As an entrepreneur, building a successful business requires significant consideration for your target customers. Your perspective should also include theirs for you to have a better picture of your standard of service. While it’s impossible to consider the peculiarities of every single customer, there is an acceptable minimum requirement that caters to the majority, and falling below this yardstick affects your brand negatively. Chief among these basic criteria is having an ADA compliant website, a requirement that ensures customers with special needs can easily access and engage with your business in the online world.
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What is ADA Compliance?
ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a body of law prescribing basic accessibility standards for public and commercial establishments to follow for the benefit of people with disabilities. Essentially, it guarantees ease of access to disabled individuals. As long as you render public service, be it commercial or otherwise, the law expects you to comply with its stipulated accessibility standards.
Although the ADA is often associated with physical locations, businesses should also extend their compliance to digital spaces. Electronic and information technologies should ideally follow ADA-compliant website requirements, which also extend to software and applications. As for web design, ADA compliance makes your website more accessible and navigable to users with disabilities. Such user-centered design identifies the challenges that special needs visitors could face and implements solutions to improve their user experience.
An ADA compliant website not only improves your brand image but also saves you from penalties such as fines and expensive lawsuits. According to the Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights Blog, 8,694 accessibility cases were filed in 2022 alone, with more likely to emerge in the following years. This emphasizes the increasing focus on ADA compliance and makes it imperative for businesses to design websites that as many visitors as possible will find usable, particularly those with disabilities.
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Is My Website ADA Compliant?
What is an ADA compliant website? Simply put, it is a website that is optimized for users with disabilities. Before making significant changes to your website, you must first know if it is ADA compliant. Here are some of the ways to do so.
- Accessibility Tools: There are several ADA compliant website checkers you may use to evaluate your website. Tools like Lighthouse and Wave assess web features such as text size, color contrast, media content, and more to determine your wesbite’s level of compliance. Although these checkers can only analyze one web page at a time, they are free and effective.
- Manual Assessment: This involves personally checking your website’s compliance using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG comprises an extensive checklist of ADA guidelines. It focuses on four main principles—perception, operation, understanding, and robustness. These fundamentals encompass all actionable items under ADA compliance.
- Professional Audit: Another approach is to enlist the help of professionals. In addition to assessing your website for ADA compliance, such agencies also recommend strategies for improving web design and functionality according to ADA standards.
It is important to note that the WCAG offers three levels of ADA compliance. Depending on a website’s provision for users with disabilities, it is either categorized into levels A, AA, or AAA, with the first being the minimum level of compliance.
How to Make a Website ADA Compliant
Becoming ADA compliant is a proactive effort toward inclusivity and providing the best user experience for web visitors. This may include a few changes in your web design or a complete overhaul. However, before you proceed with redesigning your website, you should know the kinds of accessibility issues disabled users could experience on your website. Here are some of them.
- Visual impairments such as color blindness or total blindness.
- Neurological and motor disabilities such as autism.
- Cognitive impairments such as learning, language, and speech impediment.
- Auditory impairments which include all kinds of hearing problems.
Some great ADA compliant website examples include Oreo, Lakers Store, and Patreon. Having mastered ADA accessibility requirements, these websites provide easy access to all their users, regardless of their disabilities. Here are six ways to help you create a model ADA compliant website.
1. Review Website Content Accessibility Guidelines
To begin with, you need a reference point and this is where WCAG comes in. These guidelines serve as a yardstick to measure your website’s compliance level. They offer an actionable guide for creating a website that is easily navigable for all visitors, particularly those with disabilities. Here are the four key WCAG principles to consider.
- Perception: According to this principle, users must be able to perceive your web content and interface elements using at least one of their senses. While this criterion is primarily satisfied with visuals, web visitors with visual impairments need further assistance beyond the sense of sight. For example, audio narration could accompany text so that visually impaired users may still engage with your website.
- Operation: This principle offers practical insight into how to make your website more user-friendly. It proposes that your website’s user interface (UI) must be operable. It covers the necessity of making core website functionality optimized for all users. For disabled users, you should take all necessary precautions to assist their navigation. For instance, web design elements such as buttons should be clickable in some way, either via touch, a keyboard, a mouse, or a voice command.
- Understandability: This principle states that all information and operations within your website must be understandable. It mainly focuses on making text as comprehensible as possible so web visitors know what to do. For example, content shouldn’t be too technical. You can also offer input assistance to further clue visitors in on how to navigate the website.
- Robustness: To meet this criterion, you should develop your website using well-adopted web standards that work across different browsers and devices, both now and in the future. For instance, web users should be able to access your website on various devices and web platforms. Additionally, your content should be compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers so that web users with disabilities can also have an enjoyable user experience (UX).
