If you’re someone who has no Idea about the ADA compliance, ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act and it’s a set of regulations which would help physically limited users.
Well for a lot of us, while accessing the website is second nature. But for people with some physical limitations, it is indeed challenging in some cases like accessing the tools and services provided by the websites.
To make the websites and its services equally accessible to everyone, ADA standards guidelines were created and they need to be implemented in developing a website.
Long before people heard the term e-commerce, The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. Twenty years after the US Department of Justice released an update called the 2010 ADA standards for Accessible Design.
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These standards cover the design of physical spaces and have been interpreted to include web locations as well, so it can be difficult for the would-be accessible website designer to use them.
So, while the ADA itself may not be very specific about web compliance, the goal is clear: that we reach the same level of accessibility online that disabled people are guaranteed by law offline.
Whom does ADA apply?
In a nutshell, businesses covered by the ADA are:
- A Company with more than 15 employees
- Public services at state and local levels (Covered under title II)
- Business operating for the benefit of the public and non-profits. (Covered under title III)
we would discuss more what these tiers are and where they are applicable.
Most businesses are covered under title III, which guarantees:
The full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of “public accommodation” by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation.
Public accommodations include most places of lodging, recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers and places for public display like museums.
While this was obviously written for physical products and locations, case law seems pretty clear that it extends to online business and information as well.
Many private clubs and religious organizations may be exempted, however, because they are neither public accommodations or commercial facilities.
However, if you are working with the federal government, you are actually covered under an entirely different piece of legislation.
Companies that work directly with or take money from the federal government are covered under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which includes significant constraints that may impact website style and design.
Most businesses don’t need to worry about 508 compliance but those who do can use the same tools to bring your website “up to code” that you can for ADA compliance.
ADA Violations and Penalty:
Violations of the aforementioned standards can lead to hefty penalties. Based on the violations, your penalty will be judged, penalties could go up to a $1000 or you could even face a lawsuit.
So what are the levels of compliance?
WCAG 2.0 guidelines are exclusively developed for directing the non-compliant website owners to transform their websites without any difficulty.
There are a total of 3 different levels of confirmation and success criteria:
It isn’t really a difficult compliance but Is also provides the least benefit to impaired users.
The focus of this level is in making it easier for reading on the browsers and also to navigate and translate the website.
While this is an improvement for many websites, it doesn’t make a side as accessible as the DOJ would like It to be.
This level is a little bit more significant and makes sites very much accessible to the people with the wider range of disabilities, including the most common barriers to use.
It won’t impact the look and feel of the site as much as Level AAA compliance, though it does include guidance on color contrast and error identification.
Most businesses should be aiming for Level AA conformity, and it appears to reflect the level of accessibility the DOJ expects.
WCAG 2.0 level AA also appears to be roughly equivalent to the standards in section 508, although WCAG documentation is more specific and more clearly defined than what’s included in section 508.
This is the most demanding level of accessibility compliance, and it will significantly affect the design of the site.
However, it also makes a website accessible to the widest range of people with disabilities.
As mentioned earlier, under each WCAG 2.0 principle is a list of guidelines, and under each guideline are compliance standards, with techniques and failure examples at each level.
Some of them include level A items; others include items for multiple levels of compliance, building A to AAA. At each stage AAA
In this way, many websites include elements at multiple levels of accessibility.
So How to create an ADA compliant website?
It is really important when working for a government agency or government contractor, as these organizations must follow web accessibility guidelines under the Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Although ADA and section 508 compliance are very different, the published checklist for Section 508 offers insight into ways to make websites accessible for people with disabilities, and thereby work toward ADA compliance.
If you wish to check your website for accessibility, use the accessibility checklist published by the US department of health and human services. Read here.
And here is the checklist:
- Every image, video file, audio file, plug-in, etc. has an alt tag
- Complex graphics are accompanied by detailed text descriptions
- The alt descriptions describe the purpose of the objects
- If an image is also used as a link, make sure the alt tag describes the graphics and the link destination
- Decorative graphics with no other function have empty alt descriptions (alt=””)
- Add captions to videos
- Add audio descriptions
- Create text transcripts
- Create a link to the video rather than embedding it into web pages
- Add a link to the media player download
- Add an additional link to the text transcript
- The page should provide alternative links to the image map
- The tags must contain an alt attribute
- Data tables have the column and row headers appropriately identified (using the tag)
- Tables used strictly for layout purposes do not have header rows or columns
- Table cells are associated with the appropriate headers
- Make sure the page does not contain repeatedly flashing images
- Check to make sure the page does not contain a strobe effect
- A link is provided to a disability- accessible page where the plug-in can be downloaded
- All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided
- When form controls are text input fields use the LABEL element
- When text is not available use the title attribute
- Include any special instructions within field labels
- Make sure that form fields are in a logical tab order
- Include a ‘Skip Navigation’ button to help those using text readers
If your website meets all of the above-mentioned criteria, it is likely accessible to people with disabilities. The best test is to obtain feedback on the site’s ease of use from people who are deaf, blind and have mobility disabilities, then address their feedback with site improvements.
