ADA Compliance and Your Website

September 19, 2018 Peter A. Liefer II

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law passed by Congress in 1990 to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications. This is why we now have handicap parking spaces among a long list of other requirements.

The ADA is categorized under three titles:

Title I – Employment

Title II – State & Local Government

Title III – Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities

In 1990 the internet as we know it now didn’t exist, not many people thought of a website as something that should be under ADA accessibility guidelines.

It wasn’t until July 26, 2010, that the US Department of Justice issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding the accessibility of Web information and services of state and local government entities (title II) and public accommodations (title III).

The DOJ then separated the rulemaking to deal separately with title II and title III and proceeded first with title II rulemaking. On May 9, 2016, the DOJ published a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding accessibility of Web information and services of state and local governments.

However, the Department of Justice HAS NOT published ANY rulemaking document regarding title III, (private and commercial businesses) Web accessibility since the 2010 ANPRM.

As a matter of fact, on 12/26/2017 the Justice Department announced the WITHDRAWAL of four previously announced Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRMs), pertaining to title II and title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act for further review.  And then they go on to say:

“The Department is evaluating whether promulgating regulations about the accessibility of Web information and services are necessary and appropriate.”

So, if you are a privately run or commercial business, don’t feel bad if you are confused about what the ADA compliance regulations are for your website when the Government itself isn’t sure!

Do I really need to worry about my website being ADA compliant?

If your business exists to benefit the public or is a local or state government agency or you’re a private employer with 15 or more employees, you should be ADA compliant.

ADA Compliance is meant for these qualifiers:

  • Private companies with a minimum of 15 people on its payroll
  • Local and state public sectors, including programmed and physical access
    to programs and services rendered (under Title II of the ADA)
  • Public facilities and nonprofit businesses (under Title III of the ADA)

We are not just talking about your website is accessible to visitors, but accessible to your employees that have a disability.

How is ADA compliance enforced?

The US Department of Justice is in charge of enforcing ADA requirements and has been active in making sure government agencies are ADA compliant. Title III of the ADA just has a general non-discrimination mandate and other general rules. Since a set of web accessibility guidelines are not yet law for private website owners, the DOJ “encourages” self-regulation.

A much bigger worry than the DOJ coming after you are individuals with disabilities filing lawsuits. In 2017, plaintiffs filed around 814 federal lawsuits about allegedly inaccessible websites, including a number of putative class actions. It is crucial to go over your ADA Compliance very carefully to avoid lengthy and expensive legal battles.

For more information regarding ADA and the law read ADA Compliant Websites and The Law.

How do I make my website ADA compliant?

The original intent of the ADA back in 1990 was to make business physically accessible to those with disabilities. So, there were extensive building codes and construction requirements business owners had to fulfill and for that, the ADA Standards for Accessible Design was created.

For websites, the recommended guidelines for accessibility currently come from The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA). Accessibility for a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.

WCAG Accessibility Standards

The WCAG 2.0 AA, with its extensive list of guidelines on how to make Web content accessible to individuals with disabilities, is primarily intended for:

  • Web content developers (page authors, site designers, etc.)
  • Web authoring tool developers
  • Web accessibility evaluation tool developers

If you don’t have a web developer in-house, it is recommended that you get one to implement the standards to achieve the level of compliance needed for your website.

The WCAG has 3 levels:

  1. Level A (Beginner) The most basic web accessibility features
  2. Level AA (Intermediate) Deals with biggest and most common barriers for disabled users
  3. Level AAA (Advanced) The highest (and most complex) level of web accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines address four areas of your web site’s functionality to ensure that it is:

Perceivable – The senses people use when browsing the web, sight, sound, and touch. Make sure that users with difficulties with one or more of their senses can perceive all the information on your website. This can be done by:

  • Providing text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  • Providing alternatives for time-based media.
  • Creating content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Making it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

Operable – The different ways in which your users browse your website. These operational issues can be addressed by:

  • Making all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Giving users enough time to read and use content.
  • Designing content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  • Offering ways to help users navigate, find content and determine where they are.

Understandable – A website needs clear terms and simple instructions. It must function in a way that users understand, by avoiding unusual, unexpected or inconsistent functions. Fulfill this requirement by:

  • Making text content readable and understandable.
  • Making Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Helping users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust – Your website needs to be workable with third-party technology like different web browsers and screen readers. Robust also means it must meet recognized standards, such as using clean HTML and CSS. Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

WCAG Update

WCAG 2.0 was issued in 2008. 10 years later after 4 years of work, on June 5, 2018, the World Wide Web Consortium published an expanded version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG 2.1 adds 17 more requirements to address new technologies and other digital barriers for individuals with disabilities. The updates are mainly related to mobile devices. View the WCAG update.

Benefits of an ADA compliant website

The legal reasons previously talked about are more than enough to tell you that you should have a website that is ADA compliant. But even if lawsuits weren’t an issue, it is just the right thing to do.

Here are 7 other reasons to have your website overhauled and made more accessible.

Expand Your Customer Base – According to the U.S. census bureau, nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the U.S. Make it easier for individuals with disabilities to engage with you digitally, you will connect with many more consumers.