2. Choose the Right Graphics
Visuals are great for simplifying complex information and captivating viewers. However, if your graphic design does not align with ADA compliant website requirements, it puts you at risk of alienating some members of your audience. Designing your website with ADA compliance in mind enables all web visitors to effortlessly engage with your visual content. It portrays your brand as inclusive and shows your entire audience that you see and support them.
However, achieving this requires making the right choices when it comes to graphic design. Here are some pointers to help you choose the right visual elements for your website.
- Color: When it comes to color, ensure that the contrast is enough for users to read text legibly and tell design elements apart. For instance, layer text or icons on colored backgrounds in a way that will appear elevated enough for users to distinguish them. Statistics from Color Blind Awareness show that about 312 million people (4% of the world’s population) suffer from color blindness. Using suitable color schemes for your website would help enhance the perception of these visually impaired individuals.
- Text: Your font choice greatly impacts the legibility and readability of your web content. Overly small font sizes will undoubtedly affect readability, requiring more effort from users to comprehend text. Additionally, heavily stylized fonts could potentially dampen the quality of your typography. Ensure your design is practical enough for all users to grasp the relevant information.
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You should choose design elements that offer a remarkable user experience to all your web visitors. Not only do they determine if a visually-impaired individual can understand your designs, but they also prevent those with regular vision from having a bad user experience.
3. Pair Multimedia Files with Text
Multimedia files like videos, pictures, and audio clips are key components of web design. However, not all users can perceive them as expected. Therefore, you should provide alternative ways for disabled persons to access the content. This precaution is particularly helpful to deaf users who can’t hear audio files and visually impaired users who depend on screen readers to describe images. Here is how to make multimedia content more accessible.
- Images should have alt text: Alt text describes images on web pages. Screen readers narrate these texts to disabled users when they come across images online.
- Add subtitles to videos: This helps users with hearing difficulties understand the speech in video clips. Additionally, it also benefits users without hearing difficulties. For example, foreign visitors struggling to understand the speaker’s accent can read subtitles. Subtitles are also useful when audio cannot be played out loud.
- Transcribe all audio content: A transcript is speech rendered in text. Users can always refer to this to better understand audio files. You can either make it descriptive or a word-for-word transcription. Additionally, you can further boost compliance by including an audio narration of the transcript. This extra step helps visually impaired users understand the content.
- Avoid communicating with images: A heavy reliance on images to convey information on your website can be detrimental. While it may appear aesthetically appealing, it isn’t an ideal move for ADA compliance, as is the case when rendering texts as images. Not only does this affect users with disabilities because assistive technologies can’t describe such elements, but it also affects your website’s SEO performance because search engines can’t read such text.
4. Use Informative Calls-To-Action
Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are a crucial part of business websites. They are clickable commands that guide consumers toward making purchases or subscribing to services. Their significance makes it imperative for all users to have access to them. For consumers with disabilities, you should take extra care to guide them toward these actions.
Consider using descriptive text or hyperlinks that indicate where to click and all other subsequent requirements. Be more specific about what you expect from users, offering them as much information as possible so that they know what to do and how to do it. For instance, you can label a CTA button as “Call for a quote” instead of the vaguer “Click here.” In addition to helping the average user, when screen readers read the button for disabled users, they know precisely what they are opting for.
5. Support Keyboard Navigation
Web users with motor disabilities who cannot use a mouse or trackpad mostly rely on keyboard navigation. These incude people who suffer from tremors or have limited use of their hands. Alternatively, such people use the tab key on their keyboards to browse web pages. Therefore, it is essential that you optimize your website for keyboard accessibility.
According to the World Wide Web Consortium, a keyboard-accessible website should allow users to toggle between elements on a digital interface using just their keyboard. Additionally, when users navigate design elements, a focus indicator should show where they are on the page. These enhance their navigation experience on your website.
6. Test for Improvement
Before you unveil your website for public use, it is important to test its performance. This enables you to identify flaws and make adjustments accordingly. Beyond following theoretical guidelines, put your website’s practicability to the test. You can invite persons with disabilities to rate its usability and offer suggestions based on their experiences. Such firsthand insights are immensely valuable and will steer you toward better ADA compliance.
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In addition to user feedback, you can also check if your website is ADA compliant using software designed specifically for this or by hiring professionals to do it for you. Either way, the goal is to ensure that your website is compliant enough to go live.
Accessibility is no longer just an option, it has become a non-negotiable part of customer service that offers equal web access to all. ADA compliance enforces this by requiring all public spaces, including websites, to eliminate discriminatory practices against disabled people.
Following ADA guidelines is essential for a truly optimized website. It ensures that your web design is accessible to every member of your audience, particularly those with disabilities. Moreover, it safeguards your business against legal ramifications arising from non-compliance and creates a better user experience overall.
Admittedly, satisfying ADA compliant website requirements can be overwhelming. However, if you need assistance, consider hiring a professional web design agency to guide you through the process.