The penalty for a first ADA compliance violation can be as high as $75,000.
ADA accessibility prohibits discrimination based on various kinds of impairment in various areas. That includes employment, transportation, public accommodation, and telecommunications.
Yet in a sea of changing laws and landscapes, it can be hard to know whether you’re on the right side of the law.
Read on to ensure you’re running an ADA compliant website.
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What Is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law enacted in 1990. It’s designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
In recent years, the scope of ADA has expanded to include digital spaces. This requires websites (and other digital platforms) to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Understanding the Importance of ADA Accessibility
ADA guidelines are essential because they ensure equal access to information and services for disabled people.
Websites are a crucial means of communication in the digital age. So, it’s vital that they’re designed to cater to the needs of all users. By making websites ADA accessible, businesses not only comply with federal regulations.
They also demonstrate a commitment to equality. Inclusive businesses appeal to all people – and expand their audience to include those dealing with a disability.
Owning an ADA Compliant Website: What It Means for Your Business
What does ADA compliance mean in practice?
For businesses, ADA website compliance means ensuring your websites comply with ADA guidelines. Failure to do so can result in legal penalties (below).
ADA compliance may need you to modify various aspects of your website, such as:
- Design and color schemes
By complying with regulations, businesses can expand their customer base. In addition, ADA compliance can improve a company’s search engine rankings.
Core ADA Requirements for Websites
ADA compliance requirements often refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These help web developers to create accessible websites. Because of this, they’re often used as a reference for ADA compliance.
Some of the key guidelines include:
- Providing text alternatives for non-text content
- Ensuring web content is adaptable
- Making navigation accessible via the keyboard
- Complying with assistive technologies
- Providing clear instructions to operate the website
Assistive technologies are designed to help people interact with technology. Screen readers are a common example – they read aloud the text on a screen to help visually impaired users.
Essential Elements of an ADA Compliant Website
An ADA compliant website should incorporate four essential elements. It should be:
What does this mean?
All web content should be presented in a way that users can perceive it. This includes text, images, and multimedia.
Operable websites should be accessible from different devices. Keyboards, tablets, and touchscreens are all examples. Plus, websites shouldn’t rely solely on mouse inputs.
Understandable websites should be easy to navigate. They should behave predictably with no user left confused as to what’s going on.
Finally, robust websites should be compatible with current technology. That includes assistive technologies like screen readers and magnifiers.
ADA Compliance Checklist for Website Owners
ADA compliance can be tricky. So, we’ve compiled this handy ADA compliance checklist to compare against your own business website:
- Implement alt text for media
- Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and background
- Provide keyboard navigation options
- Offer flexible layouts and resizable text
- Ensure compatibility with assistive technology
- Provide captions for audio and video content
- Design clear and consistent navigation menus
- Ensure forms and input fields are adequately labeled
- Conduct regular accessibility audits
- Gather user feedback
Color contrast helps visually impaired users read your content without problems. This is particularly important for people who suffer from colorblindness.
Keyboard navigation and resizable text make it easier for some users to find their way around, while captions for audio and video make it accessible to those who suffer from hearing impairment.
Regular audits and user feedback are paramount.
Understanding user experiences will highlight problems that web designers might miss. One way of gathering feedback is to include optional feedback forms that invite users to make improvement suggestions.
Tools and Resources for Achieving ADA Compliance
One of the most popular ways of staying compliant is to hire a website accessibility consultant. These professionals identify accessibility issues and suggest and implement solutions.
They’re more accurate than automated inspections and help businesses avoid expensive fines.
Numerous other tools help web designers and businesses create ADA compliant websites. Some examples include:
- Color contrast checkers
- Text resizing tools
- Screen readers
- Accessibility guidelines
Many screen reader tools can test how a website performs. By using one to read through your content, you’ll easily identify ADA compliance issues.
The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative offers comprehensive resources on the topic and is a great resource for designers.
Consequences of Non-Compliance with ADA Standards
Non-compliance can cause three problems: penalties, reputational damages, and the loss of business opportunities.
Lawsuits, fines, and other legal penalties can befall companies that don’t adhere to ADA standards. This typically depends on the size and nature of the business. Small businesses, in general, are less affected than large corporations.
Yet that doesn’t mean they can’t be the victim of a legal fine.
Plus, non-compliance with ADA standards can harm a company’s reputation. Such harm might deter customers, making them look to your competitors for business.
Finally, inaccessible websites tend to deter a variety of users. Modern customers expect fast, responsive, simple web design. Excluding people with hard-to-read or hard-to-navigate web design will result in lost sales and revenue.
Your Next Steps
Creating an ADA compliant website is both a legal obligation and a smart business choice. By sticking to ADA guidelines, businesses can enhance their online presence and reach a broader audience through a commitment to inclusivity.
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