The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a very important piece of legislation meant to bring a better quality of life to people with differing abilities. But, back in 1990, when the Act was delivered the internet wasn’t as global as it is today. And now, if your website isn’t ADA compliant you are firstly giving a terrible user experience to your visitors with disabilities, and secondly, you can get sued badly.
Before we get into any details, we should mention the 4 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that the entire compliance policy is based on. Your web content needs to be:
- Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
These guidelines are meant to address the website’s functionality in relation to people who have impaired vision, color perception, cognition, manual dexterity or use screen reading technology and other issues related to altered abilities.
What does being ADA compliant mean for websites?
The answer to this question is very simple: An ADA compliant website is accessible to people with different forms of disability. We came up with a short checklist on most frequent issues that websites suffer from and if you continue reading, you’ll find helpful tips on how to recognize those issues and solve them.
The mini-ADA Compliance Checklist (with tips)
Here are a few examples of problems most websites discover when they audit for ADA compliance.
1. Small Sized Font
if a visually impaired person visits your website, they should be able to enlarge the page up to 200% without the assistive technology and without the website losing any functionality or content.
Tip: You can test this easily yourself. Try to enlarge your website using your browser’s commands and see what happens. Build your content with this potential increase in text size in mind similarly to how you would construct your site with mobile in mind.
2. Alt Text for Links and Images
If your website lacks alt text for links and images, you haven’t done a good job in being ADA compliant and you haven’t optimized for search engines either. So, correcting this issue would be a win-win situation. It’s essential that all non-text content is presented to a user with a textual alternative that serves the equivalent purpose.
Tip: Get down on it and alt-text those images and links. Be specific about it! People with screen readers should be able to find out what’s on the picture, and img-5.jpg certainly isn’t.
3. Keyboard Only Navigation
To make your website accessible, a person has to be able to navigate through it with using the keyboard interface only. Ensuring keyboard control for all functionality on a website such as navigating within and across pages allows assistive devices with keyboard interfaces to perform the same functions as a mouse. Not only that, but it’s absolutely essential to provide appropriate indicators of focus, so the visitor who is navigating through the website with a keyboard knows what area is he interacting with.
Tip: When testing for this issue study your website thoroughly. Try to “tab” the entire website. What’s the result? Before starting the implementation of keyboard navigation determine the exact functionality that’s provided to the visitor. Then, if you notice that some elements
don’t receive focus when selected, it’s probably a CSS problem, a good developer can get it fixed in several ways. Ask us how.
4. Lack of Captions
For all videos with audio content, captions have to be provided. It’s not enough to just caption the parts of the video where someone is narrating, or a dialog exists. You should provide descriptive text alternatives in the form of captions to present the sound effects and what exactly is happening in the video.
Tip: Make sure that all videos on your site have text alternatives in the form of captions and a text
transcript OR captions and an audio description. If you are embedding a video from sites
such as YouTube, captions may already exist and be provided.
5. Color and theme
Pay attention to is the color and theme of your website. The color should not be used to convey specific elements on your website. Users with visual disabilities need simple forms with mainly text defining CTA’s (call-to-action buttons) instead of images.
Tip: If using a white background, prioritize dark text colors. If using a colored background,
prioritize dark colors and pair with white text. Try to avoid colored text over a colored
background when possible.
ADA compliance outside the US
As the name states ADA is an American legal act. So if you’ve registered your website under the US laws, you have to abide by it. However, if you’re from the Europian Union, a similar act exists there, too: the EU Web Accessibility Directive. Countries, in general, make efforts to regulate and standardize the accessibility of websites to people with different forms of disabilities, so make sure to investigate the laws of your country before your website goes live.
It all comes down to this: your website should provide the highest quality user experience to everyone. You’re not doing favours by implementing ADA or similar compliances, you’re doing what business and webmasters should have been doing anyway, that is – presenting your products and services in an effort to genuinely serve your customer’s interest.