There’s a pretty steady trend erupting right now where business owners are being sued because their websites are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. Businesses like hotels, restaurants, and businesses with retail locations are particularly being targeted but they aren’t the only ones in the cross hairs.
As these cases are making their way through the court, the problem is that the Americans with Disabilities Act was created before websites were around and there aren’t clear standards with website design and ADA. If anyone is in charge of this, it’s one agency, the W3C.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) currently administer the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and they serve as the arbiter of the Internet. WCAG 2.0 Compliance comes in three levels (shown here from being less compliant to more compliant):
Another problem with ADA Compliance are these levels. Getting to level “AAA” renders a website almost completely void of design. These kinds of websites are not practical. Due to that, levels “A” and “AA” are considered acceptable levels to attain.
What Does ADA Compliance With Websites Really Mean?
There’s a good-sized laundry list of items that must be addressed. The general spirit is to, of course, help people with disabilities use your website – on all devices.
Here are some examples of ADA Compliance:
- Text should be readable if resized.
- Some people find it hard to read text if there is no sufficient contrast between the text and background.
- Web pages shall be designed in such a way that all information conveyed with color is also available without color.
- Content should be organized and readable – there should be at least one heading tag or strong tag in every page of the website.
- Content must not cause seizures.
- Users must be fully able to control the website using their keyboard.
- Text that looks like a heading should be marked up as a heading and it should be relevant to that content.
And there’s a lot more. Content must be perceivable (alt text, for example), operable (using only a keyboard, for example), understandable (navigation remains consistent), and robust (compatibility).
It gets fairly technical and any business that needs to be ADA compliant must commit to staying compliance once the process of compliance is initially completed. It takes some work and guidelines must be followed or else the website can later easily fall out of compliance.
The Process of Getting ADA Compliant
If your business employs less than 15 people, portions of ADA Compliance do not need to be met – as stated (ada.gov):
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.
Government/public facilities including schools, hospitals, and other publicly funded institutions (and websites) need to technically be AAA compliance to protect themselves but many fall short and are only AA compliant. Any business that wants to be protected against litigation should aim to be at least AA compliant.
To get compliant, you should talk to a website design company that specializes in ADA Compliance. They can help you either get compliant, or, in some cases, you may need to do a website redesign to get there (and it might be time to do that anyway).