Have ADA rules and regulations got you scratching your head in confusion? Are you in doubt about what being ADA compliant on your website actually entails? We promise you are not the only one. Monsido can help you on your way to a more accessible site and ensure you avoid an ADA lawsuit. Here we provide an overview of what ADA compliance means in terms of web accessibility and guide you through the steps you need to become compliant.
What Is The ADA and How Does It Relate To Websites?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was passed on July 26th 1990, and covers the equal and fair treatment of people with disabilities and secures their equal rights in five fields: Employment; State and Local Government; Public Accommodations; Telecommunication and Miscellaneous Provisions. These are usually referred to as Title I, II, III, IV, and V of the ADA. Public websites fall under Title II while private have been ruled to need accessibility in compliance with Title III. This states that all facilities owned by private companies that are open to the general public (hotels, schools, restaurants, gyms, retailers, libraries, doctors etc.) must secure equal access to information and services for all users, including websites that can be used by everyone. Therefore, it is a requirement according to the ADA that your site is optimized for people with a variety of disabilities such as sight and hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and other disabilities.
Is ADA Compliance Mandatory for Websites?
Bonus resource: Do Websites Have To Be ADA Compliant? For now, yes.
Requirements for Web Accessibility and ADA Compliance
- Perceivable - all users should be able to access all information on your website and that information should be perceivable.
- Provide alt text for images
- Allow content to be presented in different ways, such as through assistive technology.
- Provide transcripts for videos or audio recordings
- Operable - all users should be able to navigate your site without inconvenience and access all menus, search bars, and options for modification.
- All website functionality should be available on your keyboard
- Avoid flickering or flashing content that can trigger photosensitive reactions
- Provide clear indicators of where navigation elements are or provide means to help users find them.
- Understandable - all users should be able to understand all content and features with relative ease and instruction of use should be provided when necessary.
- Content and website elements should appear and behave in a predictable manner
- Provide messages or prompts to help users avoid or correct mistakes
- Make text readable and understandable
- Robust - your website content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a variety of user agents, like assistive technologies, and must be able to accommodate for any advancements in these technologies.
Compliance Checklist for Websites
The guidelines come in three compliance levels namely A, AA, and AAA. A covers the most basic accessibility features and AAA is fully compliant. AAA will be close to unattainable for most so aspiring for Level AA compliance is considered the best option for most businesses and organizations.
Here are 8 of the main points of accessibility covered by WCAG to get you started:
- Use text alternatives (alt text) to convey the context and purpose of visual content. Text alternatives render the information of visual content into electronic text that can be presented in a form that best fits the requirements of the user. (See our guide to writing good alt text here)
- Multimedia, while providing users with a richer and more diversified experience on the web, can be limiting to those with audio or visual impairments. Providing text transcripts and captions for audio content, such as recordings of a radio interview, or adding a sign language interpretation of audio content can help overcome these limiting factors.
- Content should be presented in different formats and users should be able to change the presentation of content. Examples of different content presentations include allowing options for content to be read aloud, displaying content in custom color combinations, using correct color contrasts, or creating mobile-friendly content.
- Content perception and comprehension are not made equal. Some users may need more time to read instructions, type, or complete tasks on a website. Care should be taken to adjust time-sensitive elements on a website and to use dynamic content that does not interrupt, pause, blink, or scroll. Content that is animated and that flashes at certain rates can also be harmful to those with photosensitive disorders. Such content should be avoided or a warning of the nature of the content should be presented beforehand.
- Navigation is an essential element of user experience and creating a site with well-organized content can provide users with disabilities an equal opportunity to experience the website fully based on their needs. An important aspect to consider regarding accessible navigation is to understand how users interact with site structures such as hierarchical menus, search boxes, and site maps.
- Text content should be readable and understandable in all the formats it is presented in. The level of comprehension of the text should cater to the broadest audience possible so that it is inclusive to those with learning disabilities and other cognitive limitations. Providing measures to help users avoid and correct mistakes is also essential. This can help people who do not see or hear the content or may not recognize implicit relationships, sequences, and other cues on web elements such as forms.
- Ensure that the content on your site follows a predictable and consistent pattern and interface. A consistent design can help users learn to navigate the site quickly and follow predictable patterns to achieve certain goals on a site.
- Demonstrate your commitment to your web accessibility efforts to your customers and stakeholders by including an accessibility statement on your site. An accessibility statement should include the accessibility guidelines and standards your website follows including the intended level of accessibility, contact information in the event that visitors find issues with the accessibility of the site, and an acknowledgment of any exceptions to the standards based on limitations of the site. You can use an accessibility statement generator to quickly create a complete and compliant statement.
How to Check If Your Website is ADA Compliant
Checking your website for ADA compliance is a matter of testing your website’s accessibility. Here are three methods to approach website accessibility testing:
Manual testing is usually conducted by accessibility experts or consultants with technical experience and includes items like reviewing the navigation, making sure any forms are functioning properly, and checking the mobile interface to see whether users can pinch and zoom content.
On the backend, manual testing includes a review of metadata and alternative text for images, as well as semantic structure. Manual web accessibility testing can be quite time-consuming.
Automated web accessibility testing is much faster, with software that evaluates code for WCAG compliance and uncovers errors. Designers and/or developers may need to make changes, based on the website accessibility scan — each finding requires review, so there is no 100%-automated process for testing a website’s accessibility.
HybridA hybrid approach is always the best practice for ensuring website accessibility, especially because some features — like keyboard-only navigation, and page-scrolling — cannot be properly tested with software.
Bonus resource: Website Accessibility Testing: How to Offer the Best User Experience
- Hire an accessibility expert, either in-house or as an external consultant to conduct manual accessibility checks on a regular basis
- Test your website and digital assets with focus groups consisting of users with disabilities
- Invest in an automated testing software like Monsido to audit your site frequently for accessibility errors
- Incorporate web accessibility practices into your organization’s culture and provide accessibility training to your employees
- Provide a feedback mechanism where users can submit issues or queries when they encounter accessibility issues.
- Create and publish a publicly-available web accessibility policy
- Publish an accessibility statement on your website outlining your commitment to web accessibility, details of your accessibility policy and the technology you are using to achieve it.