If you own a business, it’s likely that you have a website in order to promote your products or services. Creating and maintaining your online presence is essential for moving your business forward, but there are some important considerations when creating a website. One of the essential things you must take into account when managing your website is whether it’s compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Ultimately, having a website is a great business move, but what good does it do when some people can’t navigate your website efficiently? Think about your website for a moment. Is it user-friendly? When an individual, no matter their disability, visits your website, are they able to use its full functionality? Can they see your images and infographics? Will zooming in affect its functionality?
To put things into perspective, approximately 48.9 million people in the U.S. alone have a disability, and 34.2 million people have a functional limitation. If those individuals cannot use your website, you’re losing the chance to reach and provide services to over 82 million people. Don’t inadvertently close yourself off from your customer base. It’s time to move forward in being compliant so you can reach a wider audience while simultaneously providing more resources/services for more people.
Let’s find out if you’re ADA compliant:
The Start of Mandatory Accessibility and the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards were issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). However, their provisions became mandatory in 2012. Their standards affect many facilities, including:
- Assembly areas
- Medical facilities
- Education facilities
- Residential dwelling units
- Lodging places
- Rail stations
- Bus boarding areas
Along with many physical requirements such as tactile signs, fire alarm systems with visual and audible alarms, and more, the ADA also enforces web compliance. They say that public entities, including those on the internet, must be accessible to everyone. This means that websites must have full equality regarding goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations. Those who do not comply may face penalties and/or legal consequences. In most cases, the ADA will review a violator’s website or physical business and will indicate what has to change.
ADA Compliance Cases
Here are some cases from the ADA in which businesses weren’t ADA compliant and had to change their practices. You’ll find those who had to adjust their websites, their on-boarding processes, and more. One case in particular, the settlement agreement between the United States of America and Ahold & Peapod, LLC, touches on web accessibility:
According to the ADA, they “determined that www.peapod.com is not accessible to some individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or have low vision, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and individuals who have physical disabilities affecting manual dexterity (such as those limiting the ability to use a mouse), in violation of Title III of the ADA.” They said that www.peapod.com’s buttons weren’t labeled correctly, their frames weren’t identified, pop-up modal windows weren’t reported on screen readers, and the tables were missing headers. In order to combat this, Peapod has not only updated their website, but they also provide phone support to those who have disabilities so they can assist them effectively.
Ideally, you want any website visitors to have the ability to use your website with ease, no matter what accessibility impairment they may have. Here is a list of disabilities your users might be dealing with that could impair their ability to navigate your site effectively:
- Hearing impairment (deafness, hard of hearing)
- Visual impairment (low-vision, blindness, color blindness)
- Cognitive impairment (dementia, dyslexia)
- Motor skills and physical abilities (paralysis, carpal tunnel, inability to use a mouse)
Taking this into consideration, you’ll want to review your website and ensure that people can use your services. There are many things to do in order to make your site compliant with the ADA. In order to achieve this, you’ll want meaningful HTML with alt codes over images, text-to-speech software, large buttons for those who can’t maneuver well, and more. You can review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to see if you meet the criteria.
How to Make Your Website User-Friendly for ADA Compliance
1. Keyboard Compatibility
Some website viewers may not have the same ability as others while using a mouse. They might not have the physical capability to use a mouse because of their lack of muscle control, or a person may not be able to see the screen because of a visual impairment; therefore, the mouse becomes useless. This is why you’ll want to ensure that your website can be used solely with a keyboard. . Visitors should be able to navigate the site using the tab button, enter keys, home key, up and down arrows, and other keys (and all other subpages). Here’s an article that explains how you can run a keyboard-friendly test on your own website.
2. Provide Alternative Text
Alternative text (or, “Alt Text”) provides text for non-text content. This is helpful to those who are visually impaired and cannot see the image. An example of alt text for the image below is “A striped kitten in the grass surrounded by flowers. The kitten’s mouth is open wide, and the kitten is either scolding the flowers or is about to eat them.”
3. Proper Organization
Since your users may have to rely on their keyboard to get around your site, you’ll want to ensure that it’s organized. Structure your website content correctly and carefully– be mindful about the flow of your website. It’s easier for people to use your website when you use headings (H2, H3, & H4) properly so they’re following the subheadings in the correct order. Additionally, you will want to provide headers for data tables. Your data tables will need row and column header cells to make it easier for readers to understand them.
Make sure to use easy-to-read fonts and ensure that your content is well-written.
4. Choose Colors Wisely
Although colors may enhance your website’s aesthetic, they must be chosen carefully. People register colors differently, and certain colors are especially difficult to process for those who are colorblind, for example. Not only that, but you also want to pick colors that contrast on your site. For example, if you have a button on your website, you will want to place a dark font over a light background or a light font over a dark background. On a website, this can mean that you have a black button with white text or a light blue button with dark gray text.
5. Accessible Forms
Every form on your website needs to be assigned proper labels. Users must be able to fill out the form accordingly and fix errors, if needed. This means that your forms must be designed carefully, and each field must be clearly labeled to avoid any confusion. Some website building software have accessible form options to help you while you’re creating the form. That’s something you can certainly investigate when building your pages.
6. Resizable Text
Some users may need to use the zoom-in option on your website in order to see text more clearly. When they zoom in, the goal is that the text gets larger so they can see it more easily. You’ll want your website to be able to support the zoom feature so those with visual impairments can access your content. Remember: you’ll want to do this on the desktop version of your website as well as the mobile version.
7. Links are in Context
The buttons on your website should make sense on their own. Meaning, if someone were to only see the button’s texts, it would take them to the appropriate page. For example, if Timesheets.com were to advertise a free trial to users, they wouldn’t want the button to say “click here”. The button should say “Get started with my free trial”, or something of the sort, to clarify the exact action.
Here are some helpful resources to make sure your website is ADA compliant:
In summary, ADA compliance is very complex. Not only does your website have to be user-friendly, but you also must ensure that it is compatible with screen readers and other software those with disabilities may be using. You must take many things into account, such as using closed-captions on videos, ensuring your site is organized, and employing distinguishable colors to make your site accessible to all visitors. As a business, you want to make sure that all customers can use your website with ease. That way they don’t miss out on the goods and services you provide. If you don’t know how to check your website for ADA compliance, there are many companies out there that can evaluate your website for you. Once you evaluate your system, you can start making changes to your site, which will allow you to expand your customer base to all who are interested in what your business has to offer.
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