In today’s world, the internet has become an indispensable tool for any business. Whether you’re in the manufacturing, banking, food, retail, or tech industry, having your own website is a great way to find more customers, promote your brand, and grow your revenues.
Many businesses currently use their websites as an extension of their physical store or office. It’s where they entertain shoppers, showcase their products or services, and accept payments.
For that reason, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 now applies to websites as well. This law requires business establishments to make their store or office accessible to people with disabilities.
It doesn’t matter if you have a new website or an old one. It’s important to comply with the ADA policies on accessibility not only to avoid possible legal consequences but also to provide a better experience for your online customers.
What you should know about ADA compliance
In 2015, amendments were made to the ADA to promote web accessibility. Since then, ADA compliance has become a hot topic and recently, many companies have faced lawsuits because their websites failed to meet the accessibility requirements of the law.
If you’re new to this whole ADA compliance thing, here are some important facts you should know:
- Title III of the ADA identifies “websites” as “places of public accommodation”.
- Websites with components inaccessible to people with disabilities are deemed discriminatory and therefore, violate Title III of the ADA.
- If found in violation of the ADA, businesses, and organizations can be fined up to $75,000 in the first instance and $150,000 in subsequent violations.
- In 2018, there were 2,285 website lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nation due to non-compliance with the ADA. That’s a 181% increase from 2017.
- The ADA is a strict liability law. This means that there are no excuses or defenses for the violation of this law.
Must-haves of an ADA-compliant Website
Meeting the compliance requirements of the ADA is not difficult. To make sure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities, here are six critical components that you should pay attention to:
An ADA-compliant website should have a highly functional design that is clean and free of errors. When designing your website, make sure that it is:
Easy to navigate
Improving your site’s navigation is the first step in making it more accessible to people with disabilities. Aim to make your navigation consistent by avoiding dramatic changes too often. Divide categories clearly and make sure that all your navigation elements have clickable links. Use accurate titles for your categories and see to it that your search feature works.
Faster internet browsing experience
Website speed is important no matter who your audience is. There are many ways to boost the speed of your website. These include compressing large files, optimizing your code, reducing redirects, and browser caching.
Some users are color blind while others are farsighted, nearsighted, or have poor vision. Make sure your website images are clear enough to accommodate people with vision problems. Incorporate Alt Tags to each image which will provide blind users a description of what it is about.
Video & Audio Files
Internet users with vision impairment will greatly appreciate if your content has audio versions. Meanwhile, adding subtitles to your videos will help those with hearing problems access your website.
Just as videos and images are inaccessible to people who can’t see, audio files are inaccessible to those who can’t hear. Providing transcript texts for audio files will help make your content accessible to the deaf and those with hearing problems.
There are many ways to make your content accessible to people with disabilities. For example, if they are filling out forms, the user should be notified of any invalid information they have entered.
Incorporate a mix of texts, audio files, and visuals to make it easy for different types of users to access the information they need. Keep your copy simple. This is not only imperative to accommodate the elderly but also those who have learning disabilities.
Code that defines the structure
The ADA guidelines on websites should pass W3C HTML validation. Incorporating HTML code into your website images should help people with disabilities get a clear grasp of what is pictured in the visuals.
Your choice of font can greatly impact the accessibility of your content. Note that some fonts are easier to read than others, so take time to choose the right font for your website. Pay attention to the font size too. The recommended minimum font size for web content is 12. And instead of using italics to emphasize a phrase or term, use bold. Also, avoid animating texts or making them flash or blink as it can be difficult to perceive for people with visual impairment.
Accessibility Guide and Statement
Include a section on your website where you can post accessibility tips and tricks for users. For example, you can add a section guiding the visually impaired users on how to navigate your site. Don’t forget to include links, buttons, and other important details they need to effortlessly explore your site. If you are making an effort to make your website accessible then you should have an accessibility statement in the footer of the site.
Offer alternatives or recommendations when users encounter input errors. Set up automated notifications that should alert them when they click on the wrong link or provide incorrect details.
How you structure your content is very important in making your website accessible to people with disabilities. Create consistent, organized layout. Buttons, links, and calls-to-actions should be distinct from one another so they are easily recognizable and not confused with other details in your site.
Many people with disabilities prefer to browse the web using their mobile devices for convenience. When creating a layout, consider how your page will look on different devices and browsers. The text should still be readable, and the links or buttons clickable.
It’s not hard to develop an ADA-compliant website. With these things in mind, you can ensure a positive experience among your customers and site visitors.