Americans with Disabilities Act in 2018 and your website…is it important?

ada compliance and your website accent graphix

You may be wondering ‘What does the American Disabilities Act have to do with my website!”

While most people think of the ADA as applying to brick and mortar stores. However, now that consumers have moved online, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is redefining how the ADA applies to e-commerce business.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.

Your website may looks good, offer user friendly functions and provides a great user experience. But, can a disabled person use it? 

Ask yourself the following question:

  • Can a visually-impaired person understand what your photos and other non-text aspects of your website are and do? If not, you may need to make some changes or you may receive a letter from lawyers threatening Americans with Disability Act or ADA Claim

Website compliance is important to avoid a lawsuit or government action, but it’s also as important to provide an equal opportunity for people to enjoy your goods or services whether they have a disability or not.

What are the ADA regulations?ada compliant website accent graphix madison wi

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990. It was originally for physical accommodations – retail locations with ramps, elevators, things that would allow people that are handicapped to get around the store and access different floors and levels.

The regulations have been a little behind the times because they failed to include web presence for organizations in the regulations. In 2016, a few lawsuits went to trial and judges had mixed rulings. Since then the topic has gained a lot of attention and has led to some changes.

Here are four design adjustments to consider.

  • Add text to your images.

Many websites include images. However, if there is no text to identify the image, a blind person’s screen reader could not identify the image. The user would not have any way of knowing if the image is a logo, link to another page or simply a stock photo.

For example, a state website may have a picture of the governor. The blind person should be able to use their screen reader to go over the image and hear, “photo of the Governor [name].”

  • Don’t use PDFs.

Another simple adjustment you could make is to not post documents in PDF format. Image based formats are challenging to the visually impaired because they cannot be read by screen readers or text enlargement programs.

  • Allow for adjustments in color and font size.

Web designers often design in such a way that does not allow the user to adjust font size or color. While they may be protecting their brand, they are also inhibiting some users. Many visually impaired need to use high contrast color settings or very large fonts to read a website. Don’t design your website in a way that makes it impossible for them to do this.

  • Enhance your multimedia.

Make images and video more accessible by adding audio descriptions to images, including narration of changes in setting, gesturing and other details. In addition, add text captions for the deaf.

What Else Can You Do?

Talk to your web designer about other techniques that will make your site more user-friendly for people with disabilities. Worried that’s not in your budget? Consider the fact that DOJ fines start at $75,000. And it’s still yet to be determined if a non-compliant website is liable for one fine or will be charge per page for each violation. As the recent lawsuits illustrate, though, settlements quickly add up into the millions.

While legal considerations might be your biggest worry, making your site more accessible is simply good customer service. More than 39 million Americans are blind and another 246 million have “low vision,” Another one million are deaf in the U.S. Add to that people with mobility issues that prevent them from using their hands and that’s a huge portion of the country’s buying power.

Be an industry leader by implementing simple adjustments that make your website accessible to these important groups:

  • Include “skip navigation” at the top of your pages so people using screen readers can get directly to the content.
  • Make sure blinking and flashing features can be paused and include visual and audible notifications if sounds automatically play.
  • Use descriptive HTML tags on any online forms.
  • Be sure your website is not only navigable with a mouse, but other means as well (such as a keyboard).

Another important consideration is that the ADA does not allow businesses to simply provide an alternative such as a phone number. Lastly, include accessibility issues as part of your website and mobile strategy. When new technologies are implemented or pages added, part of the process should include the implications for persons with disabilities. (citation.

Luckily, the Department of Justice has made accessibility guidelines available to everyone to determine if our website meets those standards, and those are:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

Accessibility Checklist

By making your web presence ADA compliant, you’re essentially meeting the WCAG 2.0 website compliance guidelines, and making the user experience for people with disabilities, more user-friendly. Giving the user the same opportunities to interact with your website or app as someone who doesn’t have a disability.

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