Today, we’re diving into what is a bit of an obscure, not-often-discussed topic: your website & ADA compliance. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and “is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Many people are familiar with the ADA when it comes to physical locations and accommodations that need to be made for those with disabilities. However, notice the words: public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications. At the time, the internet as we know it didn’t exist, but it was partially covered in Title II of the Act. It was initially intended as compliance for governmental websites, but recently we’ve seen that accessibility is necessary for all websites.
What Does Accessibility Mean?
This means that your website content should be accessible to the blind, deaf, and those who must navigate by voice, screen readers, or other assistive technologies. Presently, there are no clear regulations defining website accessibility.
Who is Required To Comply?
Title I & Title III of the ADA list those who are required to comply with the Act. This means any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operate for 20 or more weeks every year or businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodation,” such as hotels, banks, and public transportation, are required to comply. This means the entirety of the law applies, from physical considerations to digital accommodations
What are the Accessibility Guidelines?
As of today, there are no clear, written accessibility guidelines. That doesn’t mean that businesses are off the hook, though! Your website should still accommodate users with disabilities. As the internet evolves and issues arise, we are seeing this handled on a case-by-case basis. Most recently (as in last week!) this happened when a blind man sued Domino’s over their site accessibility.
Why Create an ADA-Compliant Website?
The intent of the ADA was to ensure that those with disabilities are not segmented from things that the whole of society can do or access. As our society becomes more and more digital, there is no wonder that this is becoming an issue that we need to consider and be proactive. By failing to create an ADA-compliant website, your business could be open to lawsuits, financial repercussions, and damage to your reputation.
How to Create an ADA-Compliant Website?
As we mentioned above, an accessible website means that those who are blind, deaf, and navigate by voice, screen readers, or other technologies are able to use your website. Because there are no clear regulations for the private sector, Business News Daily recommends looking at the regulations for governmental entities and related case law for best practices.
Three Ways to Make Your Website Accessible
- Alt Tags for photos, videos, & audio files: Alt tags allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative text descriptions for items that they may not otherwise be able to view. Alt tags should be clear and descriptive of the object itself.
- Text transcripts for audio & video content: Create text transcripts to allow hearing-impaired users to understand the content.
- Consistent, organized layout: Keep your website organized and consistent with menus, links, and buttons. They should be clearly delineated and easily navigated throughout your entire site.
For more accessibility tips, check out this PDF from Accessible.org.
Even though there are not presently ADA guidelines for websites, you should make an effort to create an ADA-compliant website. This will demonstrate that your business has made a good-faith effort toward accommodation, should you ever wind up in court.
You can test your web accessibility here. Let us know – how did you score?! It’s unlikely that anyone has a perfect score & even we need to do some work to become more accessible!