In today’s market, meeting rules and laws like ADA Compliance and WCAG Guidelines is becoming mandatory to ensure the search engines don’t penalize your website. If you look at the recent lawsuits concerning website non-compliance with ADA, it makes sense to make sure your website is accessible by people with various disabilities. That is why 2GSM has added our ADAComply Service to our list of products and services. We do NOT want to use fear to push you into this service, but would rather use the truth that, while not every website DOES need it, it only makes sense to make sure your website is available to people with disabilities. That is a market that you have been overlooking of hundreds of thousands of people. A little history on the How and Why websites “should” become compliant sooner than later.
Through the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the law (the standards of which are set by the Department of Justice) was modified. Included in those modifications was the specification (called Title III) that ADA requirements apply to all “places of public accommodation”, a term defined as a private entity whose operations affect commerce, among other delineations.
Given that websites are tied into commerce, there is an inherent need to extend ADA compliance requirements to digital content. The challenge for businesses is understanding what those compliance requirements mean for their website.
We offer A, AA and AA compliance levels for the WCAG Guidelines to make sure you have the options you need.
And because website ADA compliance took such a long time to get addressed in any significant way, the lack of accommodations on websites has led to serious repercussions for many businesses in recent years.
WHY WEBSITE ADA COMPLIANCE IS MAKING HEADLINES NOW
With few specifics around what guidelines to follow to make a website ADA compliant, many businesses simply had never made it a priority.
As a result, there have been numerous lawsuits over the past several years as individuals with disabilities have not been able to experience the equal access to website content that they deserve under the ADA.
Most notable was a 2019 case involving Domino’s Pizza that went to the Supreme Court. This case, which originated because a visually-impaired user was unable to complete an online order using his screen reader software, set the stage for companies to be required to follow ADA compliance requirements for their websites.
Other lawsuits have impacted similarly large companies and organizations including Netflix, Beyoncé, Fox News, Burger King, Nike, and CVS Pharmacy.
Beyond the potential for lawsuits, however, companies that do not make their websites ADA complaint may suffer in other ways:
Google and other search engines use at least some of the same criteria as ADA compliance, such as using alt text to describe images, in their ranking algorithm. Failing to make your website ADA compliant can therefore result in a lower Google ranking and even prevent your site from showing up in search results.
Companies that do not make their websites ADA compliant risk losing valuable customer loyalty. Just as you want to maintain a website that is easy to navigate and helps users find the information they’re looking for, you should want to maintain a website that provides an equally seamless user experience for people with disabilities.
MAKING YOUR WEBSITE ADA COMPLIANT WITH WCAG
Because of the uncertainties surrounding website ADA compliance, specific guidelines separate from the ADA have been established – the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which were developed by a group within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and most recently updated in 2018. The WCAG have a narrower focus exclusively on websites with the goal of making content more accessible to a wider range of individuals with disabilities – although it should be noted that they will not address every user need for all individuals with disabilities.
WCAG uses 3 levels to categorize a website’s ADA accessibility:
Level A: accessible to some users
Level AA: accessible to almost all users
Level AAA: accessible to all users
Achieving an AA or AAA rating through these guidelines can be complex to navigate, making it a good idea to work with a digital partner who understands the ins and outs of website ADA compliance.
Expanding further on the above, the following ADA compliance checklist provides some basic ways to make your website ADA compliant:
- Use alt text to describe visuals, audio, and video, which tells the browser about that content if it can’t be loaded and so it can be interpreted by a screen reader
- Create transcripts for video or audio files so the content can be digested both visually and audibly
- Ensure your website can be read using a screen reader, which includes keeping content concise and easy to interpret, and ensuring readability of any downloadable PDFs
- Include Closed Caption for videos
- Make sure your website has clean and organized HTML coding and tags
- Review your page headings, titles, and navigation for proper font size and colors (relative to the background colors and contrast) to ensure readability. You can learn more about what colors to use to meet WCAG standards here.
- Audit your website’s code to be sure it is up to date and utilizing best practices
- Take advantage of Google Chrome’s WAVE tool to audit your website for any accessibility issues
- Review the ADA Best Practices Toolkit for state and federal agencies to learn more about how to make your website ADA compliant
Yes, website ADA compliance is required by law, but like stopping at a stop sign or buckling your seatbelt, it’s also the right and responsible thing to do.