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What does ADA Compliance mean for my website?

Organizations across the nation are scrambling to bring their sites into compliance with web accessibility guidelines as a result of a growing number of lawsuits at the beginning of this year. What’s driving this? Intensified Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium and the goal to improve website experiences for the millions of website visitors with disabilities throughout the world. Whether you’ve heard of ADA Compliance or this is a completely new term, let’s take a look at some of the ins and outs of what an ADA compliant website means for your business.

What does ADA Compliance mean for my website?

In 1990, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law which prohibited discrimination in “any place of public accommodation.” At the time, the ADA was fairly revolutionary, resulting in widespread adoption of wheelchair ramps and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

However, back in 1990, lawmakers had no clue how the world wide web would shortly explode and become a critical channel for business. The internet quickly became the backbone of digital commerce and many didn’t understand how ADA regulations could be carried over to these new digital storefronts.

What does this mean for my website?

Since a website can now be a “place of public accommodation,” new regulations are requiring websites to comply with the ADA. Unfortunately, since this is fairly new territory, these regulations can be quite confusing for both lawmakers and businesse‌s.

Since most lawsuit decisions fall to the courts, we advise that you take as many steps as necessary to be as compliant as possible. The WCAG outlines a few recommendations. The following action items are a great way to set you on a path toward ADA compliance:

  • Address Perceivable Issues that affect user’s ability to find and process information on your website (for example, content or videos)
  • Address Operable Issues that can impact a visitor’s ability to navigate and use a website, such as navigation
  • Address Understandable Issues that concern a user’s ability to discern and comprehend information and navigation on a website
  • Address Robust Issues that involve a website’s ability to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of users with disabilities

ADA Compliance in Action

Below are some examples of website features that come into play when updating your website to comply with ADA regulations:

Color Contrast

When it comes to color contrast for Level AA compliance the color contrast ratio needs to be at least 4.5:1 for average size text and at least 3:1 for larger text. For Level AAA compliance the ratio for average size text needs to be at least 7:1 and for larger text 4.5:1.

The below bad example, the ratio is 1.66:1 which is failing for both Level AA and AAA. While the good example is a ratio of 21:1, which passes both Level AA and AAA.

Example of a bad contrast ratio.

Example of a good contrast ratio.

Coding Practices

Adding a title or aria label to an element that a user will interact with, such as a button, will help them them to be able to navigate with using a screen reader. This will also add a useful tool tip for all users of your site.

Example of a bad contrast ratio.

Example of a bad contrast ratio.

Alternative Text for Images

For ADA compliance adding alternative text is a must have for images. When it comes to writing the alternative text for an image it is important to make sure that the text describes the context in which the image is in rather than what the image is exactly. Adding an image to a page should be adding more information to the page, make sure that your alternative text expresses that.

What a screen reader will say:

CMAC Attraction
An aerial photograph of the entire CMAC Venue on a sunny day in summer
Alternative text that describes the context that the image is in

Is ADA Compliance mandatory for my website?

While there are no regulations stating that it is mandatory, we advise our customers to err on the side of caution. Since January of 2019, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in lawsuits for many of our customers with physical locations, from wineries to restaurant franchises, to brick and mortar stores. Our first recommendation is to get familiar with the suggestions above and investigate which level of compliance your business needs.

To date, there are 3 levels of compliance:

  • Level A is the most basic level of web accessibility that allows screen readers to more effectively scan a website. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that it will make your website compliant to the current standards the DOJ or lawyers want to see.
  • Level AA is a happy medium that most businesses strive for and satisfies all Level A criteria and more while allowing for more flexible design choices.
  • Level AAA that concern a user’s ability to discern and comprehend information and navigation on a website​

Need help determining which level of compliance is best for you? Let’s chat! We would be happy to discuss which level is the best option for your business along with a recommended set of actions to take. Abiding by WCAG accessibility standards is the best option for most organizations and the smartest way to avoid a costly accessibility lawsuit and ultimately, do the right thing for ALL your users.

Is your website at risk?

EagleDream is happy to conduct an initial website assessment to evaluate the best path to take to achieve ADA Compliance. Contact us today to schedule a session!

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