How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
Find the fastest route, have groceries delivered to your doorstep, make a doctor appointment, type an email, watch baby shark videos, or apply for a job. The internet can help us do almost anything, from the mundane to the critical. Now, imagine NOT being able to do any of this.
How frustrating would it be? How badly would you want access to this life-changing stuff?
According to the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report, 12.8% of the U.S. population, about 42 million people, have a disability. These people often find it harder–sometimes impossible–to interact with websites to order products, schedule an appointment, or fill out a simple form. If someone cannot use your website because of a disability that affects their hearing, vision or physical capacities (including advanced age), the site is considered not accessible.
This is a problem. And ignoring web accessibility can cost you.
While it’s virtually impossible for a site to be 100% accessible (due to a volume of factors), there are things you can do to get it close. This series will help you get there.
What is Web Accessibility?
A website is considered accessible if it is available to (usable by) every individual regardless of disability, situation, or other factors.
(In case you’re wondering: Internet access does not equal web accessibility, although they sound similar.)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law designed to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title III of the ADA mandates that all business open to the public are required to remove barriers to access. Some courts have ruled that websites are “places of public accommodation,” and therefore must comply with accessibility guidelines. And an increasing number of organizations are being sued for not having accessible websites.
So, what does ADA compliance mean for websites? It means that copy, video, images, guided tours, forms, the like button–it should all be made accessible. To find out how, keep reading.
Types of Impairments
This is often where our mind goes when we think of people who may have issues navigating a website. Visual impairments can range from mild vision loss to total blindness. Color blindness falls into this category as well.
Any type of hearing loss or deafness is considered an auditory impairment, including the use of a hearing aid. Though these individuals may have perfect vision, any video or audio on a site could be lost to them, as they are unable to properly hear the content.
This is a large category, as it involves neurological, behavior, and mental disorders that may affect the way users interact with their environment. Conditions such as ADHD, autism, learning disabilities (dyslexia), memory impairments, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy all fall into this category.
Sometimes referred to as “motor impairments,” physical impairments range from arthritis and carpal tunnel, to paralysis and missing limbs.
These individuals have difficulty expressing themselves through audible language or speech. While this often doesn’t apply to websites, they need to be taken into account, as any software only accessible through voice or a business that only provides a phone number as a means of contact would prove inaccessible for a speech impaired person.
Four reasons to care about website accessibility
Would you like customers and friends to say “wow, that business is considerate and savvy”?
Here are three more reasons to care about web accessibility.
- Creating an accessible website is good for your business. You can serve a portion of the marketplace that many people ignore. If your website is accessible, more people can buy your products and services. In addition, if you’re trying to recruit and retain talent, having an ADA compliant website enables all types of talent to apply.
- Making your website usable for everyone is part of being a good neighbor. Web accessibility shouldn’t be just one more thing on your to-do list. Your business should desire to provide access to the products, services, or information you’re offering because it helps people get what they need.
- Stay on the right side of the law. It’s wise for companies to consider how to reduce their liability, and to put in place a compliance strategy to address accessibility issues. (It’s mandatory for government entities or organizations that receive government funding.)The reason? Although federal courts across the country are divided on whether websites are subject to ADA accessibility requirements, lawsuits are on the rise–with 814 lawsuits in 2017 and 685 as of August 16th, 2018. Netflix was sued in 2012 for not offering closed captioning, and now provides it. And Target lost millions in a lawsuit with the Federation for the Blind in 2006. Having a third party audit your site and implementing changes can go a long way to reduce your risk.
What’s the cost of accessibility?
I realize that at this point you might be seeing dollar signs. Stick with me.
- When accessibility is considered from the get-go when building a new site, the cost is far less than redoing your site later.
- If you need to make your existing site accessible, there is some work to do. But it may be minor. And obviously, the larger your site, the more work there may be to do.
Is your website accessible?
Here are three questions to ask yourself to see if you’re on the right track.
1. Are you using alt tags for images?
2. Are you using informative calls-to-action like “Call for a quote” instead of “click here”?
3. Is there a high contrast of color between background color and text?
If you answered yes, way to go.
If you answered no, it’s time to get to work.