ADA Website Compliance - A Brief Overview
By: Nikki Dent
You might have been hearing a lot of chatter about ADA compliance over the past year. If you’ve been left wondering what it all means for your business and website, we have you covered! Let’s take a closer look at what the ADA is, what compliance looks like, and how you can move your website in the right direction.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation that grants equal access to products and services to all individuals regardless of impairment. In our modern era, this now also applies to accessibility on the Internet. Websites that cater to the general public should make sure that their site is accessible to all. In making your website ADA compliant you not only are bringing your business up to speed with the law but are also opening your business up to new customers.
What Does ADA Compliance Mean?
To make sure your site is meeting all the ADA regulations, you’ll want to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines were written by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are built around a set of 12 guidelines, organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are organized at three different levels: A, AA, and AAA. It’s up to your business to decide which level of compliance is right for you, but we recommend our clients aim for compliance to at least Level AA.
The Four Principles of ADA Compliance
Let’s take a closer look at those four guiding principles of the WCAG. These principles will give you a better picture of the types of accommodations and considerations you should be making for your website.
This principle provides recommendations on how the content of a website should be presented so that it can be consumed and interacted with by all users. This includes providing captions or transcripts for any video content on your site, providing alternate text for images, and ensuring that graphics and text on your site have enough color contrast to be easily seen.
Another component of this principle is that your site shouldn’t use color as the only visual way of communicating information. According to the National Eye Institute, up to 8% of all men and 0.5% of all women are affected by a common form of color blindness—red/green confusion. Therefore, you wouldn’t want your website to use green to indicate success and red to indicate failure without differing symbols or a secondary method to communicate.
The basic question the operable principle is asking is, “can everyone easily navigate your website?” This includes ensuring your site can be navigated using a keyboard and that all users have enough time to take in and interact with all the site’s features. The concept of enough time means that if elements are blinking, scrolling, or automatically updating that information can be paused for users who might need more time. Similarly, your site should not feature any quickly flashing elements that could induce seizures in users.
The understandable principle applies to both the content and the operation of the website. Users should both be able to understand what the site says and how they should interact with it. To have understandable content, your site must use standard language that is programmatically identifiable. Understandable usage requires that the website navigation is consistent and that it operates in predictable ways. Additionally, if your site has forms or other user input sections, these should have ample instruction, so all users know what is expected of them. This includes identifying errors in entry and describing the error to the user so it can be corrected.
A robust website features code that can easily be interpreted by a variety of user agents, including assistive technologies like screen readers. Many people with visual impairments rely on screen readers to interpret the content and the navigation structure of a website for them. Having robust code basically means keeping the code clean without duplicate information and using common markup languages.
How to Check the ADA Compliance of Your Website
Don’t feel overwhelmed by these principles! If you’re now wondering if your website is complying and to what degree, we can help you with that. The Aptera team offers free accessibility scans to evaluate the compliance of your site. Then we can help advise you and make development and design changes to bring your website up to the latest standards.
About Nikki Dent
Nikki is a technical copywriter for Aptera. With a bachelor’s degree in writing from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., she has been honing her craft of marketing copywriting for the past five years. In her role at Aptera, Nikki enjoys learning and writing about the technology and strategy at work across the company.