ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act that was established and enforced in 1990 to aid people with disabilities in overcoming institutional and technological bias that keeps them from having access to information.
For example, the Act led to widespread adoption of wheelchair access ramps and other equal-access accommodations that have become a regular part of work and public places. It specifically requires organizations to provide suitable accommodation and means of work to employees with disabilities.
ADA compliance specifically states that all information and electronic technology – such as websites – must be made accessible for people with disabilities.
Which Websites Must Be ADA Compliant?
As all public spheres in the US must comply with ADA regulations, almost any other business must as well – including websites.
ADA applies to all technological means of information as well as all businesses and web-based applications. Specifically, ADA compliance applies to:
State and local government institutions
Places of business considered a place of public accommodation
Organizations that work for the benefit of the public, such as schools, restaurants, hotels, banks, law offices, postal service, public transport etc.)
Private organizations with more than 15 employees
In terms of websites, ADA compliance depends on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a roadmap and a set of instructions on how businesses and organizations can optimize their websites for accessibility.
WCAG recognizes three levels of accessibility compliance: A, AA and AAA. The minimum level to ensure ADA compliance is AA, which means that the website is accessible to almost all users. We will discuss the three levels of WCAG compliance in more detail soon in the article.
In a nutshell, all modern-day websites should be ADA compliant and accessible to anyone, including people with disabilities. This should be the norm, even in rare cases when ADA standards do not apply to specific organizations.
How to Meet Ada Compliance Standards?
In order to ensure your website complies with ADA standards, the first thing to do is go through the WCAG guidelines whose three-level system goes as follows:
Level A: The website is accessible to some users.
Level AA: The website is accessible to almost all users.
Level AAA: The website is accessible to all users.
Although, as stated above, reaching Level AA is good enough for reaching ADA compliance, you should ideally strive to make the website 100% accessible to all users and turn it into an all-inclusive environment.
These are the four WCAG’s core principles on which you should build the ADA compliant website:
Perceivable: Website visitors should be able to see, locate and view all the website’s information and content, such as text, images and videos. In case a user cannot read a text or listen to a video, a website should offer an alternative way of consuming this content – for example, listening to the written text or reading the video’s captions.
Operable: Users should be able to successfully and easily navigate the website and use all of its features and functionalities, such as site map and specific widgets. For this, you need a web developer who is aware of ADA compliance standards because they have to write the operability standards into the HTML code.
Understandable: Content and features on your website – images, videos, calculators, forms, tools etc. - must be understandable to all users. In order to implement this concept, provide instructions that come with the navigation menu, forms and any other features on your website.
Robust: Your website should provide the same overall user experience to people with disabilities as your non-disabled visitors. Even if users with disabilities utilize assistive technologies and no matter how content on your website is delivered, the UX should be universal and all users should be treated the same.
ADA Compliance Checklist
In order not to miss out on any important accessibility guidelines covered by ADA, it is useful to have a checklist handy that keeps track of these essentials.
Step 1: Read the ADA documentation
Step 2: All media files and maps should have an “alt” tag
Step 3: All online forms should have descriptive html tags
Step 4: All hyperlinks should have a descriptive anchor text
Step 5: All pages on the website should have “skip navigation” links
Step 6: All the text content should be structured using proper heading tags
Step 7: All PDF files should be accessible
Step 8: All videos should have subtitles, transcripts and audio description
Step 9: The color contrast of your web pages should be sufficient according to WCAG
Step 10: All fonts should be accessible
Step 11: All HTML tables should be populated with column headers, row identifiers and cell information
Step 12: All audio files on your website should have a written caption
Step 13: All CTA buttons on the website should have an accessible name
Step 14: The website should be accessible with keyboard navigation
Step 15: Have a website accessibility policy page
Step 16: Have easily locatable contact information to allow users to request accessibility information
Step 17: Test your website accessibility according to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines
Step 18: Automate your website accessibility check to prevent missing critical accessibility issue
How to Check if Your Website is ADA Compliant
To evaluate your website’s compliance with ADA guidelines, you can resort to the following methods.
1. Use Free Tools
Numerous accessibility testing tools, such as Lighthouse and WAVE, are free and lets users look into their text size, image alt text, color contrast and so on.
Plenty of other ADA compliance checker tools can be found on W3C’s website. These tools help assess all the vital elements that constitute the accessible website.
2. Do a Manual Audit
Checking your website for ADA compliance via manual audit means assessing each site page for accessibility using the WCAG guidelines checklist above.
Businesses may find the manual checklist less practical, especially considering the possible repercussions of failing to meet ADA standards. Using one of free tools or a professional audit to make sure your business is ADA compliant may be better options.
3. Require a Professional Evaluation
A professional ADA audit consists of hiring a team of specialists, usually an agency, that can independently evaluate your website’s accessibility.
They can provide a specific plan of action to make your website ADA compliant or implement it themselves.
Businesses that don’t have the time or the capacity to evaluate their own website, or prefer to leave this in the hands of professionals, could benefit greatly from investing in this service.
What If Your Website Doesn’t Meet ADA Compliance Standards?
In case your website doesn’t meet ADA compliance standards, you are liable and at a risk of lawsuits and hefty financial fines.
A lawsuit could be filed against your business or a brand if people with disabilities can’t access and use your website. This is why it is vital to know what ADA compliance on websites is, which companies ADA affects and how to become ADA compliant.
The US Department of Justice provides recommendations on the ADA compliance guidelines, so you should ideally use them when making your website and its UX ADA compliant.
Even though in most cases not being ADA compliant is not intentional, it doesn’t change anything. Unintentional skipping of guidelines that leads to a website not being accessible to anyone can result in paying thousands of dollars in lawsuits.
Not being compliant with the ADA standards can also result in:
The costs of building ADA compliant website
Another potential loss of not making your website accessible to users with disabilities is the loss of customers. As of 2020, there were 61 million adults living with some form of disability in the US. This makes for a potentially huge demographic that should be able to access and consume your website’s content in order to be able to convert.
AccessiBe, the AI-based solution that helps web developers and designers make websites ADA and ECAG compliant, is an automated website accessibility tool that is used by more than 100,000 websites globally.
The tool simplifies and streamlines the accessibility process and achieves compliance via machine learning and computer vision technologies. With AccessiBe, websites can also get certifications of performance and accessibility statements.
AccessiBe makes sure online businesses can:
Set up and run the tool in a matter of minutes
Comply with existing accessibility legislation
Attract new potential customers by expanding their market reach
AccessiBe's accessWidget comes in several billing plans, for both annual and monthly billing: