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ADA Website Compliance: A Beginner’s Guide

ADA Website Compliance: A Beginner’s Guide
Table of Contents
    • An Introduction to the ADA
    • What is ADA Compliance?
    • Basic ADA Compliance Checklist 
    • How ADA Requirements can affect your website 
    • How to find an ADA agency 


    An Introduction to the ADA

    The ADA is one of the most under discussed areas of web design today. Countless businesses are finding themselves incurring unwanted costs and legal trouble for websites that fall foul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and exclude disabled visitors. In this guide we look at the top tips for ADA compliance with a complete ADA compliance checklist for websites, and how to find an ADA agency to get your site more accessible.


    What is ADA compliance? 



    The ADA is a civil rights law that was designed to protect US citizens with disabilities from discrimination back in 1990. The law states that it's an offense to discriminate against disabled citizens in government, private and public places. Traditionally, the ADA applies to various forms of employment, transportation and other such places.

    However, when interpreted broadly, the ADA covers online spaces such as websites as well. Title III of the ADA notes that all “places of public accommodation” are required to remove any “access barriers” that would deny disabled people the chance to use facilities. Anything that would prevent a disabled person from accessing a website is thus illegal.

    However, many business owners are unaware of just how broad the scope of ADA legislation is. When the ADA was created in 1990 the opinion of the public and the courts was that the “barrier” clause referred to physical spaces rather than those online. This illusion was shattered in 2010 when the US Department of Justice issued a notice to amend the ADA to insure that website accessibility was included as well.

    Since then, the courts have been in open dispute as to the specifics around website barriers. Many argue that the legislation need only apply to websites that can be construed as “places of public accommodation, i.e. do business in public like retailers. Yet others argue that any website offering goods or services should be covered under the law.

    Throughout this year, the courts have been stating that the ADA clearly protects the rights of disabled people on the Internet.

    In less than two months, four different federal judges have said “Yes” to website accessibility. On June 13th, a federal judge ruled that Winn Dixie had to make its website accessible to disabled users, and two days later a California judge rejected Hobby Lobby's claim that a blind customer's case should be dismissed from court. The most upright defense of web accessibility came in August of this year, as the judge involved adamantly defended web accessibility in a case against Blick Art Materials.

    A final decision will be reached at some point during the course of 2018. In the mean time, it's up to business owners to make sure they are adequately protected against the law and are providing a satisfactory standard of access for any disabled customers.


    Basic ADA Compliance Checklist



     1. Presentation 

    One of the best places to start making your website more compliant with the ADA is your presentation. Make sure that your website layout isn't too complex for disabled visitors. One way to do this is to allow visitors to adjust the size or color of your site text. Granting users a resizable ability of up to 200% from the original size is in line with the official requirements.

    2. Increase Text Size

     Next consider increasing your text size. If you use bigger fonts for your titles, headings and menus, you'll be helping visually impaired users to be able to read your site. You also need to make sure that the background doesn't clash and obscure the foreground text.

    3. Support Assistive Technology

    There are plenty of assistive technology packages out there, so make sure your site is ready equipped. Make use of devices that convert text to speech, closed captioning, screen-reading software and text magnifiers. With a little research it's easy to use these tools to boost the overall accessibility of your website.

    4. Provide Captions and Transcripts for Audio and Video Content

     One of the best ways to ensure audio and video content is compliant with the ADA is to caption it. Add text, descriptions and captions to every piece of content on your site. Descriptions will not only help in terms of SEO but will also help those using text reading software. If you want to go the extra mile, you can utilize video transcripts as well.

    5. Support Web Accessibility Tools

     One way to help disabled users utilize the site is to use a web accessibility program. In many cases it can be difficult to tell if your site is fully compliant but using an accessibility tool like WAVE can help you to make sure that your site is readily accessible to any disabled visitors.

    6. Prioritize HTML formats

     When building your site, prioritize HTML as this format is very compatible with text-to-speech applications. Other formats like PDFs cannot be read or recognized by such programs. Users can also use specialized keyboards with HTML in order to help them to navigate the site more easily.


    How ADA Requirements Can Affect Your Website

     Making your site ADA compliant is all about making sure that everyone has equal access to your site. In practice this means that you need to provide a number of alternative layouts and forms of content in order to make sure your site is accessible to disabled users.

    As touched on above, you're going to need to rethink any design that obscures text or makes content difficult to read. Likewise all video and audio content must be accompanied with descriptions and captions to ensure that those with impairments can fully engage with your site. Every piece of content on the site must be accessible to people with auditory, physical or visual impairments. For example, any videos would need to be accompanied by a transcript to ensure you aren't discriminating against deaf users.

    To be completely safe, you need to have a text only option for your site. Likewise all major site functionality will need to be accessible through a keyword to ensure that those with mobility issues are able to engage. Creating a site that remains accessible to those with mobility, audio or visual impairments will mean that you need to stick to a basic layout.

    Just as you'd have to make sure a shop had disabled access, you need to make sure your website is no less accessible in its design. Every feature and service offered by your site needs to be accessible to any visitor. Once you've implemented these changes you'll then need to test your website with a web development company specializing in ADA compliance issues.


    How to Find an ADA Agency?



    The best way to make sure your site is compliant with the ADA is to work with an agency. Not all ADA agencies offer the same standard of service, so it's important to find a qualified web design agency to perform an audit of your online presence. Running a Google search and interviewing prospective agencies is a great way to screen and make sure they are industry experts.

    Many agencies may profess to be knowledgeable about the ADA but won't be aware on current developments. A professional web design firm will be fully updated on ADA requirements and ensure that your site is tailored to support the access of disabled users. This includes creating a plan to update your online website content.

    Though you can complete an audit yourself using the ADA website guidelines it's much better to do business with an expert agency that's built up a portfolio of ADA compliant clients.  This way you can rest assured that your site is legally protected.


    Get Your Site Compliant ASAP!

    Many businesses are holding off investing into ADA website compliance in the hope that the act is narrowed in 2018. At this point, it seems dubious to suggest that website compliance will be removed from the act anytime soon so it's up to you to get your business as compliant as possible ASAP. Failure to do so could result in legal trouble and a scolded reputation.

    Rather than seeing the ADA as an obstacle, treat it as an opportunity to optimize your site for new users. All your customers have the right to enjoy access to all your products and services regardless of whether or not they are disabled. Simply adding transcripts to videos and other such content can be a great way to make customers lives easier.

    Granting all users equal access to your content is not only the right thing to do but will help you to develop relationships with new customers. If you're in any doubt about the ADA guidelines check the official ADA website. ADA section 508 standards for web design will be incredibly useful for an overview of current standards. Before you go live make sure to speak to a specialist ADA web design firm to get your client ready for 2018.


    If you need a Complete ADA compliance Audit, consultation or development program contact Zfort Group to find out how you can make your site more accessible.


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