What ADA Compliance Means For Your Website? Common ADA Compliance Issues and How to Fix Them.
How many times have you heard about not reaching enough people? Or, the possibility of leaving money on the table because you avoid certain updates. When it comes to compliance, there are a few updates you cannot afford to miss. In fact, missing most, if not all, can cost you more than what you bargained for…
If money is the only factor, then you’ll likely get the side eye. Because, regardless of your bottom line, the reason to maintain compliance with this is simply being human. Human connection reaches well beyond day-to-day interactions. The internet has created an incredible network that reaches almost everyone.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. With your website, the main protection deals with accessibility for said individuals due to any visual, cognitive, or mobility issues. This means that your website should allow any individual to be able to access that content with ease, barring any complications. According to businessnewsdaily, maintaining an ADA-compliant website helps protect your business from lawsuits and fines, while simultaneously protecting future customers.
According to the CDC, approximately 61 million individuals in the U.S. are living with some form of disability. That’s about 25% of the population, all of whom represent potential new employees and customers protected by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA compliance should be important for every organization, especially those that have a large and diverse audience such as schools, universities, public and private corporations, and nonprofits.
In this article, we will look at some common website compliance issues with tips to correct them.
As technology continues to advance, it is imperative that businesses expand how they reach their customers to practice inclusion, accessibility, and usability for all. Later we will discuss the overlapping terms and their importance.
Let’s discuss some of the principles that web developers and stakeholders must consider when going through the designing process.
Usablenet.com reported observing a steady increase in the number of accessibility lawsuits since around 2018. They have been tracking the occurrence since then and without a doubt, the numbers are rising. In the past five years, over sixteen thousand cases were filed; although not completely attributed to sixteen thousand individuals, that is still a significantly large number with most of the cases against e-commerce sites.
The civil rights division of the DOJ highlighted in their web governance update noted that people with disabilities access the web for several reasons. As such, ensuring web accessibility has become one of the main priorities for the department in recent years.
So, what can you do to maintain the core element of web accessibility as directed by the DOJ? Follow their web content guideline principles.
Web Content Guideline Principles
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are considered the international standard for web accessibility. While the DOJ allows for some flexibility in how businesses comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication, they must comply with the requirements. The guideline indicates that web content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust or POUR. We will discuss what each of these standards means below.
The WCAG perceivability requirements are simple. Present content in a way that is easily understood by all users. This means all the senses must detect it. There should be no room for ambiguity and individuals using assistive technologies should not encounter difficulties. For example, individuals with visual impairments should be able to access the content using a screen reader or converted to large print.
To be operable means that users can interact with the content on the website. Users should have tools readily available to them to move through the site. Presenting the content with clear, consistent titles, subtitles, and headings throughout and little to no flashing in video content to prevent seizures.
This principle is self-explanatory. The content must be understandable by all and free from jargon or technical terms. Forms and other content should be clear, and all users should have a good understanding of what you are presenting. This means, no one should have to keep the dictionary handy when accessing your content.
Your content should work regardless of the operating system or device. It should also be usable with assistive technology, in mobile formats and fields must be accessible.
Following the WCAG ensures that there is accessibility, inclusion, and usability for everyone, especially for people with disabilities. Bear in mind that the extent of the disabilities falls into various categories.
Accessibility, Inclusion, and Usability
The whole purpose of ADA compliance is to ensure accessibility, inclusion, and usability of web content for people with disabilities. As mentioned before, the degree of disability varies and as such, proper attention must be placed on how content is presented.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility indicates that when a website is accessible, this is an indication that individuals with disabilities can easily and equally perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the content. Well within the WCAG.
So, what is the difference between accessibility, inclusion, and usability?
While closely related and may overlap in certain aspects of the design process. There may be instances where they should be addressed separately. The WAI states that accessibility addresses the discriminatory aspects as it relates to user experience for people with disabilities. Usability covers the designing portion in that products should be effective, efficient, and satisfying and while this includes user experience, it was noted that usability does not always address the needs of people with disabilities.
Plainly put, inclusion is about diversity; ensuring that everyone is covered. While also addressing the following:
- Accessibility for people with disabilities
- Access to and quality of hardware, software, and Internet connectivity
- Computer literacy and skills
- Economic situation
- Geographic location
- Age, including older and younger people
While not always an easy task for developers, stakeholders must require and include all these requirements in their request to remain ADA compliant. Target’s six-million-dollar lawsuit set a precedent for accessibility cases. Other lawsuits included big names like Harvard, Netflix, and Winn Dixie.
So, the question remains if large well-known corporations can have accessibility issues then can we truly be ADA-compliant?
When the ADA was formed, no laws governed the digital space. Now with increased and evolving usage, web spaces are considered somewhat public domain and therefore should have some standards.
Common ADA Compliance Issues and How to Fix them.
Whether you are thinking about an overhaul of your website or planning a new build. Many ADA compliance issues can be remedied. As previously mentioned, regular maintenance in accordance with the rules and regulations should keep you in check.
Compliance and SEO
Another important element for ADA compliance is SEO hygiene and optimization best practices. According to Search Engine Journal, an ADA-compliant website includes some important elements for SEO, particularly, anchor text, breadcrumb links, consistent navigation, descriptive alt text, improved image search ranking, responsive design, sitemaps, title tags, transcriptions, and user experience. A natural win-win situation.
You can use the web accessibility evaluation tool (WAVE) to check your website for compliance issues. But that is only the beginning.
Here are some of the common issues and how to fix them. The ADA checks for compliance that covers four main areas of disability. There must be accessibility for individuals with visual, auditory, cognitive, learning, neurological, physical, and speech disabilities.
Websites that have content that is not accessible to users with disabilities, such as images without alt text, videos without captions, and PDFs that are not tagged correctly.
Poor website structure
A website that is difficult to navigate may be a result of poor website structure. They typically lack clear headings and labels, or the content is cluttered, causing difficulties for people with disabilities to navigate.
Inadequate color contrast
Inadequate color contrast significantly affects the readability of a website for the visually impaired.
Every content on your website should be accessible, especially forms. Forms that are unable to be detectable by screen readers can create additional barriers for users with disabilities.
A dynamic website is aesthetically pleasing, however, videos without captions and audio without description are especially difficult for people with disabilities to access.
Inaccessible website design
Your website should be designed with accessibility in mind. Relying on mouse-only navigation or using non-standard user interface components are problematic for users with disabilities.
Lack of keyboard accessibility
Users with mobility impairments will have trouble using your website if they cannot be navigated using only a keyboard.
Although these issues appear simple, some might present growing difficulties. Lawsuits are filed on some of these basic issues causing a negative impact on your brand’s image.
Audit and Repair
Checking for surface accessibility errors is easy. Among the available tools is WAVE as mentioned previously. But that’s only a start. Getting help with combing through those issues with a plan to correct them is vital. With over 15 years in the web development community, WDB is equipped to check the nuts and bolts on your website. Getting someone proficient allows for accountability with compliance. More importantly, establishing a maintenance relationship provides some ease. Knowing that regardless of the updates you have a team capable of making the necessary changes.
There are many people living with disabilities that use the internet daily. Some might already be your customers and others could be interested in your offers. You have a responsibility to ensure that your website’s accessibility is ADA-compliant, and it continues to be. Avoiding a long and expensive legal battle must be prioritized, but also ensuring that users regardless of their capabilities, have access to your content.
A web team is what you need to ensure your compliance is on par with the ADA standards. Schedule a call with us to go over your audit and create a pathway for repair.