Become Familiar With the WCAG
WCAG, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a list of suggestions for serving those with disabilities. This is the primary source for all recommendations to make your website ADA compliant. Because these guidelines help those who the ADA protects, it’s a reliable list of guidelines to use. It was developed with the help of many organizations across the world, and it is thoroughly detailed. They have a useful checklist to help you ensure your website is usable by everyone. Here is what they recommend:
According to the WCAG, Your Website Should Be…
- Perceivable: No matter the disability someone has, they should be able to view your website content. This means if someone is blind, they should be able to hear your website content with voiceover tools. They should also be able to hear the alternative text of your images. On the other hand, if someone is severely color blind, they should be able to see your website’s text thanks to your site’s contrast in colors.
- Operable: Your website should be easy to operate, no matter the disability of the website visitor. The format of your website shouldn’t be confusing, take a significant number of steps to access a page, etc. Just make sure your site is easy to use for everyone.
- Understandable: The content on your website should be easy to understand. Don’t use excessively complicated language that can be difficult for a machine to read. Your content should have punctuation in the right places, so the machine doesn’t read it aloud incorrectly. You can also include alt text on infographics and other PDFs with text on them to ensure every website user has access to the content.
- Robust: Your website should be readable to both website visitors and machines. When your website is robust, it means your site can be accessed by every user, no matter their disability.
We highly recommend using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as you design or develop your website. If you hire a developer to create your website for you, make sure you ask them to ensure all suggestions from the WCAG are included on your website.
Use a Simple Website Design For ADA Website Compliance
An overlooked factor with following ADA website compliance is website design. An overly complicated website design can make people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have difficulty focusing or processing. Or, it can make those who struggle to see certain colors incapable of viewing your website for a long time without being overwhelmed or getting a headache. So, your website design should be simple and clean looking. You can still use colors, but be sure there is enough contrast between the font you use and the background color of the webpage.
In addition to making sure your site looks clean, it should also be consistently designed. So, your site should maintain the same header, footer, and body design across most of your pages. This will be incredibly helpful for those with eyesight issues, as well as assitive technologies. Also, make sure your menus are clearly defined, so a machine can recognize the menu and can easily and accurately read it to the user.
Use Alternative Text on All Images
Those with vision problems from colorblindness to total blindness may have issues viewing your images. However, images are very important to use on a website. They help break up the text and can improve your search engine rankings. So, although those with vision disabilities cannot view your images, having good imagery shouldn’t be overlooked. Instead, be sure to use alternative text on the images and describe the image properly. You can also use this area to insert an SEO keyword. For example, the image above, with the binders, has an alternative text of “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” because we are trying to rank for people searching terms related to ADA compliance. This alternative text both describes the image and helps us rank better on Google.
Write Captions For All Videos On Your Website
If you have videos uploaded to your website, be sure they have accurate and easy to read captions. This is to accommodate those with learning disabilities or hearing disabilities. For many people, videos are too fast-paced to process, or they cannot hear the video at all. So, have captions written for every video you publish to your website.
If you embed a YouTube video on your website, the video will automatically have captions generated. So, you can skip this step if all videos on your site are from YouTube. However, if you have a passion for ensuring those with hearing disabilities, you should write your own captions. YouTube has a long way to go on making sure their caption generator is accurate. So, it’s best to write your own captions when uploading YouTube videos to your website, or when using YouTube in general. You can also pay attention to the captions when you upload the videos to YouTube itself.
Offer Alternatives After Input Errors
Sometimes, users with disabilities may run into an input error on your website. This may be the fault of their assistive technology and not your website. Perhaps this is when they are using the search tool on your site, and are making a typo. The alternative your site produces could read “Did you mean [suggestion]?” This can be helpful for all users, not just website visitors with disabilities.
Run an Audit Using the WAVE Tool
Once you have familiarized yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and have made the necessary changes to your website, you should run an audit. WebAIM came out with something called the WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool, which runs free accessibility audits on your website. This tool will point out issues with your website from the site’s contrast to not using alternative text. It will point out what search engines and those with disabilities need to use your website properly.
Following ADA Website Compliance
Making sure your website follows the ADA’s regulations is not only ensuring you follow the law, but it’s also very respectable. When your website is compliant, your website visitors, disabled or not, will respect your effort in making your website accessible to all. And, you can potentially acquire more leads from those who may have not been able to view your website before. The hard work it takes is worth it. And, if you need any assistance creating or modifying your website, let us know! You can connect with us via the contact form below.