The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was launched in 1990 and is meant to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and convenience as anyone else.
This means any businesses that serve the public must ensure their building accommodates people with disabilities of different kinds.
And now that the internet is so commonly used, ADA compliance also applies to websites and also mobile apps.
Fundamentally, this means that your website needs to be accessible to people who have disabilities that affect their vision, hearing, or physical capacities.
If your site isn’t equipped with features that make it accessible to people with disabilities, not only is your company at risk of ending up in court, but it could also lose out on doing business with the approximately 61 million Americans living with a disability or other limitations.
So making your site ADA-compliant is a win for everyone.
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Accessibility Guidelines for Websites to Follow ADA Compliance
Having an accessible site and marketing materials means having your whole team briefed on what accessible marketing looks like. Hey! Don’t panic, once you get the hang of things, it’s very quick to ensure your website is accessible.
Start by keeping the following recommendations in mind:
To help those users with a screen reader or other visual limitations easily read your content, use headings correctly.
That means, using the proper heading tags for example using the H2 function, instead of simply using a bigger or bolder font. Your headings should also adhere to a logical hierarchy: the H1 or title is followed by an H2, and beneath an H2 heading, use an H3 heading. This makes the structure and importance of content easy to follow and flow seamlessly.
Making content simple to read and follow is important for readers with cognitive limitations, but it also makes your content simpler to scan and read for other users as well. Keep your sentences concise and to the point.
Use bulleted lists, bolded keywords, and summary sections for easier scanning. Start with the most vital information and end with the least important. Avoid the use of jargon and overly complicated words. Left align all text and headlines.
#3. Link text
When linking to other WebPages, do not use “click here” as the link text. Using descriptive link text makes it clearer to users with screen readers or visual disabilities which link is which and where each one leads.
#4. Accessible files
If you link to PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints, or other types of files, ensure those files are accessible.
Accessible design means making your design more relevant for everyone, not only people with impairments. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to accessible design.
There are three major ways you can make videos more accessible.
#1. Subtitles: Ensure all videos have them. This not only helps users with hearing disabilities but is also beneficial for people who are in crowded settings or who don’t want to put in headphones to watch a video in a public space.
#2. Transcripts: Add a transcript that has the text version of any speech in a video. The golden standard is a descriptive transcript, which includes a concise description of what’s happening in the video.
#3. Audio description: This is a speech version of a descriptive transcript and it makes it easier for blind people or users with visual disabilities to consume content.
All images should have alt text, which is a brief text that clearly and neutrally describes the image.
This is the text screen readers see when they come across an image, so file numbers or unhelpful information can result in major usability challenges for visually impaired users. For decorative images, the alt attribute should be empty (for example, alt:“).
About 4% of the world’s population has some form of color blindness, which means that using color alone to communicate information can result in problems for some users. Use patterns, fill, borders, sizing, icons, or whitespace to communicate in addition to color.
When using color, ensure that the contrast is sufficient enough that users can read text or see color differences.
Sans serif fonts are the simplest to read, as they do not include small decorative markings. Limit the number of fonts you use (for example one for body text and one for headlines). Always use at least size 12 fonts and use bold for emphasis, instead of italics.
To make your website accessible (and boost conversions), it’s important to consider all four types of disabilities: hearing, visual, motor, and cognitive.
Website accessibility is a big topic with many areas to explore. For marketers, we will focus on three key areas.
#1. Keyboard navigation
Keyboard navigation is crucial for people with visual and motor disabilities. Users who can’t use a mouse or screen reader users should still be able to navigate through your website.
Ensure users can tab through menus, buttons, and all other navigational components.
When users navigate to an element, there should be some type of indicator or focus to show where on the page the user is.
#2. Form and table labels
The most vital element for form accessibility label. Ensure each form field has a label (using the <label> element in the code for every field). That will make sure screen readers read the name of each field.
If the user needs to know essential information about a field (e.g. if a password must be at least 8 characters), don’t include that information as placeholder text in a field but rather as text underneath the field label.
Ensure forms are easy to use and have a logical flow. Forms should be keyboard accessible, so users can navigate through fields.
Provide instructions at the top of a form to enable users to understand how to fill them out.
#3. CTA buttons
CTAs are important for marketing success, so it’s critical that all your CTAs are accessible. Your buttons should always have an accessible name, which is often the text on the button itself.
Use an aria label for the button to give screen readers the proper information. It might be beneficial to walk through a few button accessibility best practices with your site development team to ensure CTAs are fully accessible.
How to Ensure Your Website Is ADA Compliant
Ensuring your website is ADA-compliant is actually easy, but it does take ongoing work to ensure it stays that way.
Guidelines are constantly changing, and chances are, so is your site. Here are some easy ways to ensure your business’s website is and stays ADA-compliant.
#1. Learn The Guidelines: The Americans with Disabilities Act website offers resources and guidelines on compliance.
#2. Keep The Guidelines In Mind When Adding Content: A little mistake while adding new content can make your site non-compliant.
Create a checklist of the most common ADA errors so your content creators and developers can double-check that any changes to your website are ADA-compliant.
