Does my website need to have ADA and WCAG Accessibility Compliance?

Does my website need to have ADA and WCAG Accessibility Compliance?

When it comes to ADA compliance (Americans with Disabilities Act), most people assume that it relates to physical accommodations. For example, if you have a local business, you should have wheelchair access.

However, ADA compliance goes beyond physical accommodations. It extends to the online world as well which means that if you have a website for your business, it needs to be accessible.

But what even is ADA compliance and why is it important? What does it involve? Those are the questions we’ll answer in this post.

What is ADA compliance?

Put simply, ADA compliance means that your website follows the rules and guidelines from the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.

These guidelines and standards mandate that both Internet users with disabilities as well as those without disabilities must be able to access and use all electronic and information technology.

It’s important to mention that when the Americans with Disabilities Act first came to be, it didn’t include the term websites as a form of “Public Accommodation”. However, in the recent years, many courts have included websites and apps into the definition of Public Accommodation.

Website ADA compliance is important for blind users accessing the internet

Who Needs Accessibility?

There are several groups of people who need your website to be accessible:

  • Blind or Deaf/Blind People — According to WHO, globally, 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. Deaf persons might suffer from hearing loss in one or both ears. Settings like magnification and brightness as well as offering transcriptions and captions will make your website more accessible.
  • Persons with cognition and learning difficulties — This group includes both children and adults. Having a simple page layout and doing away with animation and video or audio files that play automatically are helpful in these cases.
  • Persons with emotional and behavioral disabilities — Make your website more accessible by simplifying page layouts, shortening your sentences, and incorporating white space into your design.
  • Persons with permanent or temporary injuries and diseases — Users who have permanent or temporary injuries or suffer from a disease that impacts their ability to use the Internet rely on assistive technologies. Having audible software and keyboard tab navigation is one way of making sure they can access and use your website.
  • Persons traveling — accessibility goes beyond your place of residence. People who travel need accessible hotel bookings, doctor’s appointments when they’re traveling, food delivery services, and many other services. Those services are easier to use when they’ve been designed with accessibility in mind.

Why is Accessibility Important?

Statistics show that 54% of all disabled adults in the US use the internet on a daily basis. If your website is ADA compliant, this ensures that they can access and use it in the same way as people without disabilities would.

Another reason why accessibility matters is that you could face a lawsuit as well as a substantial fine. In fact, lots of lawsuits are happening right now. One example is a lawsuit in Colorado where a blind man is suing the local winery because they couldn’t use their website since it wasn’t compatible with screen-reading programs.

Something similar happened in 2016 where a blind man sued Domino’s Pizza because they couldn’t order pizza from their website.

Blind person using a screen reader on an ADA compliant website

Is My Website ADA Compliant?

If you have to ask if your website is ADA compliant, chances are it’s not. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to making your website accessible. This brings us to the next point which we will discuss below.

What Does Website ADA Compliance Involve?

Now that we’ve covered what is ADA compliance and why accessibility is important, let’s take a look at what’s involved in making sure your website is ADA compliant.

Start With Accessibility Audit

The first thing you should do is access your current website and perform an accessibility audit. This will tell you where your compliance issues are and you can then take appropriate measures to address them. The cost for this usually runs in the 4-figures range.

You can also use tools like WAVE and AXE. Both of these tools are free and can be used as a starting point for your accessibility audit.

In general, you’ll want to pay attention to these main areas of accessibility as outlined in the WCAG 2.1 Guidelines:

  • Use of color
  • Links
  • Screen Reader Reminders
  • Content Structure & Semantics
  • Images & Media
  • Documents (like PDFs)

W3C Website ADA Compliance - Web Accessibility Initiative screenshot

Accessibility Remediation

Once you know where your accessibility issues are, you can begin resolving them on your site. This can be a combination of things that can be done automatically (for example, installing an image optimization plugin to automatically ads captions and alt text for images or disabling autoplay on audio and video files) and things that need to be taken care of manually (such as implementing a responsive design, adding skip links or switching to a platform that has basic accessibility guidelines in place).

On-Going Accessibility Maintenance

The last step is to implement an on-going accessibility maintenance for your website. Websites are always changing and you need to make sure that newly added content follows the accessibility guidelines. Otherwise, your hard work on making sure your website is accessible won’t matter much.

What’s Next?

The ADA compliance will make your website accessible to all Internet users. While it does require a bit of work upfront, it also keeps you out of legal trouble. If you need help updating your website to be more ADA compliant or want to design a new website with accessibility in mind, contact us.

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