ADA Compliance for Websites Explained

Keyboard with green accessibility button

ADA Digital Compliance Can Be Confusing. Let’s Break It Down.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to make things more accessible for people with disabilities, and this extends into the digital world too. In 2010, the US Department of Justice released new regulations for the ADA that extended into the digital world, called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which says that all technology like websites must be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. But what does ADA compliance mean for websites like yours? How do you know if your site is meeting the standards set by the ADA? In this article, we will examine the ADA standards for websites.

To further reinforce digital accessibility compliance for the 21st century, the 2017 “Section 508 Refresh” brought the ADA “in harmony” with the WCAG guidelines.

What is ADA compliance?

For a website, being ADA compliant means that anyone can have full access to engage with everything on your site, regardless of their disabilities. Websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust; “POUR”.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is an online resource that explains everything a site needs to have to become more accessible. However, unless you are an expert in ADA compliance, this can be difficult to fully understand and implement.

Who regulates ADA compliance for websites?

ADA regulations are enforced by the US Department of Justice. If a website is caught without being ADA compliant, it will face a lawsuit and some expensive fines. If the site is a government site or an organization that receives federal funding, they may lose that funding in addition to the lawsuit and fine.

What does the ADA say about websites?

The ADA requires businesses and organizations to be accessible to everyone. No matter the specific disability, or the assistive technology they are using, they need to be able to have full clear access to the website, just like someone without disabilities. However, the ADA only has specific requirements for some organizations.

Who needs an accessible site? 

Everyone. Everyone needs to address accessibility. Organizing by industry priority: 

  • E-Commerce
    • Ambulance-chasing lawyers love finding non-compliant e-commerce websites using scanning tools. These websites are low-hanging fruit for lawsuits. In fact, 74% of lawsuits in 2021 were against E-Commerce websites.
  • Hospitality (Restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, resorts, theme parks, etc…)
  • Professional services (doctors, dentists, financial services, banking, etc…)

The ADA covers all information technology and electronics, including websites and apps, so the ADA compliance regulations do impact most websites already. The ADA compliance requirements are ambiguous, which leads many website owners to think they do not need to make their site compliant, or they are unaware that they need to do so.

Is ADA compliance mandatory for my website?

Even though some of the regulations are ambiguous, it is still mandatory for a website to comply with ADA standards. If you do not have an accessible website and someone with a disability attempts to use it and is unable to, they can file a lawsuit against you. Netflix, Winn-Dixie, Blue Apron, Nike, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Amazon, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, and Fox News and even Beyoncé have all been sued in the last few years for not having an ADA accessible website.

The other reason you should make your website ADA compliant is that your competition is always a click away. If you do not have an ADA-compliant website, you can lose out on some great leads for your business. Imagine going to a website looking for a product or service, only to discover you cannot fully use it. You would be frustrated and click back to your Google search results, selecting the next website in the list. It is because of this that Google is now factoring user experience into search engine optimization (SEO). If a site is not accessible to everyone, it can impact your position in the search engines.

Even if your company does not fall under the categories that are mandatory for ADA compliance, it is in your best interest to make your site compliant anyway.

What are the ADA compliance requirements for my website?

Making a website ADA compliant is complex, but here we have explained some of the things to factor into your compliance and who they are for. All of these are in line with the Level 2.1 of the WCAG, which is the current level that websites need to be.

Content

  • Structure: Use heading tags in your copy to make it easier for people using screen readers to follow along.
  • Readability: Make your content easy to follow for those with cognitive disabilities. Keep sentences short and to the point. Use bulleted lists to make it easier to skim and avoid using technical jargon when you can.
  • Link text: When you link to another page, if it says, “click here,” that does not tell someone with a screen reader what you are taking them to. Make link text descriptive so they know where they are going and why.
  • Accessible files: If you have any links to files like PDFs, make sure they are accessible too.

 

Videos

  • Subtitles: Include subtitles in all of your videos so that people with hearing impairments
  • Transcripts: For any video, include a typed-up transcript. You can also include a descriptive transcript, which explains what is going on in the video.
  • Audio Descriptions: This is an audio version of the descriptive transcript, which helps those with visual impairments.

 

Design

  • Images: Give images alt-text, which gives a clear description of what is happening in the image. This helps screen readers share the information with the visually impaired.
  • Colors: Make the color contrast on your site a ratio of 4.5:1, so those with color blindness can see everything. Also, do not rely on colors alone to convey information.
  • Font: Use a sans serif font; they are easier to read. Make your font size at least 12 point.

 

Site and Navigation

  • Keyboard Navigation: People with motor and visual disabilities need to be able to use keyboard navigation to get around on your site.
  • Forms and Tables: Label every form field accurately so those using screen readers can input the correct information into them. Make sure they are easy to follow through, and you can tab through each field. Include instructions.
  • Buttons: Give every call-to-action button a clear and descriptive name.

 

Need Help Improving Your Website’s ADA Compliance?

Making changes to your website to make it ADA compliant can be a lengthy task, but it is highly beneficial to your business since it will make everyone feel included. Simplified Website Design is the best Accredited Online ADA Expert available. We will conduct an accessibility audit and give you a detailed overview and plan for your website. Contact us today to get started!

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