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RainDrops Blog: Web Design & Dev Insights

Make Your Website ADA Compliant

Author: Studio Umbrella

Customers who have trouble with vision, hearing, and mobility should still be able to engage with your web content in a meaningful way.

Make Your Website ADA Compliant

ADA stands for “Americans with Disabilities Act”. It was passed in 1990 in an effort to prohibit discrimination of people with disabilities. Quite a lot of things changed since then in the business world, and now by extension, it requires websites to accommodate people with disabilities. In short, customers who have trouble with vision, hearing, and mobility should still be able to engage with your web content in a meaningful way. For example, legally blind users should be able to navigate the website with voice commands only, while a hearing-impaired person should have an opportunity to read captions to a video.

If a website is not ADA-compliant, the business associated with it can get sued and forced to comply with the law under the court order. The first high profile cases appeared in 2017. There were 2250 federal court cases in 2018, and it seems like this trend is growing. Important to note, it’s not only large corporations and educational institutions that get sued, but it’s also small and medium level private businesses.

Does your website need to be ADA compliant?

If your business serves the public, operates over 20 weeks a year or has at least 15 full-time employees, your website needs to be ADA compliant. Most businesses fall into these categories. So chances are, your website needs to be adjusted.

What are the repercussions of not complying with ADA?

Consequences may vary from missing out on the business of clients with disabilities to getting sued for a hefty sum of money. If you get sued, you’ll need to pay the court fees, settlement fees, as well as make your website ADA compliant as a part of the settlement.  All of that adds up to quite a high number, so businesses are better off complying with the guidelines preemptively to avoid possible negative consequences.

Funny (or sadly) enough, 20% of lawsuits registered in 2018 were filed against companies that had already been sued earlier for the same reason. Apparently, having a successful preexisting settlement and a 2-year agreement to fix the website is not enough to protect a business from an ADA-related lawsuit even temporarily. The only way to shield yourself is to comply as soon as possible.

What should you do to comply with ADA?

The answer to this question is complicated because there are no clear rules to follow when it comes to ADA. There are only general guidelines available as the Department of Justice abandoned attempts of spelling out compliance standards in 2017. To comply, businesses and web design agencies tend to rely on existing cases as the number of precedents grows.

There are 3 different levels of compliance - A, AA, AAA. They range from the lowest (A) level of compliance to the highest (AAA). While a lot of rules are quite unclear, lawyers and web design agencies managed to dissect the existing lawsuits and court rulings to set up reasonable standards to follow. However, it is important to note that a web design agency does not provide legal advice as part of its services. Whenever in doubt, you should consult with your attorney to review ADA legislation.

The lowest level of compliance is relatively easy to achieve on most websites, while the highest level might affect the existing visual design quite a lot. The website’s age and the content volume also affect its accessibility. Naturally, it might take more time and effort to make an older website comply with ADA.

Some of the general guidelines include such advice as increasing contrast between the color of background, images, and font. Adding alt text to all images is also vital because it explains the context of a particular image for the visually-challenged users. Another advice is to create a clear hierarchy of the pages so that navigation is as simple and intuitive as it gets. There are certain success criteria that the website’s performance is measured against, and there are a lot of parameters to check to make sure that all pages are accessible.

What are the benefits of complying with ADA?

Adjusting your code in accordance with ADA might actually increase your website’s traffic and improve your overall brand visibility. First, as you make your website more accessible to everyone, you also grow your potential client base. Not only it increases the pool of your customers, but it also improves your business reputation as someone who supports people with disabilities.

Second, remember that search engine crawlers imitate human search patterns as they index and rate websites? They also use ADA guidelines for ranking. As a result, an investment into ADA compliance will shield you from a damaging and expensive lawsuit, as well as improve your website’s UX and make your website accessible for more business in the future!

If you would like to discuss ADA compliance of your site, please contact us today!

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