The Internet and the World Wide Web are arguably the most crucial tools of the modern age, making it essential to prioritize accessibility and ADA website compliance. They have made an unprecedented amount of human knowledge and information accessible to nearly 4.4 billion people, which is over half of the global population. The internet has transformed how we communicate, interact, and connect with each other. The UN even considers internet access a universal human right due to its importance.

Unfortunately, many users with disabilities struggle to access or use the internet because numerous websites are not designed with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in mind. Websites that fail to meet ADA standards can exclude millions from the internet’s benefits. Ensuring websites are accessible to everyone should be a top priority for developers and website owners.

This guide on website accessibility according to ADA standards will explain what ADA compliance means for online platforms and why accessibility is essential. It will also provide a checklist to help make your website as ADA-compliant and accessible as possible. This information is particularly valuable for people with disabilities and web designers, but it is also relevant to anyone using the internet. Website accessibility affects all internet users, not just those with disabilities or those who own websites. Creating ADA-compliant and universally accessible websites ensures everyone can fully access and utilize the internet.

What Is ADA Compliance and Website Accessibility?

An ADA-compliant website meets the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have the same access to technology as everyone else. Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in various aspects of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and all public and private venues open to the general public. The Act also requires employers to accommodate employees with disabilities and mandates certain measures to make public spaces more accessible, significantly improving daily accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) itself, which was enacted in 1990, requires that places of public accommodation be accessible to people with disabilities. Courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have interpreted this to include websites, especially for businesses and organizations that are open to the public. Although Google has encouraged website accessibility by ranking ADA-compliant sites higher in search results, much progress is still needed to make the entire web accessible to all users.

What Is 508 Compliance?

Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, introduced in 1998, which requires federal agencies to make their “information and communication technologies” accessible to users with disabilities. According to Section 508, a website or technology is considered “accessible” if individuals with disabilities can use it as effectively as those without disabilities. Many steps to enhance website accessibility are relatively straightforward. Examples of Section 508 compliant features include making text easier for screen readers to convert to audio, ensuring all visual elements have descriptive text, and providing transcriptions for all audio clips and videos on your website.

Not all federal agencies or websites need to be Section 508 compliant, and there are exceptions for reasons such as national security and maintenance access. Section 508 compliance also applies to nonprofits receiving federal funds, public schools, and public colleges and universities. Even if your website is not legally required to comply with Section 508, it’s still beneficial for website designers and IT professionals to consider adhering to these standards. When planning your website, you don’t want to exclude anyone, particularly any key audience segments. You can find a comprehensive list of Section 508 standards on the United States Access Board website.

Why Is ADA Compliance Important?

ADA compliance and website accessibility are crucial because people with disabilities should be able to use the internet as effectively as those without disabilities. The internet is an essential part of daily life, and everyone deserves equal access to it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 16 percent of the global population has a significant disability, which amounts to roughly 1.3 billion people. This makes individuals with disabilities a substantial portion of the world’s population.

However, only a small fraction of websites are accessible and useful for people with disabilities. A 2023 study by The WebAIM Million found that 96.3 percent of the top 1 million website homepages had detectable Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) errors. Although this is a slight improvement from 97.8 percent over the past four years, these prevalent errors still significantly hinder web accessibility. It’s important to note that this study only examined the homepages of popular websites and used automated tests to identify these errors. This suggests that overall accessibility is still very low for people with disabilities.

Currently, the internet remains challenging (and sometimes nearly impossible) for individuals with disabilities to navigate. However, improving website accessibility is not just about addressing this issue. There are additional, wide-ranging benefits to creating universally accessible websites, which can positively impact not only people with disabilities and website owners but the majority of internet users in general.

Benefits of ADA Compliance

Avoids Legal Complications

Creating an accessible website can help you avoid potential legal issues, such as discrimination claims from people with disabilities. It also ensures that your organization can collaborate with different groups or government agencies that mandate universal accessibility.

