Did you know that 61 million Americans live with a disability?
Laws in the United States have made life for those with disabilities easier over the years.
However, with technological advancements and many businesses now having virtual storefronts, what does that mean for ADA compliance?
If you are looking to learn more about ADA compliancy for your website, keep reading.
What Is ADA Compliance?
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act is a set of civil rights laws passed to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
These guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a set of recommendations for making websites accessible to people who use assistive technology such as screen readers.
There are many different facets to this law, from employment to accessibility.
Businesses are required to meet certain standards to be ADA compliant.
In 2010, Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design were released.
Then in 2012, the deadline for new website construction and alterations to meet these standards was implemented.
Businesses that are required to be ADA compliant include state and local government agencies, businesses that operate for the benefit of the public, and private employers who employ 15 or more people.
The Importance of ADA Compliance
ADA compliance is important for many reasons and an essential part of any website.
If you develop a website, you need to ensure that it complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Even if you are not legally required to be ADA compliant, it is wise to ensure your website is still accessible.
If your website is not accessible, you miss out on an entire demographic of customers. You may also miss out on different business leads.
Ensuring your website is accessible can also help your SEO.
An accessible website allows for video transcripts, alternative image text, and more features that can factor into your SEO.
However, it goes beyond just wanting to make your website available to anyone who visits it.
ADA Compliance Lawsuits
If you do not ensure your website is ADA accessible, you will get held liable.
A lawsuit can be filed against your company in these circumstances.
Even if there was no intention of discrimination or exclusion, you could still get held liable.
Fines for not being compliant can go up to 75,000 dollars for a first offense and 150,000 dollars for subsequent violations.
Not only that, but a lawsuit filed against you for not being ADA compliant can hurt your brand.
You will not only spend money on lawyers and potential fines, but you will also spend time and money fixing the harm done to your companies reputation.
How to Build an ADA Compliant Website.
How do you ensure ADA compliance for your website? What is an ADA compliant website? Is my website ADA compliant?
These are the questions you must ask yourself or web developer before getting hit with a lawsuit.
You must know Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG and these guidelines can help you build your website while ensuring accessibility.
There are two main parts to the WCAG: 1) the requirements, and 2) the success criteria.
The requirements are what must be done to make something accessible; the success criteria are how well those things work when they are implemented.
The first part of the WCAG is the set of requirements.
These are broken down into three groups: A, AA, AAA. Each group has its own set of requirements.
The second part of the WCAG includes the success criteria. Success criteria are statements describing what should happen when the requirements are met.
The success criteria are divided into four categories: Must Be Met, Should Be Met, May Be Met, and Cannot Be Met. Must Be Met means that the requirement is mandatory.
The first guideline is that the content on your website is perceivable. This means that users have the ability to perceive information on your site.
For example, if you include video on your website, you include closed captioning to ensure that users who are deaf or hard of hearing can still access that content.
If using infographics you ensure that the information is available in a way that technology can read the information to those that are blind.
If there is not a way to make the content accessible, there should be an alternative.
You can do a written script of a video, or write your infographic up as an article as well.
Users need to have the ability to navigate your website and the associated features.
For example, if you have a calculator on your website, it should also be available to get used with speech to text.
An individual with the inability to use their hands or type will need to have the ability to use your website and any tools.
Your website content needs to be understandable.
Whether this is images, instructions for tools, video, text, etc. Individuals with disabilities should have the ability to understand content placed on your website.
Website content being robust means that users with and without disabilities can have the same experience.
Even if the individual with a disability uses assistive technology to access your content.
Accessibility sets your website apart and showcases your commitment to inclusion – all while boosting SEO, search rankings, conversions, and your bottom line.
For example, if an individual uses a voice reader, they should get the same content as another individual reading your content.
The method of delivery is different, but the experience should be the same.
3 Levels of Compliance.
There are three different levels of accessibility issues for websites defined by WCAG.
Using these levels can help you ensure that your website is ADA compliant.
At each level, you will address different factors that could make your website not accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Level A issues are the most urgent. These issues will severely limit the ability of an individual with a disability to use and navigate the website.
Level AA issues are about functionality. These look at areas that need improvement in order to allow people with disabilities the full experience of the website.
Level AAA is about fine-tuning. In addition, at this level, there can be an expansion on issues that get identified in Level A or Level AA. This is your goal level.
A website that achieves Level AAA meets the highest standards.
Why Do We Care About Ada Compliance?
There are several reasons why we care about ADA compliance.
First, it helps us make our sites more accessible to everyone.
Second, it makes sure that our sites work well for users with disabilities.
Third, it helps us avoid legal liability.
Fourth, it helps us improve search engine rankings.
Finally, it helps us build trust with our customers.