What is ADA Compliance and How to Make Your Website Fully ADA Compliant

Software Development
What is ADA Compliance and How to Make Your Website Fully ADA Compliant
Article by Sumana Ganguly
Last Updated: November 12, 2023

A big part in ensuring complete website accessibility to visitors with disabilities is adhering to ADA compliance rules.

In this article, we will discuss what is ADA compliance, why your website should be ADA compliant and how to make it check all the ADA boxes.

Finally, we will take a look into the AI-powered accessibility tool that can help you achieve ADA compliance easily and seamlessly.

What is ADA Compliance?

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:

  • Legal fees
  • PR issues
  • 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.

  1"DesignRush Recommends: Website Accessibility Tool"

Make Your Website ADA Compliant With AccessiBe

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:

  • Standard: for websites under 1,000 unique pages
  • Large: for websites under 10,000 unique pages
  • Huge: for websites under 100,000 unique pages
  • Enterprise: tailored solution with no page limit

What Is ADA Compliance: Key Takeaways

ADA compliance plays a vital role in shaping a more inclusive digital environment where all users, regardless of their abilities, can access and interact with content seamlessly. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected through technology, businesses must prioritize accessibility to ensure that no one is left behind.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has set the groundwork for web accessibility standards, emphasizing the importance of creating digital experiences that cater to users with disabilities. Compliance with ADA guidelines, especially the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), not only mitigates legal risks but also fosters goodwill and trust among users, clients, and partners.

What Is ADA Compliance FAQs

What does the ADA do?

The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law in the United States that aims to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and promote equal opportunities in various aspects of life. The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.

Its purpose is to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities and ensure that they have full and equal access to employment opportunities, public services, accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, and other areas of public life.

It has led to advancements in accessible technology, workplace accommodations, and public infrastructure, promoting equal opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for millions of individuals with disabilities. However, even though the ADA has made remarkable progress, there is still work to be done to ensure that the spirit of the law is fully realized, and barriers to access are eliminated in all areas of life.

What qualifies as an ADA disability?

The ADA doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of specific conditions that qualify as disabilities. Instead, the focus is on the impact of the impairment on an individual's ability to perform major life activities. Disabilities can be visible or invisible, temporary or permanent, and can vary widely in nature and severity.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. The definition includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they are not currently experiencing limitations, and those who are regarded as having a disability, even if they do not have an actual impairment.

Subscribe to Spotlight Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest industry news