Website accessibility means that websites are made in a way that provides reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. For a long time website accessibility has been an important part of the web design process for large organizations. Think large corporations, government services or publicly funded institutions—all these sites have legally been required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you. High profile ADA compliance lawsuits are making it clear that pretty soon all websites will be required to meet ADA compliance. If Beyonce can get sued about ADA compliance issues on her website, you can too. ADA is a strict liability law with no defense. If you violate the law, you have to pay for noncompliance. This means ADA compliance is necessary, not just a bonus that’s nice to have.
We’re all going to have to change as a result—both clients and designers are going to have to accept that ADA compliance is not going away and, no, you can’t afford not to have it. This inevitably will affect pricing among the web design industry, and create a new paradigm for how sites can be built.
In this blog post we’ll explore why ADA compliance matters, what the compliance requirements are and how you can start updating your website now.
Why ADA Compliance Matters
As much as designers want to focus on the visual elements that really make a website stand out, they are going to have to accept that it should not be the sole point of focus when building websites. Designers are going to have to consider how their designs affect those who view visual formats differently than most of us are used to. They can’t ignore this segment of the population and they must also give them an equally good experience as their visual-friendly counterparts.
While being able to view a visual design is considered “normal” in the design industry, the narrative must be shifted in order to include those who do not view visual design as their normal form of communication. That way, the design industry can shift to communicating to everyone rather than the majority. Inclusivity is in and we all need to do our part to make it standard in our respective industries.
If we as designers fail to do this, the repercussions will be costly. 2019 saw a 12% surge in ADA compliance suites in the courts, including one against Domino’s. Domino’s decided to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the decision on their case, but that’s not really an option for the rest of us. If we’re hit with a ADA compliance lawsuit, we’re likely to face damages between $10,000-$50,000.
How to Comply with ADA
The key to making a website accessible is to make it in a way that anyone—including people with disabilities—can access the full scope of a website. Everyone should be able to access content, navigate through the entire site and engage with different functional elements in a relatively easy way.
For specifics on how to comply with ADA, we refer to WCAG 2.0 AA. It is the technical standard that is most often quoted in ADA compliance lawsuits. Some of the key takeaways from the WCAG 2.0 AA include (please note that we are only highlighting some of the standards in the bullets below):
- All images and non-text content should include alt-text (with some exceptions)
- All video and audio content should include text transcripts
- All video should include closed captioning
- Websites should be structured using correct HTML structure (i.e. lists should use proper ordered or unordered HTML to describe them)
- Provide detailed instructions so a user does not have to rely on a particular sense to determine an action on a website
- Ensure the color contrast ratio is at least 4.5:1 between all text and backgrounds
- Do not use images of text unless necessary (with some exceptions—i.e. logos are ok)
- Each web page should have a unique and identifiable page title
- Provide an accessibility statement on your website
Complying with ADA at Simply Styled Sites
At Simply Styled Sites, we follow an ADA compliant web design process to increase the accessibility of our websites. We also use the UserWay Widget to increase the compliance in the websites we create. UserWay is one of the most advanced AI-based ADA compliance solutions on the market. It helps with ensuring that websites meet strict accessibility requirements from the US and abroad.
UserWay uses a fully integrated and automated Compliance solution that measures, monitors and fixes accessibility issues as they come up. It also makes changes to ensure compliance with minimal changes to your website’s existing code. Furthermore, UserWay has an Accessibility Statement Generator which helps generate language to describe how your website is compliant with ADA standards. They really go above and beyond making ADA compliance easy.
ADA compliance can seem daunting and confusing, but we’re here to help. Simply Styled Sites is committed to offering superior service and helping you meet ADA compliance with ease. If you have specific questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We’re happy to chat and help you bring your site up to standard!