The ADA, otherwise known as the Americans with Disabilities Act, was created by the Department of Justice in 1990. The ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design were later created in 2010, to ensure that people with disabilities have access to all information and electronic technology. These regulations are in place so that those with disabilities are able to access websites, online courses, books, sales services and much more.
Where to Begin
The World Wide Web Consortium established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to provide a global standard for web content accessibility. 508 compliance, another method to target accessibility needs held within the government sector, holds similar guidelines to the WCAG. In general, they can both be referred to as ADA regulations.
Beginning your website build with ADA regulations in mind is vastly more efficient than making changes after it is structured. Very likely, your site will only need minor adjustments during creation to become fully compliant. For a complete list of guidelines on how to check your site for accessibility, take a look at this detailed checklist provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Why You Should Comply
Companies that aren’t ADA compliant are quickly becoming targets for lawsuits. In 2018, lawsuits against non-compliant website owners have hit record highs, a suspected 30% more than 2017. Following ADA regulations not only keeps you out of trouble but enables you to reach a portion of your audience that may identify with a disability.
If expanding your audience is not enough of a motivation, adhering to regulations can also help you to avoid forced compliance costs and fines. Consider meeting with experts before proceeding with your redesign in order to ensure your site will embrace its full potential.
What are the Regulations
The ADA’s standards for accessible design are applied to content on web pages and applications; including text, sounds, colors, code, and images. Creating websites that are accessible to those with disabilities, assists people with color blindness, hearing loss, poor vision as well as other hindrances.
A few rules to keep in mind when it comes to accessibility are as follows:
- All files and downloads must meet the same accessibility standards as your site
- Color contrast must be must meet a minimum standard to ensure that your site is legible
- Text must meet specific contrast ratios that assure readability
- Navigation must be possible by keyboard only, incorporating tab-indexes throughout the page
- Text scaling of 200% larger than original must be possible before horizontal scrolls are necessary
Due to screen reading software and people with vision disabilities, it’s important to ensure that webpage links are logical when reading aloud. It is also important to provide identifying information at the forefront of the page. Content should be organized with the appropriate headings and defined with appropriate HTML elements. For example, <header> not only structures the site, but it also defines the content for accessibility reasons.
Levels of Compliance
Requirements for WCAG are grouped together in 3 different levels, classified as A, AA, and AAA. With each level comes a higher degree of compliance standards. The purpose of providing different levels creates flexibility for varying situations. The specifications are as follows:
- A- Level A has minimal guidelines and will likely not make your site compliant to the current standards of the ADA. It allows screen readers to more effectively scan a site and deals largely with coloring.
- AA – Level AA is where most businesses land in their compliance. It is the most common because it incorporates all aspects of level A, as well as new elements while enabling the highest level of design functionality.
- AAA – Level AAA incorporates all conformance factors at the highest level possible. However, it also restricts key interactive elements, hindering the design and functionality of your site.
Ensuring You Are Compliant
With current design trends and technology, most of us are already compliant or nearly there. If you are transforming an existing site, just a little extra attention to detail and a thorough reading of the WCAG guidelines can help to avoid noncompliance.
Our suggestion is to know the ADA regulations before you even get started. We also recommend consulting with experts who can help to ensure your site meets the highest level of compliance. At WDG, we ensure that all of our clients meet the ADA standards. Our designers, developers, and strategists are experts at building compliance into every site and ensuring that our clients are meeting the needs of everyone.
WDG strategists begin the redesign process by meeting with the clients and discussing the expectations that will be required of the new site, including 508 compliance and WCAG guidelines. Beginning with this step allows for the most efficient and successful redesign for our clients.
Many content management systems provide accessibility tools to improve your compliance capabilities. We work primarily with WordPress and Drupal, each of which provides specific tools to help achieve ADA Compliance. Drupal has many helpful modules to include in the development of your site. Similarly, WordPress has plugins that assist you in determining your compliance.
Here are a few examples of well built ADA compliant websites: