As a business owner, you know the importance of having a quality website that is available to anyone in the world, but if your website is not ADA compliant then it isn’t accessible to those individuals with certain disabilities. Even worse, failure to make your website compliant could mean you are in violation of the ADA, putting you at risk of a lawsuit. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 and it is Title III of this legislation that specifically pertains to websites.
While there is no surefire checklist for website compliance, the WCAG 2.1 level AA has become the de facto standard for both the courts and experienced web developers like The Rusty Pixel. These technical requirements and guidelines are designed to make websites more accessible to everyone, especially those that who are visual impaired. Making a website ADA compliant includes things like having text-only alternatives for images, text scaling without breaking the design, interpretable interactive elements, minimum contrast ratio for text, keyboard-only navigation, compatibility with screen readers and much more.
At The Rusty Pixel we have extensive experience in both developing new websites and converting existing websites so they are certified ADA complaint to the current WCAG 2.1 level AA technical standards. If you have any questions or concerns about your websites current compliance level, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we review it for you. If you need a new website, we can ensure that it is ADA compliant. Don’t wait until a lawsuit has been filed before acting.
ADA Compliance Examples
Check out some examples of our previous ADA web design compliance work.
Ranew Insurance Agency
Ranew Insurance Agency is headquartered in Melbourne, FL and has been a client of ours since 2010. This website design was 100% custom designed and features a Content Management System (CMS), mobile friendly layout, animated image carousel and email contact forms. The site was built usingcoding languages. They offer throughout Florida’s Space Coast.
Visit Website: RanewInsurance.com
About ADA Compliance for Websites
In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA for short) was signed into law. This comprehensive civil rights law prohibited discrimination based on disability and required all public places and businesses to accommodate everyone, including those with disabilities. Essentially disabled people should have full use and equal enjoyment of the goods, services and accommodations of places like restaurants, schools and public transportation. While many people might just think this means making sure a building is wheelchair accessible and has ample handicapped parking — they would be forgetting those with hearing or visual disabilities that require consideration as well.
The ADA law itself does not cover or even mention websites because this technology didn’t exist at the time of signing — and while the law hasn’t been amended to include websites, how the law is being interpreted has changed. Title III of the ADA mandates that all “public places” and businesses remove any “access barriers” that would prevent a person with disabilities from fully accessing them. While in 1990 a public place was obviously someplace physical that you could visit in person; today the Internet has become so intertwined with our everyday lives that the places we visit online are now as much of a public place as the town square — and if online virtual places, like websites, are considered public places then we need to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to them as anyone else does by removing any access barriers.
So what exactly are the “access barriers” disabled people might encounter on a website? Just like a building without wheelchair access would be considered an access barrier to a handicapped person in the real world, similar barriers exist in the digital world as well. Those who are visually impaired are particularly effected and would consider everything from difficult to read text, to code that doesn’t function on a screen reader properly to be significant access barriers for them. Those with hearing impairments would consider video or audio without captions to be access barriers. This shift in how both society and the courts interpret what is and what is not a “public place” is why your website should comply with the law by removing all “access barriers” — and if it does comply with the law then your website is considered to be “ADA compliant”.
Even just a few years ago, ADA compliance was not a factor at all when developing a website and a lawsuit because of it was unheard of — not so anymore. In the past few years the amount of lawsuits filed against businesses without an ADA compliant website have skyrocketed. These lawsuits have forced many businesses to convert or build their websites with ADA compliance in mind, many proactively. As a direct result of this, the percentage of websites that meet even minimal ADA compliance have dramatically increased. While the legitimacy of some of these lawsuits are certainly suspect with many of them filed by “professional plaintiffs” using cookie-cutter complaints, the effect they’ve had improving the online lives of people with disabilities is certainly not.
While there are currently some exceptions and loopholes to the law — the bottomline is that if your website fails to meet the standards of Title III it is in violation of the ADA and you could become the target of one of these increasingly common lawsuits.