Improves Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Accessible websites can improve search engine rankings. Google prioritizes accessible sites, and many accessibility features make it easier for search engine bots to evaluate your site, further boosting your rankings.

Generates Positive PR

An accessible website can enhance your organization’s reputation, differentiate you from competitors, and showcase your commitment to inclusivity.

ADA Website Compliance Checklist

Creating an accessible website can be daunting, but planning for accessibility from the start can lead to thoughtful, deliberate, and high-quality web design. While you can make changes to an existing site to improve accessibility, beginning these preparations early in the design process ensures a smoother experience.

Although each individual with a disability is unique, certain site elements and features can make your website more accessible to the community at large. Here is an ADA compliance checklist to help you make your website more usable for people with disabilities:

ADA Compliance in Website Development

Flexible Text Size:

Ensure users can adjust the font size on your website. Avoid hardcoding text size to allow users to make it smaller or larger according to their needs.

Zoom Functions:

Enable the zoom feature on your site for both desktop and mobile devices. Ensure that your layout can adapt to at least 200 percent zoom without losing functionality or usability.

Closed Captioning and Subtitles on Videos:

Provide accurate closed captioning or subtitles for all videos, regardless of the spoken language. If using automated captioning, verify its accuracy and make necessary updates.
CAPTCHAs: Ensure your CAPTCHAs are accessible or provide alternatives for users who cannot complete them. Traditional CAPTCHAs can block access for some users with disabilities.

Keyboard Accessibility:

Make your site fully navigable using only a keyboard. While many sites are designed for mouse navigation and mobile touch screens, keyboard accessibility is essential for many users.

Multi-Touch Gestures:

Avoid requiring complex multi-touch gestures on your site, particularly for mobile versions. These can be difficult or impossible for some users to perform.

Allow users who rely on keyboards or screen readers to skip repetitive content like navigation menus or headers and go directly to or video clips, pop-ups, and other automatic flashing or moving elements can be distracting or harmful to some users. Always warn users before any unexpected flashing or movement, and provide options to disable these features.

Button and Link Size:

Ensure buttons, links, and other touch targets are appropriately sized. Small elements can be difficult for those not using a mouse to click, while overly large elements can cause accidental clicks for users with motor control difficulties.

Avoid Purchase Time-Outs:

Avoid canceling purchases if users take longer than a designated amount of time to complete them. This can be particularly problematic for users who need more time to add items to their cart or complete the checkout process.

Simple Navigation:

Create a clear, concise navigational structure that allows users to tab through interactive elements in a meaningful order. This improves navigation for all users, including those relying on keyboards.

Forms and Input Fields:

Use clear and concise labels for form fields and associate labels with their respective input elements. Provide helpful error messages and instructions to guide users when completing forms.

ADA Compliance in UX/UI Design

Text Instead of Images for Important Information:

Avoid using images to convey important or critical information; use text instead, so text-to-speech readers can interpret it. For important images or graphics, include alternate text or descriptions.

Screen Reader Accessibility:

Ensure your website is easily read by screen readers and text-to-speech programs. Use descriptive, non-generic terms for links, lists, and headers. Keep the language on the page concise, easy to read, and appropriately identified to help screen readers communicate the information clearly.

Avoid Animations, Autoplay, and Popups:

Animations, autoplaying audio or video clips, pop-ups, and other automatic flashing or moving elements can be distracting or harmful to some users. Always warn users before any unexpected flashing or movement, and provide options to disable these features.

Button and Link Size:

Ensure buttons, links, and other touch targets are appropriately sized. Small elements can be difficult for those not using a mouse to click, while overly large elements can cause accidental clicks for users with motor control difficulties.

Avoid Purchase Time-Outs:

Avoid canceling purchases if users take longer than a designated amount of time to complete them. This can be particularly problematic for users who need more time to add items to their cart or complete the checkout process.

Simple Navigation:

Create a clear, concise navigational structure that allows users to tab through interactive elements in a meaningful order. This improves navigation for all users, including those relying on keyboards.

