Why Website ADA Compliance?

Did you know?

1 in 4 adults in the United States live with some sort of disability.  This means that a quarter of your potential clients and customers may have disabilities that make it challenging for them to access information and services on websites. They might have trouble seeing text clearly, hearing audio on embedded videos, or navigating with a mouse.

Helping out customers with disabilities isn’t just good business, it’s the law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses and other organizations that offer services to the public to make accomodations for people with disabilities. In recent years, court cases involving Target, Domino’s Pizza, Beyoncé and hundreds of others have made it clear that the law doesn’t just apply to physical locations, but also to websites.

Robust technologies already exist to help people with disabilities — you don’t have to hire a developer to invent them. Screen readers, for example, not only read text on a page out loud, they also describe images and help people navigate a website.

The challenge is that these technologies only work if your website has been built correctly.

lgx can determine if your existing website is compatible with these technologies and otherwise follows best practices to make it accessible to all of your potential customers.

We can also fix any critical problems we find. This could be as simple as adding “alt text” to images or as involved as completely revamping your website’s code.

Is ADA Compliance Mandatory For Websites? Here’s Why You Should Care

Websites must be accessible. Even though the government hasn’t spelled out detailed accessibility regulations for most industries, you could still get sued if your website is not accessible. Target agreed to pay nearly $10 million as part of a settlement after a lawsuit alleged its website was not accessible to people with vision problems. Every month, nearly 200 new lawsuits are filed against organizations with inaccessible websites.

Imagine the frustration of a client who is used to navigating websites with a screen reader reaching your website and finding a dead end. Or consider a more common case: web browsers like Google and Chrome allow people to set the size of the text on the websites they visit. But those settings only work if the code is set up correctly. A client might easily read the content on your competitors’ site, only to be frustrated by the un-adjustable print on yours.

Fixing the code with accessibility in mind could improve the experience of everyone who comes to your site by making it better organized and easier to navigate. These same changes help Google and other search engines understand your site and lead to higher search rankings.

In addition to helping you avoid a lawsuit, website accessibility can actually improve the image of your brand, boost Google search rankings, and increase sales. It isn’t just the law; it’s good business, too.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to review and possibly improve your website’s accessibility :

  • Clean up website clutter
  • Describe images
  • Put captions on your videos
  • Make sure your text is legible – color contrasts and size are important.

If you are interested in finding Professional-Quality Accessibility support, we can help!

What’s the Process?

Disclaimer: little guy branding is a branding, web design, and web development agency located in Omaha, NE. We’re not lawyers, and you shouldn’t consider any content on our page to be legal advice.

We begin with a site audit, which includes automated tools as well as actually manually interacting with every aspect of your site. The federal government has not issued detailed regulations defining how the ADA applies to websites. Instead, we refer to industry guidelines known by the abbreviation WCAG. The audit will generate a to do list of changes to be made to improve your site’s accessibility. We’ll identify the highest priority items and explore with you solutions that make the most sense for your business and resources based on the issues identified by the audit.

We offer three ADA website compliance packages.

  • WCAG Website Compliance Check (10 hours)
  • Basic Accessibility Revamp (WCAG Check + 15 hours)
  • In-Depth Accessibility (Basic Accessibility Revamp + Custom Quote)

Contact us today. We can help you meet the industry guidelines, help protect you from lawsuits, and make sure your customers with disabilities have a good experience on your site.

Want to learn more about ADA Compliance for your website? Read on below or check out our blog posts on the topic.

What Is ADA Website Compliance?

Unlike ramp slopes and rail heights, which are spelled out clearly in regulations, so far the Department of Justice hasn’t issued clear regulations for ADA compliance for business websites, creating a worrying and confusing state of limbo that lawyers are capitalizing on.

“In the absence of website regulations, the courts are filling the void with a patchwork of decisions that often conflict with one another,” writes Minh Vu, a lawyer, in an article on ADA website compliance. “The uncertain legal landscape has fueled a surge of lawsuits and demand letters filed and sent on behalf of individuals with disabilities alleging that the websites of thousands of public accommodations are not accessible.”

The DOJ has been promising to clarify things for years–the latest promised date for regulations was 2018. But the Trump Administration postponed them indefinitely (Department of Justice announcement). No one knows when, if ever, they will be released.

Meanwhile, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed, some resulting in substantial settlements, including $10 million settlement involving Target’s website. And it’s not only retail outlets that need to worry. The number of industries facing lawsuits is increasing and now includes restaurants, banks and credit unions (pdf), schools, hospitals, clinics, health insurance companies, and drug stores and optical stores.

Because of the lack of regulations, no one can certify a website is ADA compliant.

Instead, website developers rely on industry accessibility guidelines called WCAG. Contact us today. We can help you meet the industry guidelines, help protect you from lawsuits, and make sure your customers with disabilities have a good experience on your site.

How do you measure your site’s ADA Compliance?

Without clear regulations how do you know if your site is safe from lawsuits? And if there are problems, how do you fix them?

The good news is that over and over again, courts have pointed to a particular set of voluntary industry guidelines, put out by the World Wide Web Association, as a standard businesses can refer to in lieu of official government regulations. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) give business owners a great place to start, and a way to show they’re making good-faith efforts to make their websites accessible. Business owners can also look to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and its related guidelines, which Federal Agencies use to make their websites accessible.

The bad news is that understanding those standards and applying fixes in some cases requires HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding knowledge, which can be a challenge for those who use WordPress plugins and themes or services such as Squarespace to avoid coding. While some plugins and themes can help make websites ADA compliant, many can actually create problems.

