ADA-Compliant Websites: What You Need to Know
In 2022, over 5 billion people used the internet. It has become the primary source of information, commerce, and entertainment for many worldwide. Those without proper access to the world wide web are disadvantaged, including those with physical, intellectual, and mental health conditions. Many websites are not designed with their needs in mind.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of those with disabilities and attempts to level the playing field for everyone. The act’s guidance now extends to websites, so companies must understand web accessibility standards and the tools that can keep them compliant.
The US Department of Justice now interprets Title III of the ADA to include websites. Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to follow ADA compliance requirements for websites. Companies that overlook these ADA standards may face legal action.
Those companies that do not comply with accessibility regulations do more than violate the law; they are also failing to reach consumers who are interested in their products. So compliance is a financial issue. Fortunately, making a website more accessible is not as difficult as it may sound.
Common Web Accessibility Barriers
Companies that are careful to follow ADA regulations in their workplace may not consider applying these standards to their websites. Some common mistakes include:
- Inadequate color contrast: People who have poor vision or suffer from color blindness have difficulty reading text if there is not enough contrast between it and the background color.
- Absence of text alternatives (Known as alt text): Blind users cannot understand the use of images on a page, such as pictures, graphs, etc. Alt text explains the purpose of these images, improving the user’s understanding.
- Lack of video captions: Those users with hearing disabilities may not find videos helpful. They need captions to deliver essential information.
- Mouse-only navigation: Some people with disabilities cannot manipulate a mouse or trackpad. They need websites to be keyboard navigable, or they won’t be able to use them.
- Non-accessible online forms: People with disabilities may need clear, simple instructions, labels that screen readers can convey to internet users, and error alerts that warn users of skipped fields.
These are just some of the errors companies currently make on their websites that violate ADA compliance requirements. These issues also drive away consumers with disposable income to spend.
Improving Web Accessibility
Organizations can quickly improve their website accessibility once the company commits to it. Those wondering how to make a website ADA-compliant can find many online resources to help.
WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative
The World Wide Web Consortium has created the WAI to help companies improve their webpage accessibility. It has developed standards and created support materials that make accessibility compliance easier to obtain. Their website offers these in-depth materials free of charge, simplifying company efforts to improve.
aXe Development Tools
Multiple aXe development tools exist that can scan websites for accessibility issues. A simple Chrome extension can quickly find and label violations “Minor, Moderate, Serious, or Critical.” Company website developers can then make the necessary changes.
Browsing Accessibility Tools
Users want a smooth browsing experience. Companies can help achieve an ADA-compliant website by adding these browsing tools:
- Closed captioning service: These companies add subtitles to video, often incorporating dialogue and sounds simultaneous with the images. This service aids deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals but is also helpful for others with vision and cognitive issues.
- Screen reading software: These programs help blind or visually impaired users read the screen text through a speech synthesizer. These programs can read the text aloud or, in some instances, provide a braille display.
- Voice recognition software: These programs can convert spoken language into text, allowing those with hearing disabilities or mobility/motor issues to convert audio and video files into text for easier understanding.
- Screen magnification software: Viewers with vision problems can use these programs to magnify text, making it easier to read. This software is also helpful for the average user who may suffer from eye strain.
Having an ADA-compliant website is beneficial for more reasons than just abiding by the law; it ensures that your web content is accessible to all potential site visitors. Over 13% of Americans have a disability, which rises as they age. These consumers have money to spend but want an easy browsing experience.
In addition, the US Justice Department has determined that website accessibility is required under current law. Lawsuits concerning accessibility are rising, so companies cannot afford to be non-compliant on this issue. Fortunately, ADA compliance requirements for websites are relatively easy to follow. There are many free or affordable resources to help them meet government regulations and understand how to make a website ADA-compliant.