ADA Website Compliance Checklist
Nowadays there is no excuse to not build a website that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many website owners are already blazing new trails in making websites more accommodating and providing better experiences for users. It’s imperative for all website owners to keep up with current rules and trends that can make a significant difference in their company and in a relationship with their users. It’s the only way to stay competitive in a world where users are becoming far more conscious of equality, and have no qualms about openly critiquing a company for not providing adequate accommodations to others.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990 to protect all people with disabilities so they can have the same opportunities as anyone else. And because of the Act, more people are able to enjoy using the internet despite being deaf, blind, or having other disabilities. In fact, due to intense efforts on the part of multiple web development companies, technology has changed to allow for students to graduate from some of the country’s top universities despite having a severe disability. Using assistive listening devices, for example, has helped deaf students graduate from Harvard Law School and other top institutions.
But making your website more accessible doesn’t just help people who have disabilities. Making your website more accessible can be a boon to those who have undergone surgery on their eyes or ears, who have been involved in a car accident and are temporarily disabled. At some point in everyone’s life, they will experience a temporary disability. But life isn’t going to stop or even slow down when that temporary disability affects them. Knowing that their favorite online retailer, university program, or company website will still be accessible to them can put them at ease.
If this all sounds great, and it should, and the next step is to ensure that you are meeting all of the criteria to make your website ADA compliant.
All website owners are expected to provide websites that are optimized to work with assistive technology. Because websites are accessed by people all over the world, developers felt they needed to come up with a unified code to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. So in 2008, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were established and later revised in 2018, which set the standards for how text, images, sound, code, and markups should be created. In order to make sure that your website is compliant we will evaluate it here at On The Map Marketing based on the guidelines. There are three categories that correlate to the different levels of accessibility:
- Level A: this website has the most basic web accessibility features. There may be gaps where some accessibility measures could’ve been taken.
- Level AA: this is a website that has solutions for the most common barriers to disable people from using the internet
- Level AAA: this is an extremely high level of web accessibility that is often hard for companies to achieve.
There are four underlying principles to the Guidelines:
- Perceivable: you’ve probably heard of the philosophical question “if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound if nobody hears it?” It’s the same concept as a website. If a person cannot perceive the auditory or visual information on a website, then is the website really there? It should take neither squinting nor third-party technology in order to perceive all content on your website.
- Operable: does your website require the use of a less-common piece of technology or hardware, such as a joystick or a microphone? Can someone use your website and input information, or even make a purchase, without the use of a keyboard or a mouse? Users with physical disabilities will have more difficulty with using your website if it requires using certain technology and if your website is not optimized to work with assistive technology.
- Understandable: Even if someone can perceive your website that doesn’t mean that they can understand it. If a person can perceive that there’s text on a page but it is so poorly written but it’s hard to understand commands or information, then the website is just as useless as if the content weren’t perceivable.
- Robust: Have you ever visited a website that popped up a warning you were not using the latest web browser and needed to upgrade before using it? This could be very frustrating especially for someone using an older platform, browser, device or operating system. Although website owners are not expected to create websites that are compatible with the oldest versions, they should not require the newest.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of what principles underlie the guidelines, it’s time to actually look at what it will mean practically for your website.
Headers and titles
In order to ensure that all of your users will be able to understand what each of your webpages is about, you must use relevant and concise descriptions that relate to the content on the webpage. If webpages are not properly given a title, then users won’t know what the web content is about. Additionally, it’s important to use simple language rather than technical jargon in your headers and titles.
Tables are meant to be read with data in them, but not to be laid out on a page. If using a table on your website, then make sure that there are proper headers and cell information. Be discerning about when it may be better to use other graphics. Sometimes infographics are a much better and more effective way of conveying information to all users.
First of all, you must use alternative text, also known as alt text, with all of your visuals. This alternative text gives descriptive details on visual images for those who are using screen readers who need assistance on seeing or reading the caption on the photo. It’s one of the most basic ways of complying with the ADA.
Every piece of visual information on your website needs alternative text, not just photos. If you have a graphic designer who has created a logo, then that logo needs alt text. Additionally the following need alt text:
Text and Fonts
If you talk to any graphic designer, they will tell you that there are certain fonts that are far easier to read in smaller or larger sizes, or even on a screen, than others. They know that visual information needs to be conveyed clearly in order for the user to understand it and that typography has a strong influence in how well someone can read a webpage. By using bold or italics to convey emphasis on certain words, for example, it’s easier for people with a visual disability to read a website than if you used color to convey those differences. Some other suggestions are to use bulleted lists to present information, and to have a high-contrast color scheme on each of your webpages, such as a white background with black text.
Make Navigation Easy
As mentioned earlier, some people with disabilities have difficulty using the hardware that allows them to navigate webpages. Building your website so they can navigate by using a mouse and keyboard or keyboard-equivalent enables them to have an easier time accessing your website. If you follow a consistent structure on your website, then it will be a lot easier for people to learn how to use it and know where to find information.
It’s important to understand that if users believe that your website does not contain certain information, then they will go to a competitor’s website to check out what they have. Therefore, it’s best to structure your website with the most relevant content at the top, with the information below organized in a hierarchy. Don’t assume that users will spend a lot of time looking for hidden information on a website.
Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to ensure that your website is ADA compliant:
- Do all images have alternative text? Do they work with screen readers?
- Are all buttons and links logically named?
- Can all forms be easily read by screen readers?
- Are there any images or colors that have a strobe effect on your website?
- Do all recorded videos have captions? Do live video and audio content streams have captions?
- Is the contrast ratio between text and a page background at least 4.5 to 1?
- Are menus and buttons in consistent places regardless of what webpage the user is on?
- Are there no redundant links on the same page, or are they at least minimized?
- Can the text on each webpage be resized to 200% and still maintain its form?
- Are users given suggested input in order to solve input errors?