Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of ability. Due to this law, certain businesses must make accommodations for those with disabilities.
In 2001, the ADA Standards for Accessible Design were also passed. This extended the ADA compliance requirements to electronic and information technologies. Yes, that means your website.
But which businesses must be ADA compliant? And how do you know if your web design has achieved ADA compliance?
The ADA standards are important, and you should try to incorporate them into the design of your website.
For disabled users ADA sets out with some good standards on how to build a website. For your customers that have disabilities by complying with the standards it helps them not to miss out on your website’s experience.
The following four principals are the primary basis on which ADA Compliance is determined.
Who’s Required to Comply with ADA?
Technically, not all businesses must have an ADA-compliant website, though it is a good idea. The only businesses required by law, though, are those who meet these standards:
At least 15 full-time employees
Operates at least 20 weeks out of the year
Additionally, “public accommodation” businesses are also required to meet ADA compliance, whether or not they meet the above qualifications. This includes businesses such as:
If your business meets any of the above qualifications and your website isn’t ADA compliant, it may be time to change up your website designs.
Is My Website ADA Compliant?
Unfortunately, there are no clear rules when it comes to website ADA compliance. In general, your website needs to feature certain accessibility features that allow those with disabilities to use it.
For many organizations, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a good place to start. Though this guideline isn’t technically a legal requirement, it is the accepted gold standard for website accessibility.
There are three different versions of the WCAG, with version 2.1 being the most up-to-date. There are also three different levels of compliance you can achieve. These are:
A – bare minimum accessibility
AA – target level to achieve legal requirements
AAA – exceeds accessibility requirements
According to WCAG 2.1, your web content should meet these criteria:
You should present content in a way that is easy to perceive. For example, you can offer alternatives to text, such as videos or audio. This allows those with visual impairments to access the website content.
It should be easy to navigate your website. An example would be enabling keyboard accessibilities. These allow those with physical abilities to navigate your website and access content without needing a mouse.
The content itself should be easy to understand. Content should be easily readable and generally predictable. Input assistance should also be available to those who need it.
Various kinds of devices should be able to easily interpret your content. For example, those utilizing assistive technology should still be able to access your content on any device or platform.
The above examples are just a few suggestions to make your website accessible. In general, those with hearing loss and visual impairments should be able to access your website and website content. Your site should also be accessible to those with language, cognitive, or learning disabilities.
Achieving WCAG compliance, at least to level AA, should protect your business from legal ramifications regarding the ADA.
Developing Accessible Custom Websites
Your website and marketing materials should all be ADA compliant. Not only for legal protection, but also to attract a wider audience to your brand.
But what do ADA-compliant content and web design actually look like?
Keep in mind the following guidelines:
Focus on Content
Website, social media, email, and advertising content need to be accessible to those with any of the four types of disabilities: visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive.
To achieve this, focus on the four basic building blocks of your content:
Users with visual impairments may be using a screen reader to access your content. It is critical that you use the proper heading structure when creating your content.
This means you should use the proper heading tags (such as H1) instead of simply changing the font size. You should also keep your headings in their logical order (H2 follows H1 and so on). This gives your site an easy-to-understand structure.
Keep sentences short. Your content should get to the point. For those with cognitive disabilities, web content should be easy to read and understand.
Short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and bolded keywords also improve content readability.
Link Text and Accessible Files
Any linked text should be descriptive. This makes it so readers easily know where the link will lead. Any links to files such as Word documents, PDFs, or PowerPoints should also be easily accessible.
Accessible web design isn’t just good for those with disabilities. In fact, everyone benefits from accessible design.
Videos should feature subtitles or transcripts. This helps those with hearing impairments or learning disabilities to understand video content. Audio descriptions should also be available for those with visual impairments.
Similarly, images should feature alt text descriptions for those with visual impairments. You also should avoid using color to convey meaning, as more than 4% of the world’s population is considered color blind.
The fonts you use also determine your website’s accessibility. In general, limit the number of fonts you use. Stick to sans serif, as those are easiest to read.
Keyboard navigation is essential to your website. This enables those with motor disabilities or those using screen readers to access content without the use of a mouse.
You should also label forms and tables. This allows those with screen readers to understand the information. Much like the rest of your website content, tables and forms should have a logical flow to them.
CTA buttons also need to be accessible. This is critical for boosting your conversions amongst those with and without disabilities.
Custom Web Design for Every Ability
Now that you know more about how to make your website ADA compliant, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not your website meets the critical criteria. If it doesn’t, it’s time to talk to the experts.
Schedule a meeting with our team to discuss how you can take your web design to the next level. From ADA compliance to functional flow, we’ll make sure your site is accessible to those of every ability.