Web Accessibility: Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

Just as your business likely needs wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces and more, your website also needs to follow certain guidelines to be accessible to people with disabilities, including individuals who are physically impaired, intellectually limited or who rely on assistive technology.

More than 60 million (or 1 in 4) American adults live with a disability. Did you know you could be sued for discrimination if your website isn’t accessible to the majority of them? Under the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, a 2010 revision of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 instituted by the U.S. Department of Justice, recent guidelines require public domains to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This not only includes physical facilities, structures and spaces, but digital ones as well – including websites, mobile apps and more.

So What’s Website Accessibility?

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can equally perceive, understand, navigate and interact with websites and tools.” To help ensure this is attainable for everyone, web accessibility initiatives seek to accommodate a wide range of limitations, including temporary circumstances (for example: a hand or arm injury) and permanent disabilities that are neurological, cognitive or physical.

Web accessibility can even enhance the functionality of your website for individuals without disabilities, such as users on the go, multitaskers and individuals who are less tech savvy. Ever been in a public space and needed to watch a video but had no headphones? A function like closed captioning could enable you to read the information without hearing the words. And other features like text to speech, voice recognition and more only further improve accessibility and the user experience.

How To Achieve ADA Compliance

While the Department of Justice put these ADA requirements in place, there are currently no laws or regulations defining what compliance looks like or a roadmap of how to get there. However, W3C developed an international initiative – Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – and an extensive set of standards that has been widely accepted within the industry. Known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG, for short, these protocols map out how companies can make the web a digital space of equal opportunity.

Per WAI, accessibility and inclusivity can be enhanced through a website’s coding structure as well as its overall layout and visual design. The initiative outlines three levels of conformance: A (minimum), AA (acceptable) and AAA (excellent / gold standard).

You can use your desired compliance level, plus the following POUR (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust) principles, to guide your strategy.

  • Perceivable: Content can be perceived by touch, sight and sound. Ways to increase perceivability: adding images with descriptive text, semantic HTML, transcripts and closed captions for visual and audio elements; ensuring colors have a high enough contrast ratio (4.5:1) for even colorblind individuals to read.
  • Operable: Content can be accessed solely by a keyboard. Ways to increase operability: making it functional without the use of the mouse, removing time limits and ensuring the website is searchable.
  • Understandable: Content is easy to follow, comprehend and remember. Ways to increase understandability: making layout consistent and predictable, ensuring industry jargon or slang is clearly explained, and spelling out acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Robust: Content is scalable across various devices and technologies. Ways to increase robustness: developing clean code and making sure it fully supports assistive technologies.

Not sure if you’re at least meeting the minimum requirements? Don’t wait for a lawsuit to find out. You can test your website’s accessibility with plugins (WordPress sites only), restructure your website based on the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or contact Balcom’s web development team to help with your website.

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