Forms and Input Fields:

Use clear and concise labels for form fields and associate labels with their respective input elements. Provide helpful error messages and instructions to guide users when completing forms.

ADA Compliance in Content & Copywriting

Descriptive Titles, Headers, Links, and Buttons:

Ensure each page has unique titles and headers, and all hyperlinks have distinctive anchor text. Titles, headers, and links should clearly describe the associated content. Use heading style designations for headers instead of just changing the font, color, or size. Keep hyperlinks underlined. Buttons and call-to-actions should clearly indicate their destination, such as “Learn More about Our Services” rather than just “Learn More.”

Audio Transcripts:

Provide text-based transcripts for all audio clips and videos on your site. Make sure that these transcripts are screen reader friendly.

Simple English:

Use straightforward language, avoiding jargon, uncommon words, and complex sentence structures. This is particularly important for many deaf and partial hearing loss individuals whose first language might be sign language rather than English.

Text Summaries:

Break up long sentences or paragraphs into smaller sections. Use headers and subheaders to improve readability, and provide shorter text summaries for easier understanding.

Consistent Formatting:

Maintain a consistent text formatting style throughout your website, including font size, style, and spacing, to enhance readability. Avoid using underlined text unless it is a hyperlink to another page or resource.

Abbreviations and Acronyms:

When first introducing an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out completely and follow it with the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses.

Text-to-Speech Compatibility:

Write content that is compatible with text-to-speech software, ensuring it reads well when converted to speech.

Email Content:

When sending emails, avoid using screen captures of text, as these will be recognized as images and inaccessible to screen readers. Instead, write out the full content of the email to ensure compatibility with accessibility tools.

ADA Compliance in Graphic Design

Alternate Image Text:

Every image and video on your site should include descriptive alt text. This text enables screen readers to describe the visual content aloud, ensuring that all visitors, including those with visual impairments, can fully engage with your site. Effective graphic design goes beyond visual appeal by incorporating these accessibility features.

Color Coding and Contrast:

Do not rely solely on color to convey meaning or information. Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and background colors to enhance readability. Provide multiple color schemes to accommodate users with visual impairments, such as limited vision or color blindness.

Fonts and Typography:

Select fonts that are legible and scalable. Sans-serif fonts are generally easier to read online, so it’s best to use fonts within this family.

Animation and Interaction:

Avoid using excessive or distracting animations that could disorient users or trigger seizures. Allow users to pause, stop, or adjust the speed of any auto-scrolling or moving content to enhance usability.

Maintain Design Consistency:

Ensure a consistent design across all website pages. Consistency helps users predict where to find information and controls, improving overall navigation and the user experience.

Additional ADA Compliance Suggestions

There are numerous accessible features you should consider adding to your website compliance checklist. Many of these features contribute to creating a high-quality website and are generally useful for all users, regardless of whether they have a disability:

Multiple Contact Options:

Provide various contact methods on your site. Include your phone number and email address as a minimum. You could also offer a web form and a physical or mailing address to accommodate different preferences.

Alternative Content:

Offer links for alternative formats or downloadable documents, such as PDFs, which may be easier to read or view for some users.

Language Options:

If your business serves customers who speak languages other than English, consider providing translations of key content or information on language access services to avoid excluding these individuals.

Get ADA Compliance with a Carefully created Website from CTI Miami

Ready to make your website accessible to everyone? At CTI Miami our web accessibility experts specialize in designing and developing ADA-compliant websites that cater to all users, including those with disabilities. Our team of experts understands the importance of website accessibility and is dedicated to helping you create a high-quality, user-friendly site that meets ADA standards.

Don’t let accessibility issues hold back your business. Partner with CTI Miami to ensure your website is inclusive, legally compliant, and optimized for all users.

Summary

If you’re ready to enhance your website’s accessibility and require WCAG compliance services, look no further than CTI Miami. Our website accessibility solutions are designed to meet legal standards and exceed user expectations. We’re committed to helping you create a website that is inclusive and user-friendly for all individuals, including those with disabilities. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in building a more accessible and resilient online presence.

 

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