American with Disabilities Act (ADA) What does it mean?

Authorities nationwide are increasingly directing their attention on business websites compliance with federal law, in particular the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We know more and more our daily interactions occur online, and that many Americans have disabilities, with a large percent affecting their ability to use the web. Many companies’ core business is online, because of this it has become increasingly important for companies to understand how its accessibility (or lack of) can impact them legally.

The ADA requires accessibility to handicapped persons when reasonable and not cost-prohibitive.  Even though the ADA does not specifically mention websites, there have been recent court rulings that have interpreted the ADA to apply to websites.  Therefore, in order for your website to be ADA compliant, it needs to be accessible in such a way that its content and functions are easily accessible to all disabled persons.

Is my website currently compliant, how do I know?

You can review the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to see if your website is compliant. WCAG 2.0 was established for utilization in European countries, they are the regulatory principles courts use when evaluation a website’s accommodations for disabled people. WCAG 2.0 offers recommendations for American organizations striving to accommodate all people.

Why is being ADA compliant important for your company’s website?

If your website is not compliant with ADA, you are violating Title III of ADA law. Due to these rulings and the increasingly recent demands made by litigants, companies throughout the country are pushing to ensure that their websites are ADA compliant.

Failing to comply with the ADA means your business may be susceptible to legal claims, lawsuits, and significant financial penalties.  And given recent activity by plaintiffs’ lawyers in this area, it is becoming more and more risky to wait to address ADA compliance issues.  Waiting could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

Updating a website to be ADA compliant is a tedious, but necessary, process. It is also much cheaper to do so before getting a notice of a threatened lawsuit.

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It is vital to update your website before getting hit with a demand letter

Settlements on ADA website compliance typically range from $10,000 up to $50,000.

The best course of action is to attack website accessibility now. Do not wait on this or it could cost you.

If you do get hit with a demand letter, you HAVE to make your website accessible to possibly avoid fines for your website. However, you will then pay the lawyer fees, which range in the 1000s of dollars. 

Also, Just because you’re sued once doesn’t mean you can’t get sued again by someone else. There are many lawyers with teams surfing the Internet looking for companies to sue. Get your website compliant and keep it compliant!

Creating, Updating, Optimizing a Website to be ADA Compliance

What does it mean?

A large part of becoming ADA accessible and compliant depends on how content is uploaded into websites.

Here are ways we can HELP to make your website ADA compliant:

Iterative improvements to the website to create the best experiences for people with disabilities for example:

  • Image Alt text (describing the image using words)
  • Audio descriptions
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • improved readability of text

Providing multiple methods for your customers to receive assistance at any time

Evaluate Your Current Site
First things first: What is the state of your current site? You can rate your own site using programs like WAVE or Lighthouse, and by manually testing the site with screen reader software. To be ADA-compliant a site must meet standards within four categories:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust.

While most standards have only one level of conformance, there are areas of a website that warrant greater levels of accessibility. For this reason, WCAG 2.0 designated three levels of conformance:

  1. Level A
  2. Level AA
  3. Level AAA

Level A is basic fundamental accessibility, Level AA is slightly more advanced and considered the standard all websites should aspire for, and Level AAA represents a level of accessibility required of websites specifically servicing people with disabilities.

ADA WCAG website standards

Carefully chosen graphics are a big part of accessible websites. When you’re including graphics, they should not flash more than three times per second. Any more flashing, and you could inadvertently induce a seizure in someone who is browsing the page. Graphics should also have a description/caption that can be read aloud to the visually impaired. If you have informative or fun visual content, you want everyone to be able to enjoy and learn from it!

Making your site perceivable for all potential users takes a lot of thoughtful choices. A variety of things fall under the umbrella of perception. To get started, provide alt-text for all images in your code. Alt-text captions allow site readers to describe your images audibly.

An ADA-compliant website must also be understandable to a wide audience. The site should operate in a predictable way and have helpful labels over blocks of content and media. For example, put a clear “x” in the upper corner of a pop-up to show users how to close the window. The site should be built in a way that avoids user error and has readable instructions on all forms where users are expected to enter information.

The robust requirement of ADA recommendations is the most technical one. It basically means the code should be readable by an assistive reader. The code on your site must use standard HTML tags. You should also provide documents in a text-based format at all times, even when you also offer a PDF. Complex image documents can’t be understood by software that reads text aloud for visually impaired website users. The good news is that most website platforms, including WordPress, are designed to operate using modern code format.

The primary function of the “operable” category of ADA standards is to ensure your site can be navigated using a keyboard alone. Not all users are able to interact with a touchscreen or grip a mouse. This category also relates to the overall navigation. For instance, readers should be able to pause content or slow down automatic scrolling/slideshow movements. Eliminate any videos that autoplay and have a time-limit. And, of course, make sure that all video interactions and pausing can be completed using keyboard functions.

Remember that ADA needs are ongoing. As new technologies are made available for people with disabilities, they should be accounted for in your web code. A good start is making sure the text easily readable and the code works with assistive readers, it’s true. But a truly compliant (and usable) ADA-compliant website will adopt new best practices as they emerge.

Creating an ADA-compliant website takes time. When you’re scoping out this project, allow several months — not days. Use this ADA Checklist to do a quick audit of your site today. If you answer “No” to even one question, you have work to do! Making your site compliant with the ADA means all users will feel comfortable on your site and be able to use it for its intended purpose. In the end, everyone wins.

Website ADA Compliance Process

Don’t waste your money buying any automatic solution to making your website accessible.

Automatic solutions are any quick installs where you get a clickable toolbar on your website. They’re usually referred to as toolbars, overlays, widgets, plugins, or apps.

Automated scans or audits only tell 1/4 of the accessibility story so you can’t solely rely on them. Automated checks can be helpful but are limited to being supplemental guides that point you in the right direction.

The way you get started with accessibility is typically you 1) audit and then 2) remediate your website.

To get a complete picture of your website’s accessibility, you need an accessibility expert to manually review your site. Many agencies won’t offer manual audits because it takes several hours and real effort.

At DG Design Studios, we audit the website manually to ensure we are capturing the vital compliance issues at hand. we will then remediate the issues manually.

You will then receive a document from us stating that your website is ADA compliant.