Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is even more important today than it was when it was first signed into law in 1990. Adding to this is the fact that websites and web designers are under increased scrutiny to ensure compliance with all ADA standards. In general, terms being ADA compliant means that the website can be accessed by users who are hearing impaired, vision-impaired, or have physical disabilities.

Though these are only broad stroke terms. The technical requirements associated with making sure that your organization’s website is ADA compliant can be far more complex. Failing to adequately address them, even unintentionally, can lead to stiff legal and financial consequences.

Taking Steps To Ensure Your Website Is ADA Compliant To 2021 Standards

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically prohibits state and local government agencies as well as private companies, labor unions, and even hiring agencies from discriminating against a qualified individual who is disabled. This includes all aspects of employment such as:

  • The Application Process
  • Hiring
  • The potential for job advancement
  • Compensation
  • The availability of job training & continuing education

When it comes to privately-owned companies, ADA compliance is required for any business that has 15 or more full-time employees in operation for 20 weeks or more.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act also notes ADA access applies to businesses that fall under the public accommodation. This applies to physical access to the business for disabled people as well as the business’s website. These updated standards have many web designers, webmasters, and business owners wondering if their website fully lives up to all ADA guidelines.

What Makes A Website ADA Compliant?

There are a few key factors to note when it comes to designing, auditing, or updating a website to be compliant with ADA guidelines. The overarching goal of these guiding principles is to ensure that the website can be accessed, and navigated by disabled individuals as well as providing them with the same robust experience that any other user would enjoy when visiting the website. This includes making sure that the information is easy to digest and not overly complicated or too busy to be translated by other means.

Using Proper Markup Techniques In Website Structure

The structure of the website involves using the correct heading tags as well as HTML for creating both ordered and unordered lists. The headings should also be easily distinguishable from the rest of the website content.

The Use Of Color & Audio

It’s important to use a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 to help visually impaired users to discern the difference between the background and readable text. It’s also important to make sure that any audio that is published on a specific page can be muted, paused, or stopped. This includes restricting the use of auto-play features.

Correct HTML Parsing & Errors

An ADA-compliant website needs to have clean HTML code that is free of errors. Errors and parsing issues can make it increasingly hard for disabled users to effectively navigate the site. This includes things like broken links and ensuring that all HTML elements are properly nested.

The Functionality Of Forms, Labels & Instructions Used On The Website

Disabled individuals who use screen readers can sometimes find website forms challenging to understand. Make sure that all the forms, labels, and instructions used throughout your website are clear and that they also use standard formats for important fields like names, addresses, and entering contact information.

User Access, Navigation & Controls

Ease of navigation is one of the most important things about an ADA-compliant website. It also tends to be one of the more common complaints. Make sure to implement key features for site visitors, and give them some degree of control to ensure that they have the same robust experience as an individual who is not disabled. This might include things like features that allow the user to pause content that updates rotate or refreshes.

Avoid using automatic pop-ups for things like special offers, newsletter signups or subscriptions, unless the pop-ups are designed to offer a reasonable level of assistance are reasonable. It’s also important to have gradual changes in the image via soft transitions.

Keyboard Functionality

A website that is fully ADA compliant needs to be usable via only a keyboard. The site should also support total keyboard navigation for individuals who can’t use a computer mouse or a touchpad. This includes the ability to navigate both forward and back with keyboard commands alone.

Use Skip Links

Skip Navigation and Skip to Content links should be installed on your website to allow visitors to bypass superfluous headings and go straight to the content. This type of navigation should be consistent throughout all of the website’s pages, not just landing and home pages.

Use Sitemaps, Search Bars & Breadcrumbs

Visitors to your website need to have multiple ways to access various pages or read information. This typically calls for installing navigation menus, search bars, and breadcrumbs as well as providing access to an easy to read sitemaps. A sitemap link must also need to be clearly displayed on the homepage, and should be displayed as a footer on every page on your website.

Install Alternatives & Descriptions

Alternative content and descriptions are also important for a website to be deemed ADA compliant. The text should never be used to replace text unless it is part of a branding logo, a chart with labels or integrated into an infographic. Alternative content should also have optional text readers compatibility.

Alternative Text For Image Descriptions

All images used on your website should also have alternative text descriptions available for the visually impaired to be able to clearly understand them or interpret their meaning.

Use Video & Audio Alternatives

Any video or audio content also needs to have an alternative method for making it accessible to those who may be hearing or visually impaired. This might involve using transcriptions that can be read via screen reading assistive technology as well as the use of captions.

Closed Captioning & Live Captioning

An ADA-compliant website that uses video needs to use discernible sounds and voices that are closely synced closed captioning. Any live captions that are used need to be inserted in videos with sounds to allowing the hearing impaired to read along with the video.

The Clear Use Of Language, Text, & Titles

An ADA-compliant website should use language, text, and titles that are reasonably easy to determine via accessibility software. The overuse of abbreviations, or uncommon words, can complicate matters and may require an explanation inserted to clarify the underlying meaning.

Descriptive Page Titles

An ADA-compliant website should use descriptive page titles that clearly highlight what the content is about so that visitors can efficiently find the information they seek.

Sequential Ordering Of Content

A site visitor needs to be able to navigate the pages in a logical sequential order to preserve meaning and avoid confusion.

The Use Of Anchor Text

Some websites use long-form pages that have a lot of information broken up by key headings. Installing anchors and navigation links lets users jump to the most pertinent information without excessive scrolling or having to skim content just to find what they are looking for.

The Availability Of Text Resizing

Updates in the Americans with Disabilities Act establishes rules regarding text resizing. It indicates that text can also be resized up to 200 percent of its original size. At the same time, the text must still be readable once enlarged, and should not impair overall site functionality.

These are the most important aspects of ensuring your website is accessible which the team at little guy design is extremely well versed in all facets. We’ll scour through your site, finding all the issues while making necessary changes to meet ADA compliance standards.

What Is ADA Compliance & The Law (Part 1)
Patrick Caulfield