In this article, we are going to be talking about website ADA Compliance and why it matters to you, a business owner.

With more and more people accessing the internet with disabilities using assistive technologies to help navigate websites, your website can and should be built in a way that allows as many people as possible to be able to access it.

If you are interested in learning more about ADA Compliance, keep scrolling to learn:

At the end of the article, you will find our Free Website ADA Compliance Checklist that we use for all our projects. Be sure to use it on your next website design project!

What is website ADA Compliance?

ADA compliance stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Designs. Basically, what that means is your website must be accessible to those with disabilities.

We aim for Website ADA Compliance by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG is a massive checklist but provides us guidelines that we can use to improve accessibility on our websites.

Building ADA-compliant websites means building websites that are inclusive of everyone regardless of their disability.

An elderly woman accessing a website that was built using Website ADA Compliance standards

What is assistive technology for websites?

Assistive Technology is any form of software, program, product, or piece of equipment that helps the elderly and/or people with disabilities perform functions that might be too hard or not possible.

Some examples that help people access websites include:

  • Screen and text readers
  • Text-to-speech systems that use OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
  • Magnifiers
  • Speech input software
  • Altnernative input devices

These tools have revolutionized the way the elderly and people with disabilities can access the web.

Should your website be ADA Compliant?

In short, yes, for a couple of reasons. The first one is, it is required by law. ADA applies to all electronic information and technology, i.e., the internet.

The compliance laws apply to pretty much all businesses and web designers.

For a little more clarity, Website ADA compliance applies to:

  • All local, county, state, and federal government agencies
  • Any business that works for the general public’s benefit
  • Businesses that would be considered a public accommodation
  • Privately run companies that currently have 15 or more employees.
  • Non-profit and charitable organizations that either has 15 or more employees or which operate for the benefit of the general public

With that being said, you should still aim for ADA compliance even if the laws don’t apply to you or your business.

All ADA compliance really asks of you is for you to build your website so that they don’t exclude anyone with disabilities.

According to The World Bank’s Disability Inclusion Overview,

“One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability”.

That means that 15% of your users potentially can’t use your site.

By building your site to be ADA compliant, you are able to provide that 15% of users whatever it is they are looking for.

And not to mention how much nicer their experience will be when they go to your website and can actually use it.

What are the benefits?

  1. Better Accessibility: ADA-compliant websites are designed to be accessible to users with disabilities, ensuring that everyone can access the website, regardless of any physical or mental disabilities.
  2. Increased Reach: Having an ADA-compliant website increases your potential reach, as more individuals, including those with disabilities, will be able to visit your website.
  3. Enhanced User Experience: An ADA-compliant website is designed to be easier to navigate and use, which can help create a better overall user experience.
  4. Industry Compliance: In many industries, such as healthcare and education, ADA compliance is a legal requirement, so having an ADA-compliant website is essential in order to remain compliant and avoid potential penalties.
  5. Improved SEO: An ADA-compliant website is more likely to rank higher in search engine results, as they are designed to be more user-friendly and accessible to all users. This can lead to increased traffic and more potential customers.

What about the risks?

  1. Legal Exposure: Companies that do not comply with ADA standards face the risk of legal action from individuals with disabilities, government agencies, and even competitors.
  2. Reduced Reach: Companies that do not have ADA compliant websites are likely to miss out on potential customers with disabilities, which can significantly reduce their potential reach and revenue.
  3. Loss of Reputation: Companies that lack ADA compliance may be perceived as being insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities, which can damage their reputation and make them seem less reputable or trustworthy.
  4. Increased Maintenance Costs: Companies that do not comply with ADA standards may face higher costs to make the necessary changes to their website, compared to those that choose to opt-in to ADA compliance.

How do you meet website ADA Compliance standards?

For your website to meet ADA standards, it needs to be accessible to people who browse the web with assistive devices like screen readers.

There are a lot of tools online that can test if your website quickly complies with WCAG. Unfortunately, none of these tools are able to find everything. They are helpful for reference but don’t replace thorough testing.

We typically use them in addition to thorough accessibility testing. When accessibility testing we focus on 3 main things.

Text Alternatives

This means providing text alternatives to any non-text content like audio clips or videos.

The reason you want to do this is so anyone accessing your website who suffers from either visual or auditory impairments can still access the content you are providing.

You can do this by:

  • Providing alt text describing any image or graphic and its context
  • Using proper labeling of form fields, errors, and error suggestions
  • Utilizing captions on any video or audio content

Visual Impairments

Here we tackle any issues that come from the various forms of visual impairment that aren’t solved by text alternatives. The goal is to provide legible content for most vision impairments.

A rather large portion of the population has some form of colorblindness meaning they struggle with telling colors apart due to physical issues. Another surprisingly large chunk of our population visits websites needing to zoom in to enlarge the text to make it legible.

We try to address visual impairments in our designs by:

  • Providing enough contrast for all text so it remains easy to read for most visual impairments
  • Making sure the text is a legible size for users and is able to be scaled up if needed
  • Ensuring the content is accessible on all modern screen sizes

Keyboard Accessibility

To do this we make all functionality available from a keyboard so users who are unable to use a mouse or see the screen can still access your site.

Have you ever used the tab key to navigate a website? That’s made possible by utilizing keyboard accessibility tools in HTML.

Keyboard accessibility means coding your site in an organized way that allows users to “tab” through your content efficiently. This sometimes means avoiding certain functionality like text/image sliders.

What you want to keep in mind when providing keyboard accessibility is:

  • Establishing a strong operations order, Focusable content receives focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability
  • All items in your site’s navigation are clearly labeled and accessible by keyboard
  • Featuring navigation bypass which means providing the option for keyboard users to skip the navigation options to access the “main content”
  • Outlining the items that are currently “in-focus” for keyboard users
  • Adding additional search functionality for keyboard navigation

Best tips for website ADA Compliance

The best tip for ensuring ADA-compliant web design is to start with a well-defined website structure. This means outlining a clear hierarchy of content, including headings, subheadings, and titles, and ensuring that all content is properly labeled and organized.

Additionally, the website design should be responsive, meaning it should be optimized to perform correctly regardless of the device or operating system it is viewed on.

Finally, it is important to test the website for ADA compliance and make sure that all features are in compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Ready to make your website ADA-Compliant?

ADA compliance may seem like a daunting task, but that doesn’t stop it from being the right thing to do. That’s why at Hood West Design we build all of our websites with ADA compliance top of mind. It’s easier (and cheaper) to build your site compliant from the beginning than to make your existing site compliant.

One tool we always use when building ADA-compliant websites is our Website ADA Compliance checklist which you can download below for free!

Hood West Design’s ADA Compliance Checklist

Start making websites that are inclusive of everyone.

Looking to build a new ADA Compliant site?

Contact us today to learn more about Website ADA compliance and how we can help you by building a new compliant site or working on making your existing site compliant.