19 Aug Is My Website ADA Compliant? What Are The Guidelines?
In today’s digital-driven world, ADA compliance extends to the internet as well as the software used by people with disabilities. In the past, the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA primarily focused on physical locations by making them more accessible for people in wheelchairs, those reliant on service dogs, and individuals with visual or hearing impairments. Fast forward to the future where a lot of business is done online, and what once wasn’t an issue for companies in terms of making accommodations for the disabled, now tops the to-do list as a priority.
According to The Wall Street Journal Businesses with websites that can’t be navigated by the blind are getting pummeled with lawsuits.
The number of website-access lawsuits filed in federal court reached 2,250 in 2018, almost three times the 814 filed in 2017, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
What Happens If You Aren’t Compliant Online?
So, how do you create an ADA compliant website? What does it entail? How do you keep it compliant throughout the years when times change and the definition of accessibility does too?
There are no hard fast rules governing ADA compliance. All you must do is be “reasonably accessible” under ADA Title I and ADA Title III. Still, that doesn’t necessarily help the customers you sell to.
Your brand’s reputation is on the line when you don’t adhere fully to ADA guidelines. You risk being sued and being forced to pay steep penalties as a result of your negligence. You risk alienating an entire population of people who could potentially patron your business for life, too.
How Difficult It is to Be 100 Percent Compliant
Start by understanding which businesses are required to comply with the ADA guidelines. By law, any business with at least 15 full-time employees that is in operation for 20 weeks or more per year must be compliant. This includes your online operations. If you are a hotel, bank or form of public transportation, you are subject to Title III and required to make digital accommodations.
What does compliance entail? There is no real way of knowing since a clearly-defined meaning doesn’t exist. That’s what this guide is here for.
We want to make website accessibility something that comes easy for you as a company to develop. That way, there is no problem avoiding fees and maintaining the integrity of your brand. After all, it’s about inclusivity, not exclusivity.
Not only can it be difficult to be 100 percent compliant, but sometimes it can also be very costly to do so. To accommodate visually-impaired and hearing-impaired individuals, it could carry a price tag of tens of thousands of dollars. In many cases, the costs are relatively minimal.
Individual Actions to Take to Be ADA Compliant
Modeling your website after federal websites can ensure that you’ve taken the right precautionary measures to ensure website accessibility. The following list of tips can help steer you in the right direction. You can request a meeting with our web development team at Earning Wise Digital Marketing to come up with a strategy that will result in compliance.
Here’s what you need to do to make your website ADA compliant:
- Decide which language to offer the site in. Visitors to the website should be able to discern the language used throughout the website right away. Including it in the header code allows people with disabilities to make the switch to their preferred language, if offered, easily. It prevents them from not being able to translate the page or understand it because it isn’t compliant with ADA guidelines.
- Keep it consistent. Have the web designer stick to a theme that keeps all important navigational tools within a reasonable distance from each other. This includes any menus, buttons or links housed on the website. Have people with audio and visual impairments beta test the site prior to launching it to give you honest feedback about it. Make recommended adjustments before putting it online permanently
- Make good use of alt tags. This rule applies to all images, videos, and audio files. Without them, people may not know what should be in their place audibly or visually. Alt tags provide context and even help others find your website in the first place when using the search engines. It’s a good practice for all website develops to get into by default because of the benefits it brings to the visitors to your site.
- Allow audio and videos to be transcribed into text. The tone in which these tools are recorded can be translated better when they’re available in a script-like format. Individuals who are blind can have it read out loud to them by a special program on their computers. People who have hearing issues can read the text as opposed to trying to just watch or listen to it.
- Instead of relying strictly on audio and visual cues to indicate an error in navigation, the website should have other ways of telling a visitor that they’re on the wrong page. Having an alert bell ring doesn’t help a person who doesn’t hear well know that they’ve encountered an issue on a website. The very same thing can be applied to visual cues for a person with a visual impairment.
It’s perfectly understandable if you still have questions about compliance. The list above is by no means complete in any way. People’s disabilities range in type and severity.
Additional accommodations may be needed to be made to assist people with special needs further. Consulting with a lawyer familiar with ADA guidelines for digital content is highly advisable. It helps you know if you fall within “reasonable accessibility”.
Failure to Comply Has Steep Consequences
It’s not just penalties and fees that you have to worry about. It’s the relationships that you build in the process. By making compliance a priority, you’re making it so every single visitor has access to your full range of products and services.
You’re not favoring one customer over another. You’re giving people from all walks of life and with all levels of capabilities an equal chance to discover your brand. When considering ways to make your offerings irresistible to others, consider the people who may not view your website in the same way as you do.
Then, strive to make improvements because you want to, not because you’re forced to. You’ll build a better reputation by doing so. People will take note of your brand’s inclusivity and willingness to comply with ADA guidelines without incidence.