When collecting feedback, ask users what type of adaptive technologies they use. This will let you make your website according to the client requirements and it will help you appoint resources toward the best compliance options.
Navigating the internet is particularly challenging for the people with limited or no vision.
Many blind people use specialized web browsers and software that works with standard web browsers, like internet explorer, which has features that enable users to maximize their internet use and experience.
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This screen reading software reads the HTML code for websites and gives the user a verbal translation of what is on the screen.
Web app developers need to keep this in mind when creating a website.
The best screen readers use naturalized voices and alter tone and inflection based on HTML tags, so choose layout elements carefully.
It is also important to keep in mind that navigation is significantly slower when using a screen reader that it is for sighted people.
Sighted people don’t have to wait for the reader to get to the link we want – we spot links quickly and are able to navigate to our sought items, often without having to do any reading at all.
Minimizing graphics also helps shorten reading times and speed navigation for disabled users.
Don’t wait for user feedback to discover the gaps in your website’s accessibility. Simple testing would tell you where the site has too many graphics, and where HTML tags don’t convey information accurately.
It’s wise to do trial runs with as many of the most popular screen readers available:
Here are some of them
- Apple’s VoiceOver is built into OS X Lion
- JAWS works with Microsoft Windows
- Windows comes with a standard screen reader called navigator
- Windows Magnifier is not a text to speech screen reader, but allows the visually impaired user to magnify specific parts of the screen; check your site for visibility magnifier.
- WebbIE works on windows machines and incorporated browsing, screen reading, RSS, Podcatcher and other tools
- Thunder works on windows machines in tandem in WebbIE, and Is a screen reader for accessing the computer GUI and web browsing
- Access Firefox is a Firefox add-on that offers additional accessibility to Firefox users
- Fire Vox is a text to speech add-on for Firefox
Development tools and tutorials exist to help web designers meet compliance standards and go beyond to offer disabled users are the enjoyable experience which makes them come back again.
Check out the following information, it will surely help you
- HTML Best Practices for accessibility
- Microsoft’s Accessibility Overview and tutorials
- Introduction to ARIA
- Semantic HTML
There are many web accessibility tools which will help you in developing an ADA compliant website
- Accessibility Evaluation toolbar for Firefox
- The Develop menu in safari’s toolbar
- WAVE web accessibility Evaluation toolbar for Firefox
- WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool for websites and HTML
- Web Accessibility Toolbar for IE-2011
- VisCheck for accessibility for people with colorblindness
- mobiReady for evaluating accessibility from mobile device
- Stanford University’s Web Accessibility Checker
But why creating an ADA compliant website important?
The US Department of Justice released new amendments to ADA, which are designed to improve web accessibility.
The act now requires all businesses and nonprofit service providers to integrate accessibility accommodations for websites and electronic media, so the disabled public gets to enjoy the same ease of access.
With these amendments, the need to have an ADA-compliant website with improved accessibility is now more important than ever.
So, making your website more accessible comes with added benefits as well – it promotes good design practices and can increase the crowd visiting your website.
How does ADA compliance affect your business?
For most of the businesses, the need for ADA web compliance means they will need to make at least some adjustments to all of their online marketing strategies.
For instance, if your company provides tax preparation services, all of the tax forms you provide for customers to download would need to meet accessibility standards.
Any online tax preparation services that you offer would also need to be configured so they meet ADA standards, as would your mobile app.
If you own lodging services like hotels or inns, you probably have a travel website or a mobile app, virtual concierge through your twitter account, and a reward program that loyalty club members can access through a social site. All of these web components should be audited and adjusted to meet compliance guidelines.
If your web designer has used responsive web design when creating your online marketing strategies, you’re already meeting many of the ADA complaint regulations for hotel websites.
You will still need to make some changes, but you definitely have a head start.
