What Is ADA Compliance?
If you are running a business, you should already be familiar with the term ADA compliance. ADA stands for American Disability Act. This is a full civil rights law that was put in place to make sure that people with disabilities never had to suffer from discrimination. It applies to everything from state and local government, employment, transportation and yes, websites. This is why you need to know as much as possible about ADA compliance, why it matters and what you should be doing to ensure that your website meets requirements.
A little history before we get started . . .
Originally passed in 1990, the ADA was designed to focus on physical accommodations. For instance, it’s thanks to the ADA that businesses providing public access are required to have ramp access for wheelchair users. The original focus of the ADA was on “access barriers” which, in the 90’s during the infancy of the internet was believed to mean a literal prevention of access. However, in 2010, the US DOJ amended language in the ADA to include accessibility to websites. People still assumed at this point that the language referred to websites for businesses that also had a physical space. Many judges upheld this idea when lawsuits were brought to court. However, as of January 2018, guidelines were introduced websites were required to meet to remain ADA compliant.
Why Does It Matter
There are a number of reasons why ADA compliance matters. Let’s start by thinking about user experience. If your website is not ADA compliant, individuals with a disability will not be able to use it effectively. An example of this would be reading software. Individuals who are unable to see often use reading software to understand and use sites or purchase products. When information is read out, it needs to be structured in a way that they can understand rather than just a list of the categories, titles, and posts. One website saw a page visit increase of over 157% after altering their site to be ADA compliant.
Those interested in improving website SEO will also find ADA compliance is a relevant and important consideration. There are many overlaps between what makes a website optimized and what ensures a site is ADA compliant. For instance, both stress the importance of images providing alt text and that navigating a website should be intuitive.
There are cases where optimization can negatively impact ADA compliance and vice versa. This is why when you do look into changing your website for either issue, you should make sure that both are being considered.
You might think that if your website isn’t ADA compliant, you could risk a lawsuit. While this is a possibility, ADA litigation is still relatively rare at this point. However, later this year, there will be a final decision on ADA compliance, what websites should be held accountable and what website owners will legally need to change.
Tips And Strategies
You can make various mistakes when trying to remain ADA compliant. First, you might assume you are required to change every piece of content on your website. This is not the case. Only content that you have added after January 18th, 2018 or content that you have updated should be altered. This will save your business a lot of time and money, though for best results you should alter as much as you possibly can.
There are four main pillars of ADA compliant web design. These are:
Perceivable simple means that people can view content in various forms and alt image text would be one example of this. Users should also be able to navigate your site easily without any restrictions. If there are timed events on your site, users should be able to pause them. Understandable means that users have information to understand your interface. They do know they can check financial inputs before final submissions. Finally, robust refers to a users ability to use current and future technology to view and access your site.
A good place to start is a website audit. An audit uses tools to crawl your website and will determine areas that need changing to reach ADA compliance. This gives you an idea of how much you will need to spend and how much work is needed.
Do be aware that little details can have a major impact on accessibility. For instance, if colors do not have a high level of contrast, it may be difficult for users to find purchase buttons.
Your Work Is Never Done
Ultimately you have to remember that ADA isn’t something where you can use a one and done solution. The standards of ADA compliance are constantly changing, and you need to stay up to date with the latest guidelines. Your efforts to remain ADA compliant will never be truly complete.