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ADA Website Compliance

Written by 5ivecanons Staff

What is the ADA?

The ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Civil Rights Law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The responsibilities of maintaining this law falls under the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

In the past, they have been responsible for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the braille writings you see under signs, wheelchair ramps near building entrances, and handicapped parking spaces. These have already bettered the lives of the 56.7 million Americans with a disability.

What do they have to do with my website?

Starting in January 2018, according to the law

“all technology that falls under Section 509 standards will be required to meet new ADA accessibility standards. Websites fall under Section 508 standards”

This means that websites are now by law required to be compliant and accessible to those with disabilities. The ADA will have a guideline listing what websites must do to be compliant. There are Four Principles to be ADA Compliant

What needs to be fixed?

Many users that have disabilities use assistive technology to help them understand what is on a specific website. However, those technologies can be pointless if you’re website isn’t designed to help them work. Some of the most basic and fixable problems are: 

  1. Images without Text Explanations
  2. Documents are not posted in an accessible format
  3. Websites specifiy their colors and font sizes
  4. Video + Media Lack Accesible Features

cat wheelchair GIF

How to solve these problems

  1. Blind people, or those with low vision, have difficulty reading a computer display. They often use screen readers to read aloud the websites text. The problem comes in when there are images that cannot be seen. What you can do is add a detailed text equivalent to every image. Adding a type of HTML tag to each image will allow it to be read by screen readers.
  2. Many websites post documents with information using PDFs, which is unusable to those with screen readers. The simple way to fix that is to also provide the documents in a text-based format such as HTML along with your PDF.
  3. The overall look of your website is always very important, However it can be difficult for those with low vision to read certain fonts and colors. These users generally have a color and font size set in their web browsers, but some websites don’t allow this change. By allowing your website to change based on a users preference, you can help them immensely. 
  4. Videos are a very helpful and popular tool used by websites instead of text. However, those who are blind cannot see what is displayed in the video and those who are deaf cannot hear instructions. To fix this, videos can use features such as providing specific audio descriptions of what’s going on. They can also provide text captions to be in sync with the video. 

By fixing these small problems, you’ve already done a lot to help those with disabilities use your website.

blind GIF

What are some other things I can do?

  1. Allow your users to havea “skip navigation” option so they can be directed right to your website
  2. No blinking or flashing, no one wants that anyway
  3. Make sure items that move or change can be paused
  4.  Include visual notifications and transcripts for automatic sounds

blind GIF

Why should I make my website compliant?

Besides the fact it’s becoming mandatory, it’s a really good thing to do. You’re helping make your website easier to use for entire group of people who already have trouble navigating websites.

It’s also beneficial for you too. You’re introducing a whole new client/user base to your website. They’re much more likely to use your website knowing that you took the extra step to make it accessible to them.

What happens if I decide not to?

Of course it’ll be hard for the ADA to make sure every websites is compliant. Disabled users however will notice and could sue you. Recently, Winn-Dixie was faced with a ADA compliance lawsuit and lost. On June 12th, Judge Robert Scola of the Southern District of Florida stated,

“The factual findings demonstrate that Winn-Dixie’s website is inaccessible to visually impaired individuals who must use screen reader software.”

He also stated that since the Winn Dixie website is very much integrated with the store’s physical store locations, it is subject to follow the ADA.

Business.com states “If you are a business owner who hasn’t made provisions to ensure that your website and other online assetsare ADA compliant, you could be looking at a host of legal and financial penalties.”

How do I confirm I’m Compliant?

One thing that many people have been doing is contacting a qualified web design agency. They can do audits of your online properties and check to see if they are ADA complaint. If still have violations, the agency will make a list of them and help create a plan for you to update your website. If you would rather do it yourself, the ADA has released a guide book or “Tool Kit” for you to follow here 

Here is the actual statement from the ADA itself on the new laws

So there you have it! It won’t be too difficult, it may just take some time. In the end, it’s definitely worth it.

Sources:

Quantum: Image Source

Are You? Image Source

Love Actually Image Source

Penguins Image Source

Winn Dixie Dog Image Source

The Office Image Source