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Is Your Website ADA-Compliant?

When you built your website, functionality was likely at the core of your design so clients, customers, and prospects could easily determine what you offered and how you could help them. But your website design may inadvertently be a barrier to an entire group of website users—and it could cost you fines as well as lost sales.

That’s because you have an obligation to ensure your website is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and its guidelines that cover the Internet and websites, known as the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

The National Law Review estimates that lawsuits involving accessible design have increased 75% over the past few years, from about 2,000 in 2018 to 3,500 in 2020, with cases entailing a wide variety of industries—small business included.

And of course, not only is it the law to abide by the ADA, but it’s a smart business practice; the Web Accessibility Initiate (WAI) estimates there are 1 billion people with disabilities globally. These include people who have limited physical mobility, vision or hearing loss and cognitive deficits, among other limitations. Read on to find out how you can make sure your website is doing what it should to reach these consumers.

What are the foundations of an ADA-compliant website?

An important resource to consult for website accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the WAI. While federal businesses and contractors are required to conform with these standards, it isn’t as clear-cut for private businesses, since it is not a law that they have to conform to these specific guidelines. However, since the ADA covers websites, these comprehensive standards are a helpful guideline to ensure your business meets the requirements.

As a brief overview, some of the key aspects of universal design are:

  • Using text to describe photos that can be accessible to someone using a screen reader (which people with vision impairment often use)
  • Including captions and/or transcripts for video and other auditory components
  • Creating sign language interpretation for multimedia pieces
  • Make sure there is sufficient color contrast between the text and the background so that people with low vision can read the text
  • Posting PDF documents in an alternative format since screen readers can’t read them
  • Removing popups, along with blinking, flashing, or other disruptive features
  • Disabling background audio that plays automatically
  • Making it easy for users to adjust the font size and color
  • Labeling drop-down menus and buttons for those who have trouble clicking
  • Disabling features that require a keyboard
  • Making your content logical to navigate
  • Creating a style guide so that others on your team who are updating your website include ADA-compliant design features.

Please note that these are only examples and don’t cover all the details. Refer to the WCAG for more information and/or an attorney who can help ensure you meet all applicable guidelines.

 

How do I know if my website meets ADA specifications?

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers a compliance summary that can help illuminate areas where your website might need improvement. Another website checker can be found here.

Your website platform might also offer a tool to check or help your compliance; for example, WordPress, a common website design platform, has an accessibility plugin that evaluates content.

In order to ensure you are not only compliant but also user-friendly, work with people with disabilities during design, development and testing.

 

Why is an ADA-compliant website good for my business?

While you might be upgrading your website design to conform to ADA standards, the good news is that these accommodations are just smart business practices as they can make all of our lives a little easier. It’s similar to the way that even though portions of the ADA Act were designed to help people with wheelchairs, those with strollers have found it really helpful, too, to be able to navigate ramps rather than curbs and stairs.

Here are some ways that website universal design best practices can help us all:

  • While captioning is required as an accommodation for those with hearing difficulties, it can be helpful in numerous other situations, such as for someone who is an English language learner, or people who are in a noisy environment and can’t hear video; or on the other hand, for those who want to stay quiet because they are in public or have a sleeping baby.
  • Descriptive text in hyperlinks is helpful for a sighted person because they know where they’re being led, rather than just a “click here” that might take you to a page you are not interested in exploring.
  • Text available by screen reader benefits people who are commuting or exercising or have reading-related disabilities such as dyslexia.
  • Many of these accommodations can contribute to higher search position; for example, the extra keywords featured in an “alt tag” on photos can help raise a site’s SEO (although search engines don’t consider accessibility, per se, as criteria in their ranking).

Protect against unforeseen issues

With today’s focus on diversity, it’s important to remember that the concept of inclusion extends to a variety of groups with differences in gender, culture, sexual orientation, religion, and age. Yet it also means making your business accessible to those with different abilities. Best practices in accessible web design can ensure you don’t alienate potential customers or incur lawsuits.

For more information on protecting your business and its online activities, call O’Kane and Tegay Insurance Brokers today. They can discuss an array of cyber liability issues and insurance that may help protect you and your business.

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