Customer support at Squarespace warns, “It’s important to note that some Squarespace elements may not be fully accessible. If your site is required to comply with accessibility standards, we recommend working with an accessibility specialist.”

According to court documents in Gil’s lawsuit, fixing the problem completely could take between $37,000 and $250,000, far too expensive for many small businesses. Even the University of California recently opted to take down content rather than spend the money to make it all accessible.

At little guy branding, we’re currently developing ADA compliance solutions that will cost far less than these figures for most websites. If you’re worried about compliance, get in touch.

Strapped for cash? While you might not be able to completely achieve ADA website compliance, there are still steps you can take today to make your website less of a target for lawsuits and more friendly to people with disabilities.

Four Simple Steps to Improve Your Website ADA Compliance

Clean up clutter

Website ADA compliance starts with a clean, orderly website design, without unnecessary clutter. Blind website users typically rely on software known as screen readers to interpret a page for them. Packing the top of your site with 20 links to social networks, for example, means a blind user has to patiently step through each one of them before reaching the main content of your site.

To get a sense of how screen readers will describe your site, try the free Chromevox screen reader for Chrome or the built-in VoiceOver app on Macs. Use the arrow keys to attempt to navigate without a mouse, as someone with vision impairments would.

If you can’t access something on the page, consider whether you really need it. Sometimes the easiest way to make your website easier to use for everyone (not just those with disabilities) is to just cut stuff out. Does your WordPress site for selling shoes really need a weather widget? Can you get away with 3 social media links instead of 10?

Describe images

By default, screen readers will try to pronounce the filenames of images it comes across.

Unfortunately, those can be hard to understand. Consider this image name that used to be on our website: “18382181_1838909929705701_6405486325146845184_n.jpg”. Imagine a computerized voice suddenly reading out loud a long list of meaningless digits.

Renaming images can help, but the best solution is to include something called an “alt attribute” with every image, which describes the image for those who can’t see it. In many cases, you can add the alt tag without any coding knowledge. For example, in WordPress, click on any image in the Media Library, and you’ll see something like the screenshot below. The text you enter in the “Alt” field will be read out-loud by a screen reader instead of the file name.

Screenshot shows where to place alt text describing images for screen readers. It's a field in the WordPress media library

It’s easy to add text describing images.

Caption videos

For people with bad eyesight, describe what’s happening in your videos. Transcribe spoken audio and describe sound-effects for people who are deaf.

YouTube provides clear help on adding subtitles and closed captions. Even many simple video-editing apps, such as iMovie, allow you to add captions.

Subtitles and closed captions open up your content to a larger audience, including deaf or hard of hearing viewers.
1. Go to you video manager by clicking your account top right, creator studio, video manager, videos
2. next to the video you want to add captions or subtitles to, click the drop-down menu next to the Edit button.
3 select subtitles / CC
4. Click the Add new subtitles or CC button.
5. Choose how you want to add or edit subtitles or closed captions to your video.

Screen shot of YouTube's subtitle and closed captions page

Make text and links legible

It might be tempting to squeeze a lot of text onto the screen by using small font sizes. But there’s no need to do this:

Everyone knows how to scroll, so it doesn’t matter if your text spills off the page. Larger font-sizes make your site easier for everyone.

Also, avoid low-contrast text and background colors, like grey text on slightly lighter grey screens. You can check contrast with this free tool. High contrast colors will also help people with color blindness: that’s roughly every 20th visitor to your site.

In general, avoid relying on color alone to distinguish something. For example, instead of just making links a different color, underline them, or include a link icon. Many WordPress themes will let you make these changes without any coding.

When to Get Expert Help

These relatively simple steps will make your site far more friendly to people with disabilities. As an added bonus, they will also make your site easier for anyone to use. For example, on slow mobile connections, it can take a while for images to load. An alt tag will appear in place of the image, so users know what is coming, and can choose to scroll past it.

These steps in themselves aren’t necessarily enough to make a website accessible , especially if you are using forms or other interactive elements. Fixing those can require digging into HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

To see where you stand, consider using one of several free tools to test your website’s accessibility. I personally like the free Axe Accessibility Chrome extension, although it takes a little knowledge of web development to use.

Depending on what you find, you may want some expert help. We can help walk you through the results of your tests, or run our own, and give you a free estimate of what it will take to fix your current site. Considering a new website? Let us build it with accessibility in mind from the beginning.

Professional-Quality Accessibility

We offer three ADA website compliance packages:

WCAG Website Compliance Check (10 hours)

This starts with an analysis from one of the top automated testing tools. Then we go beyond the automated checkers, using custom human testing to identify ways the website may cause problems for the blind, seeing impaired, hearing impaired, and motor impaired.

Testing includes navigating and using the entire site with screen reading software, as well as employing simulations of vision, hearing, and motor impairments.

The check includes a detailed, easy-to-read report identifying each problem and the recommended solutions.

All testing is based on compliance with two standards: WCAG 2.0 and Section 508.

Basic Accessibility Revamp (WCAG Check + 15 hours)

We fix the problems identified in the WCAG Check.

This includes making sure the site is navigable, images can be interpreted by screen readers, all links are easy to find and understand, and text can be easily read.

In-Depth Accessibility (Basic Accessibility Revamp + Custom Quote)

Instead of removing problematic functionality, we will rewrite the code to solve the problems.

To develop the quote, we work with you to identify the functionality you most need to preserve.

Contact us today. We can help you meet the industry guidelines, help protect you from lawsuits, and make sure your customers with disabilities have a good experience on your site.

Banner art inspired by pop artist Piet Mondrian