Thirty-two years ago marked one of the most prominent examples of sweeping legislation to impact the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act became the law of the land with the stroke of President George H.W. Bush’s pen. Many think about it as a law that requires businesses to have wheelchair ramps or other features for the disabled, but did you know the ADA covers much more than that? There are also sections of the law that impact how Americans can access information on the web.
What Does ADA Compliance Mean?
According to The United States Department of Labor, the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone with disabilities in several areas. These areas include employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. It requires businesses and organizations to put measures in place to make sure everyone has the same experience and access to certain services and places.
The ADA has been in place since 1990. It’s divided into five sections:
- Title I – Employment
- Title II – Public Services (state and local government)
- Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
- Title IV – Telecommunications
- Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions
Websites would fall under Title III of the ADA. However, there is some debate about this since the ADA does not explicitly mention websites as public accommodations. Federal courts have interpreted Title III to include places that don’t have a physical presence but can service customers. Some judges cite that limiting public accommodations to physical locations would be in contrast to the reason the ADA was signed into law.
Some believe it will take action from the United States Supreme Court to ultimately resolve the debate. Until then, to avoid any potential liability it may be a good idea to make sure your website complies with the law. In 2018, there was a reportedly 200% increase in the number of lawsuits made against websites that were not in compliance with the ADA compared to the number of such lawsuits filed the year before.
*ADA requirements would apply to state and local government agencies, private employers with 15 or more employees, and businesses that operate for public benefit.
Best Ways to Achieve ADA Compliance
What does ADA compliance look like for a website? These are steps you can take for your existing site or for a site that you are currently building from scratch. The best way to start would be to check out a website like accessiBe. Here you’ll find information on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG 2.1. You can also utilize websites like Accessibility Checker and Siteimprove to find out if your website is in compliance with the ADA.
- Captions – Add captions to live videos on your website. You can use computer applications or professional services to achieve this.
- Text Resizing – Create a function that allows people to resize the text on your website so that they may be able to read your content easily. It’s suggested that you allow up to a 200% increase in text size.
- Website Navigation Options – Create more than one way to find and get to pages on your site. Consider adding an HTML and a navigation menu.
- Label Forms and Tables – Include instructions at the top of the forms. You can also add labels for each form field so that users can read the names of each field. Make your website easy to navigate from form to form with the user’s keyboard.
- Image Descriptions – Describe each picture that appears on your website. However, decorative images do not need to be described as they are not as important. Do not allow graphics to flash more than three times per second so it does not trigger seizures.
- Content Organization – Place the most important information at the top of the page and the least important information near the bottom. Summary sections can help users with certain disabilities ensure they understand the information presented on the page. Avoid using elevation diction with your writing and use easy-to-understand words and sentence structures.
- Color and Contrast – It’s estimated that at least 300 million people have some level of color blindness. You can use this website to check whether your website has appropriate color contrast for people with low-level vision and color blindness. Including an adequate difference in contrast between text and the background is important for people with visual impairments. It’s recommended that you use the 4.5:1 ratio for small text and the 3:1 ratio for large text. Remember to not rely on color as the only way to indicate things on the page. Add an underline or mark specific sections with an asterisk.
Compliance or Consequences
Making your business’s website ADA compliant is a win-win situation. It allows those with disabilities to have access to your products or services, which in turn opens your business up to more customers. When you make this change you could see a direct increase in web traffic and conversions.
SEO experts say that an ADA-compliant website can lead to a higher SEO ranking. Search engines tend to prioritize websites that feature better user functionality and usability.
Bring Your Business Up to Speed With Digital Mules
If your website is not ADA compliant, a lawsuit could be filed against your business. This could result in thousands of dollars in fines or penalties resulting from a lawsuit. That’s why Digital Mules is here to help you avoid issues like this. We can help make sure your website complies, but we can also make other changes to your website to give it the boost it needs to see more website traffic and an increase in conversions. Head to our services page to find out more about what we can offer you. Click here for more information.