Even if you are not concerned about a lawsuit, making your website ADA complaint is a good idea for many other reasons. The most obvious way is that it increases your target audience as millions of people around the world have some sort of disability and if your website is compliant they’ll be able to fully utilize it. Next, many of the techniques used to become ADA compliant are actually beneficial for SEO and could improve your websites page rank because search engine robots crawl your website in a nearly identical way as screen readers do — thus making your website screen reader friendly (a requirement of compliance) also makes it search engine friendly. Finally, it is the right things to do for not only your business but the visitors to your site, disabled or not.
Since the law predates websites and because online technology changes so quickly, there currently is no surefire checklist for ADA compliance and what guidelines that do exist will probably change; meaning what makes a website ADA compliant today might not in the future. The most reliable place to look for guidance is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (or WCAG); these are a set of technical standards created by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in conjunction with various other groups for the purpose of improving website accessibility for all, including disabled people. These guidelines have become the de facto standard for both the courts as well as experienced web designers like The Rusty Pixel.
The most current version of these technical standards is WCAG 2.1 which became the W3C recommendation in June 2018. It contains a total 13 guidelines falling under 4 different categories:
- Perceivable: Focuses on presenting content and media in alternative and adaptable ways by providing text alternatives for any non-text content such as images, alternatives for time-based media like video, ensuring text is readable, and that scaling font-sizes won’t break the page layout.
- Operable: Deals with the functionality of websites by ensuring users can navigate the page solely from a keyboard, providing controls for moving elements, labeling sections so users can find/know where content is located, and avoiding things known to cause seizures.
- Understandable: Ensures that all webpages use logical functionality with navigation that is consistent/predicable across the entire website, inputs that include instructions on how to use them, and that the language of the page is identifiable.
- Robust: This is the most technical category, focusing on making sure the website has been built with universally recognized code that has been validated, contains no errors and that it is compatible with current/future browsers including assistive technologies used by disabled people.
Issues with website ADA compliance are broken up into errors and alerts. Errors must be fixed for a website to become certified complaint. Alerts on the other hand do not have to be corrected for a website to become complaint but it is generally considered a good idea to address them if possible.
The WCAG has also defined three levels of ADA compliance: A, AA, and AAA. Conformance for higher levels means conformance of the lower level standards as well (so level AAA compliance indicates both level AA and level A compliance). Here is a summary of each compliance level:
- Level A: The most basic level of website accessibility but will not protect you from a lawsuit.
- Level AA: This is the happy medium between the two and is what the vast majority of businesses should strive for because it will protect you from a lawsuit and is flexible enough to be practical. This is the compliance level we recommend.
- Level AAA: The highest and most comprehensive level but is unlikely suited for most businesses because of the strict requirements.
The world of website compliance can be very confusing and is quickly evolving — so the best way to know if your website is ADA compliant is by having each and every page scanned and reviewed by a web design expert. At The Rusty Pixel we have extensive experience with the current WCAG 2.1 level AA technical standards and can evaluate your existing website to see if you are at risk of a lawsuit. If we find any compliance issues we can fix them for you quickly and verify your website as ADA complaint giving you peace of mind. If you need a new website developed from scratch, ADA compliance can easily be added to any of our website design packages.
For a FREE no obligation ADA website evaluation please contact us today or request an ADA compliance web design quote. We would be happy to answer any questions that you might have and give you an honest assessment of your current situation. Below you can see what is included with our standard website ADA compliance services.
Website ADA Compliance Features
- Scan each page individually to check for ADA compliance issues (WAVE)
- Fix all errors and alerts so each page meets WCAG 2.1 requirements (level AA)
- Include a text-only alternative for all images and photos (ALT tag)
- Adjust text so it meets the minimum contrast ratio for maximum readability
- Add keyboard-only navigation and a “skip navigation” button for ease-of-use
- Add detailed instructions, labels and input errors to all interactive elements (such as forms)
- Make website compatible with adaptive technologies such as screen readers
- Text can be scaled up to 200% without horizontal scrolling or breaking the layout
- Disable autoplay for all audio and video elements
- Remove all popups and any flashing elements that could cause seizures
- Label all pages and sections so users can easily find the content they’re looking for quickly
- Remove links to all non-compliant downloadable items (such as PDFs)
- Set page language so it can be determined programmatically
- Add captions or transcripts for all audio and video elements (additional cost)
- Converting non-web elements (such as PDFs) is NOT included