Making the changes right away, before your business is the target of a lawsuit or government action, makes good business sense.
So how do you make sure your website is ADA compliant?
There are 5 steps which will make sure your website is ADA compliant.
Find an ADA agency
Mention ADA compliance to many web developers and you may encounter a blank stare.
What you need to do is find an agency working with the web platform or framework you use and ask about how their development workflow addresses accessibility.
Most platforms have a partner directory. From there, you can start vetting agencies for their actual experience with web accessibility.
For instance, if you have an eCommerce website, you should generally stitch to an agency that specializes in the platform. Almost all the major platforms do support ADA compliance.
You should also aim for agencies that have experience with various tools that checks a website’s accessibility.
Audit your code
The immediate step is running an audit on your site.
The tools will crawl your site and identify all the areas that do not meet web accessibility standards for ADA compliance.
The results will give you a very clear sense of the work involved so you can budget properly and weigh the benefits.
Who knows, your website could already be fairly complaint, leaving you with a lot less work to do.
Determine the level of effort to become compliant
At this point, an agency can use the report to gauge the overall level of effort and provide and estimate.
Good partners will sit down with you and plot out a budget, some timelines, the proposed deliverables and some expectation management.
Perhaps the task list is so large that this approach is just not feasible for your company.
But at least, you’ll understand where you sit with ADA compliance and can plan to address it in the near future. Some critical work is usually better than no change at all.
Put in the work
Once the project has been properly road mapped, it’s time to get to work. Your development agency will start to work on the various tasks and be able to communicate how these changes will positively affect the user experience.
Here are some common ADA issues and the solutions to them
- Images on your site must have some alternative text associated with them in the event they do not render on a device or the user is unable to see the image. The alternative text will then clearly describe what that element is. Without that text, some of the screen readers will not understand what information is being presented.
- If the colors on your site for important elements like buttons do not have enough contrast, then it is hard for users to discern what the button is and where it should go.
- If various inputs for forms on your website do not have proper labels, this makes it hard if not impossible for certain ADA devices to interpret their function.
Stay up to date on compliance standards post launch
ADA compliance isn’t a set it and forget it thing!
Compliance standards keep on updating and you need to update your website too.
There are certain guidelines which all the websites need to follow to be ADA compliant.
It is usually not much of a burden, but it does require some web managers to change their workflows.
For example, loading images up to your eCommerce site will always need some of that alternative text.
What do you get if your website is ADA compliant? Is the question everyone would obviously have in their head.
I will mention 5 reasons to make your website ADA compliant.
You wouldn’t want to lose your customers
Not every person in the world is the same, there are many people with different disabilities.
To be in the competition you need to take into account the needs of all your potential customers.
If you are unable to provide a service or information about your products or services to any of your customers, your competitors will readily make it instead of you.
ADA compliance websites make the range of your potential customer wider. According to the American community survey, the percentage of people who have a disability in the US is about 12% as of 2015 which is not a small number and over half of them are employed.
Which means without ADA potential customers who could be interested in your products or services. As people with disabilities visit your website, they will simply not be able to access the information they need, not to mention the purchases if you have an e-commerce website.
You could lose on your money
If your website is not accessible, your potential customers cannot access the information on your website.
Especially if it is an eCommerce website, imagine all the sales you would make if your website was already compliant.
It will build your reputation
Building a supportive business that cares about customers is the right way to go, which will bring you closer to success.
Once you take a step towards making your website ADA compliant, you will obtain impressive results.
New customers will come and will share information about your ADA compliant website and its services with their peers, relatives, and friends. Which gains an attractive image of your company and build a good reputation.
The Government wants your website to be compliant
Remember the laws I have mentioned which are implemented?
Yes, you need to make your website and applications ADA compliant otherwise you need to face the lawsuit along with some fine. Good luck with that!
It won’t affect your website
Making your website and apps ADA complaint will not affect the design or business of your website, as I have mentioned above it actually does well for you.
From Government related firms to E-commerce websites, owners should anticipate in making their website ADA compliant. Not just for business purposes but also for the practice of good design techniques.
Avoid litigations by getting ahead of the curve, and improve your customer service along the way by implementing ADA compliant techniques.
On some occasions, all it takes is some awareness. If you think you need to make your website ADA compliant or check if it is fairly complaint, we are ready to help you with that.
NMG has its own ADA compliant professionals, that can provide professional help in making your website and also mobile applications ADA compliant.
Contact us here!