The ABCs to an ADA Compliant Website
When developing your website, it is paramount that it is accessible to any and all who visit it. According to the World Bank organization, “one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.” Not only is neglecting this demographic a poor practice for your business due to loss in potential audiences, but the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, requires businesses to make accomodations for people with disabilities. Below we will discuss the various ways to ensure your website is ADA compliant, while also examining the many benefits of such practices.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed as recommendations on how to make your website accessible. They are currently divided into four categories which encompass the varying disabilities, ranging from vision and hearing impairments to learning disabilities and movement disorders. These categories are:
- Alternative text, or alt text, are needed for any relevant, non-decorative content. These alternatives include larger text, braille, or speech.
- Transcripts and captions are required for all pre-recorded and live audio content. Audio descriptions of a video’s content is available for pre-recorded video content.
- Text alternative is available for any information conveyed through the website’s presentation. Information is never solely conveyed through the use of sounds and visual concepts.
- Color is never solely used to convey information to assist those with color blindness and other visual impairments. Audio volume can be independently controlled while also being able to be paused. Finally, text must be able to be resized up to 200 percent without disturbing the functionality of the website.
- Functionality of the website must be available through the use of a keyboard without getting stuck. The current focus of the keyboard is always highlighted and visible.
- Sufficient time is granted for users to read and utilize the website’s content. If the website has any area with a time limit, that time limit can be turned off or extended, unless the time limit is essential to the website’s functionality. Additionally, content that moves, blinks, or automatically updates can be stopped unless it interferes with the website’s functionality.
- Websites must avoid triggering seizures in people with epilepsy and other neurological disorders by allowing flashing content to blink no more than three times a second. These flashes must also be below the general flash and red flash threshold.
- Informative titles, headings, and labels are used to describe website content and if content is repeated it can be easily skipped.
- Language used within the website is clearly defined. If a different language is used than the one originally defined, a HTML lang attribute is used to identify those portions of the page.
- A website should never open a new window and if the context is to be changed, it should only be done so through confirmation with a submit button. Navigating through the website should be consistent.
- If input errors occur while a user operates the website, they should be automatically caught and written out. If the user is using the website to input financial or legal information, there must be a way to reverse submissions or correct errors.
- Compatibility with assistive technologies such as screen readers should be the top priority for websites. Screen readers are software programs that convert text into speech for people with vision impairments. These programs can also include braille options. Any codes used should be consistent and used correctly from beginning to end.
Now that we understand how to make our websites ADA compatible, let’s discuss reasons why.
Firstly, it is important that your website is ADA compliant to increase your audience. If those with disabilities are unable to access your website, you will be missing out on potential business opportunities.
Secondly, ADA compliance is a great way to improve your business’s reputation. If your competitors don’t make the effort to be ADA compliant, but you do, this makes your website infinitely more valuable. The inclusion and consideration of those with disabilities will also put your business in a better light.
Lastly, an ADA compliant website not only helps those with disabilities, but everyone. A more user-friendly website benefits everyone. If your website has taken steps to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, it will be easier to navigate by all. Periodically it may be wise to enlist disability groups to test your website and provide feedback on the accessibility of your website.
When developing your website, ensuring it is accessible to the widest potential audience is crucial for giving your business the upper hand. Not only is it ethically important, but required according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. With the guidelines provided above, you will be one step ahead of your competitors and inclusive to a wider audience.