When the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, the plan was to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. However, with several revisions over the years, the ADA has evolved beyond just physical accommodations to include technologies such as websites, documents, and software programs. Thanks to the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the US Department of Justice in 2010, businesses are now legally mandated to maintain accessible websites in accordance with the updated website 508 compliance standards.
Below we provide some useful insights to help you get started towards building a truly ADA compliant website, avoiding lawsuits or government actions associated with the ADA and providing equal opportunities for people to enjoy your products or services whether they have a disability or not.
WHAT IS ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individual with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
WHICH BUSINESSES ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLY WITH ADA?
According to Brett Snider’s article “Does Your Business Have to Comply With the ADA”, any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for 20 or more weeks every year is covered under Title I of the ADA. On the other hand, all businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodations,” including hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, retail merchants, banks and public transportation are required to comply with the Title III of the ADA.
However, if your business does not fall within these categories, we recommend that you still meet those regulations to avoid being dragged through an annoying lawsuit.
HOW DOES THE ADA APPLY TO WEBSITES?
For many people with disabilities, especially impairments to sight and motion, navigating through a website can be a hassle. To protect the rights of these individuals, Title III of the ADA mandates businesses to provide a website experience that accommodates people with disabilities.
The Act states that:
“No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR WEBSITE TO BE ADA COMPLIANT?
A website is ADA compliant if it meets certain criteria laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically in regards to the 2010 amendments called the “ADA Standards for Accessible Design.”
The Department of Justice makes use of the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines known as WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.0 to determine if a website is compliant with ADA. According to these guidelines, the four main categories of technical standards for an ADA compliant website are: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
Apart from these four standards, it is also important that you follow these standard practices when designing your website:
· Create alt tags for all images, videos and audio files: Alt tags allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of content they might not otherwise be able to view. Alt tags describe the object itself and, generally, the purpose it serves on the site.
· Create text transcripts for video and audio content: Text transcripts help hearing impaired users understand content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
· Identify the site’s language in header code: Making it clear what language the site should be read in can help users that utilize text readers. Text readers can identify those codes and are able to function accordingly.
· Offer alternatives and suggestions when users encounter input errors: If a user with a disability is encountering input errors because of their need to navigate the website differently, your site should automatically offer recommendations to them as to how to better navigate toward the content they need.
· Create a consistent, organized layout: Menus, links and buttons should be organized in such a way that they are clearly delineated from one another and are easily navigated through the entire site.
WHY SHOULD YOUR WEBSITE BE COMPLIANT?
- It is the right thing to do
As of 2018, there are over 25 million people in the USA who are visually impaired, with a further 40 million people living with one disability or the other. As such, it is only sensible to make reasonable changes to your website to accommodate this population.
- You are legally required to be compliant
Not complying to ADA regulations with your website translates to breaking the law and risking as much as $75,000 in fines.
- Lose business from local, municipal and federal government organizations
To have access to government funding, assistance, or contracts, your website must be accessible to everybody including those with disabilities.
- Risk a mad dash to fix your website
It is possible that you’re forced to fix your website by the government or courts by a certain date. This can lead to a mad scramble to meet up with the usually strict deadline.
- Lose customers with disabilities
As noted earlier, there are over 40 million people living with one disability or the other in the United States. Not complying with ADA regulations means putting yourself in a disadvantaged position to earn less than you should.
ARE THERE TOOLS TO HELP YOUR WEBSITE?
- Color Safe
Color Safe is a tool that allows you design beautiful, accessible color palettes for your website that are ADA compliant according to WCAG standards.
- JAWS Screen Reader
Jobs Access With Speech (JAWS) is a popular screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows visually impaired users to read the screen. The software comes with two multi-lingual synthesizers, a fast info search assistant and full compatibility with other ADA compliance technologies and softwares.
- WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins such as WP Accessibility, Accessibility by UserWay and WCAG 2.0 form field for Gravity Forms can be integrated to your website to make it ADA compliant.
- WCAG 2.0 Tools
These tools can help you confirm if your website meets ADA compliance guidelines.
While it is essential to make your website comply with the ADA, we understand that it can be challenging for you to so as a starter or if you do not possess the right technical background. This is why you need trusted hands like us to guide you through the challenge and ensure that your site avoid the annoying legal battles and fines that could arise from non-compliant with the ADA. We can work with you to establish a culture of compliance in your website. Visit our website for more information or call us at any time with any questions you may have regarding your website!