#3. Use a Compliance-Checking Program: There are many online ADA compliance checkers that make it simple to pinpoint areas where your site may not be compliant.
Google Chrome’s Lighthouse extension is free and a great tool that will generate a report in seconds.
If you do find anything that is not compliant, screenshot it and keep records of efforts to address the mistake. This can be useful in your defense if you are sued for non-compliance.
#4. Install an Accessibility Widget On Your Website: Having an accessibility widget helps users with disabilities tailor their website experience to their needs.
A widget can enable users to change text size, color, or contrast; use an embedded screen reader; turn animations on or off; and more.
#5. Include an Accessibility Statement: An accessibility statement on your website informs users that you are taking steps to ensure your website is accessible to everyone.
In your statement, direct people on what to do if they have difficulty navigating your site. This information will make your users feel valued, help you gather helpful feedback about your site, and work as a strong defense should your ADA compliance is ever questioned in court.
ADA compliance checklist for websites
#1. Read the law documentation
#2. Every media file and map should have an “alt” tag
#3. All your online forms should have proper descriptive HTML tags
#4. All hyperlinks should have prospered descriptive anchor text
#5. All pages on your site have “skip navigation” links
#6. All the text content should be structured using the correct heading tags
#7. Every PDF file should be accessible
#8. All videos should have subtitles, audio descriptions, and transcripts
#9. The color contrast of your web pages should be enough according to WCAG
#10. All fonts must be accessible
#11. All HTML tables should be populated with column headers, cell information, and row identifiers
#12. All audio files on your site should have a written caption
#13. All call-to-action (CTA) buttons on your website should have an accessible name and an ARIA label
#14. Your entire website should be accessible with keyboard navigation
#15. You should have a website accessibility policy page
#16. Have easily locatable contact information to enable users to request accessibility information
#17. Test your website accessibility according to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
#18. Automate your website accessibility check to avoid missing critical accessibility issues
Importance of Having an ADA-Compliant Website
#1. ADA Compliance Boosts Your Target Audience
If your website is not already ADA compliant, you are seriously missing out on millions of prospects who cannot access your website due to their disabilities.
There are about 50 million people with disabilities in the U.S., which means about 19 percent of this country has a disability and not doing business with you.
Many of them might be interested in your products, but once they arrive at your website, they cannot navigate easily enough to purchase anything or even contact you, all because your website is only accessible to users without disabilities.
Thus, they may move on to your competitors and make purchases.
For example, if you have a video that displays the benefits of your product, but it doesn’t have captions, then users who are deaf or hard of hearing will not get to find out how nice your product is.
The same applies when you have images with no alternate text. The reason for the alternate text is to allow screen reading tools to describe the image to someone who is visually impaired, so if you don’t have that text, some of your target audience will miss out.
Similarly, it’s important to ensure your site is fully accessible without a mouse so that users with physical limitations can use it.
#2. ADA Compliance Boosts Your SEO Efforts
Now more than ever, search engines are evolving to crawl web pages with more human intention.
The main element of WCAG is accessibility to screen readers, and these readers crawl your site pages similarly to search engines. If your site meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, it will likely attract users, search engines, and screen readers alike, ultimately boosting your SEO efforts.
For this reason, alternative image text, meta-tagging, and video transcripts should be seriously considered.
#3. ADA Compliance May Improve Your Reputation
The fact that an ADA-compliant website can boost your ideal audience by millions is just one reason to make your site more accessible.
Another benefit is that not only will you get more customers to your online store, but those customers will also know how valuable they are to your company.
After all, they might have gone to a few other sites that were not ADA compliant, disappointed each time that they couldn’t access the content until they got to yours.
And once those new customers notify their friends and relatives how they found your website, more users will know you made sure to make it ADA compliant.
The fact that you put this effort into ensuring every user was included will set you apart from your competitors.
Therefore, making your website ADA-compliant is a great way to earn some positive press for your business.
#4. ADA Compliance Leads to Overall Better Website Usability
Creating a more operable and navigable site will eventually benefit all users while still meeting WCAG guidelines.
Making your web pages easier to understand will allow everyone – disabled or non to find what they are looking for quickly.
If you decide to stick to the guidelines, your website will likely convert more leads across the board because people will trust that they can always easily find the content they are looking for.
#5. You Can Avoid Penalties
The text in the ADA did not originally mention websites since this technology was not broadly used in 1990. But now that most businesses now used it, they need to ensure it’s accessible to every user.
Since we are past the ruling date, all updated pages on your site are required to be at least grade A complaints, grade AAA being the highest.
Dozens of established brands have been hit with significant lawsuits in recent years before the guidelines were even set in stone.
So if you want to prevent the legal costs of being found non-compliant with the ADA, it’s best to make the necessary changes to your site now.
If you are unsure where to get started, the ADA’s website has some tips to rush through.
A more accessible digital marketing world is a win for all involved. By ensuring your website is ADA compliant, you not only make life easier and more welcoming to users with disabilities, but you also open up your business to 61 million potential customers.
That’s not just good for your business. That is good for everyone and so your website should be ADA-compliant.