Better Usability for Everyone – It will be easier for anyone disabled or not to use the assistive technologies to engage with your brand online such as Screenreaders and Text to Speech applications.

Improve Your Reputation – By projecting a disability-friendly brand presence you show people that you care and understand how to best serve them. Consumers prefer doing business with socially responsible companies.

Rank Higher in the SERPs – Google rewards sites that check many accessibility boxes with higher rankings.

Handle Government Contracts – Open the doors to work as a government contractor.

Be Prepared for the Future – You’ll be up to standard when the ADA compliance regulations eventually evolve

Claim Tax Breaks – Tax incentives are available to encourage compliance with the ADA.

ADA Compliant Website Checklist

Here are some things to consider before going public with an upcoming website. At the end of this article, you’ll find some ways to get a check mark on the ADA compliance test.

Presentation

The website’s design itself can be a very difficult obstacle to maneuver. Make sure that the website layout is not too complex; have the options for adjustments. Let website readers or visitors have the option to adjust the size or color of certain parts such as text, font, and even images. The requirement by the ADA is a resizable ability of up to 200% from the original size.

Text

Favor bigger fonts for titles, headings, menus, and banners. The font size is relevant for those who have vision impairments such as blurry visions. The Bigger size will enable them to read better and with less strain.

The color is also important. Design texts that are easy to spot. The texts should not be consumed with the background color rendering it difficult to read. Moreover, texts that are underlined must be removed. This gives the impression that the text is a link to another page or website.

Audio and Video

For audios, videos, and images, the best way to make them compliant is through captioning. Add text to images. Detailed descriptions are also required, these will be useful information for those who cannot see. These descriptions can be read with the help of text reader software. Video transcripts are also a good way to provide other options, especially for deaf or blind people.

Assistive Technology

Today, people with disabilities get help from sources that are available to them. Technology has made it possible to utilize the same tools to be used on the internet. We have the text-to-speech devices, closed captioning, text magnifiers, screen-reading software or optical character recognition and more. Bear in mind that most websites can utilize these tools to cater to those with disabilities. Here are some changes or enhancements that can be done:

Provide HTML formats

This format is easy to interpret for those who are using text-to-speech or similar applications. Avoid PDFs; these documents cannot be read or recognized by optical character recognition devices. For people who are not able to use the computer mouse, a specialized keyboard can be used instead. Make sure the website can support keyboard navigation.

Skip navigation is also now available. This allows users to skip links or headings to directly go to the main content of the page without going through the whole website.

Support

The above list already covers most of the checklist requirements. However, as most websites and other publicly accessible engines, a website needs to provide support. Support for the disabled is also a requirement. Here’s how:

Provide access for feedback

  • Get feedback from people with a disability. They might contribute suggestions that could significantly improve your website.
  • Web developers need to be ready to apply tweaks and changes whenever a requirement is not met.
  • Try hiring or asking people with disabilities to try the website from time to time. This helps to see if the ADA conditions are being met or are still working.
  • Provide support by phone, email or letter. Just like feedback, questions might arise. This provides good customer support and not only is the website being compliant; this might entice more people to visit your website.

These are just some of the basic things a web developer and a website owner need to before going online. Or, if your website is already live, follow the above suggestions as soon as possible.

ADA Accessibility Resources

ADA COMPLIANCE SOLUTIONS

View an ADA/WCAG Checklist features that enable users with disabilities to access all your site´s information or elements.

Here is a link to a developer needs to implement these standards required for accessibility. Visit https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/. If you have no one to do these developer tasks, please contact us as soon as possible and let’s get your website compliant.

To evaluate your website for accessibility, use this free tool. http://wave.webaim.org/

Here is a site dedicated to empowering organizations to make their web content accessible to people with disabilities. https://webaim.org/

ADA Archive – https://www.ada.gov/anprm2010/web%20anprm_2010.htm

ADA Lawsuit article: https://www.adatitleiii.com/2018/07/website-access-and-other-ada-title-iii-lawsuits-hit-record-numbers/

Contact PrimeView for help with ADA Compliance

Following the ADA and WCAG guidelines can get quite tedious if you don’t have any experience or have a knowledgeable webmaster. PrimeView is serious about accessibility issues for many reasons but essentially, it’s just “the right thing to do.”

People with disabilities have the right to have equal access to what others need and enjoy, and websites are one of those, especially in the modern world.

If you follow all the guidelines in the WCAG, you will mitigate the risk of lawsuits, grow your client base and improve your reputation. Miss some and you may open yourself to lawsuits.

We offer this information to help our clients or anyone with a website who wants to get their assets up to date with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Stay tuned for more information and updates on rules and regulations affecting your website and business.

Also, we can provide a free ADA compliance test for your website, just click this button.

ADA COMPLIANCE TEST

 

For further reading:

Americans with Disabilities Act – WCAG Checklist

Make Your Website ADA Compliant Checklist


Peter A. Liefer II

Peter is the CEO of PrimeView, the leading Arizona Web Design and Digital Marketing Firm. A veteran in the Web Development and eCommerce industry, he is focused on delivering data-driven results. Learn more about Peter and PrimeView on our Profile. You may also reach us here.