In today’s work-from-home landscape, websites have gained increased significance in our businesses and daily interactions with clients. Ensuring that your website caters to all clients has become more crucial than ever.
A Brief History of ADA Compliance and the Internet.
Government websites at the federal, state, and local levels must comply with accessibility standards outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This legislation, revised in 2001, encompasses internet and intranet information as well as applications.
Despite the ambiguity surrounding which regulations are applicable to privately owned companies, legal developments have arisen. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. that ADA regulations within Section 508 extended to Winn-Dixie’s website, though the case is presently under appeal. Similarly, in October 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court, in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, determined that ADA regulations should be enforced on the Domino’s Pizza website. However, the court did not provide explicit guidelines on the required accessibility standards, leaving it to individual cases to decide. Consequently, these rulings have sparked a surge in lawsuits targeting websites that do not conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, recognized as the prevailing best practices.
Is ADA Compliance Necessary for My Website?
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) grants an exemption for private clubs and religious organizations, extending this exemption to their websites. While other sections of the ADA allow for exemptions for small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the applicability of these exemptions to websites remains uncertain. The ADA mandates that businesses, regardless of size, exert all reasonable efforts to accommodate customers with disabilities, yet it does not offer specific guidance on defining what constitutes reasonable efforts.
Title III of the ADA focuses on public accommodations for private businesses and nonprofits. In general, it applies to entities categorized as (1) public accommodations, (2) commercial facilities, or (3) private entities providing examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes.
While this provision does offer clarity for websites offering educational materials, as they are explicitly mentioned in the law, a debate arises for other business entities. It can be argued that a company’s website serves as a “public accommodation” for the business, and such arguments have been presented in court. The First, Second, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have supported cases asserting that public accommodations should extend to websites. However, the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have articulated that a place of public accommodation must be a physical location.
The statement, “…noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA,” carries significance, indicating that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is unwilling to categorically resolve the ambiguity in the law. Essentially, they return the issue to Congress, urging them to “provide clarity through the legislative process.”
Although the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the government have not furnished a definitive answer, numerous private industries are grappling with these matters through litigation.Considering the information presented, the concise response is: Your website may not currently have a legal obligation to be ADA compliant, but it could become a requirement in the future, making it a prudent decision nonetheless.
Presented below are the top five actions you should take to ensure ADA compliance for your website:
Your Website Must Be Responsive
Individuals with disabilities often prefer using tablets or smartphones for internet browsing. It is imperative that your website is functional on these devices, adapting to various screen sizes and formats. While certain features like hover effects may be effective on desktops or laptops, they may not function on touchscreen devices such as tablets and smartphones. In such cases, content displayed on hover should be presented in an alternative manner, often by making it available with a click. Responsive websites, a standard feature on most website platforms, address these accessibility requirements.
When people think about website navigation, they often envision the menu at the top of the page. However, for our discussion, we are referring to how users navigate through your website to access and gather information. For individuals with visual impairments, moving from one section to another can be challenging if the site lacks proper structure. Tab navigation enables users to navigate through the site effortlessly using keyboard shortcuts. This type of navigation is crucial for screen readers, ensuring that the website is read in the correct order.
People with physical disabilities may rely exclusively on tab navigation to access your site. If this functionality is not working correctly, there is a risk that they might abandon your site altogether.
Don’t Forget the Labels, Titles, and Alt Tags
Buttons, images, icons, and other visual elements on your website must be operational for all users. To achieve this, these elements must be appropriately labeled to allow identification and interaction with them on various devices and tools.Buttons should consistently feature a title attribute matching the text on the button. Consider a user with a tremor utilizing a voice activation program; they may vocalize the word displayed on the button, such as ‘send,’ to submit a contact form. If the title on the button is ‘submit,’ the program may fail to identify the button, causing frustration for the user and potentially resulting in a loss of leads for your site.Similar to buttons, images also require an attribute for identification. For images, this is the ‘alt’ tag. It is essential to include this attribute on all images, providing a description of the image to convey the information a user would obtain from viewing it. For instance, if the image features two joyful individuals smiling and is situated in the testimonials section, the ‘alt’ text could read “photo of two happy customers.” The ‘alt’ attribute is crucial for screen readers to interpret images for individuals with visual impairments.Icons encounter a similar challenge to images, albeit with a different approach. Icons can be considered a blend of buttons and images. Given that most icons are in SVG or font format, the ‘title’ attribute is employed for them, similar to buttons. However, the ‘title’ attribute’s value serves as a description, akin to the approach taken with images.dditional visual elements might also necessitate a ‘title’ or ‘alt’ attribute for proper identification and accessibility.
Element Spacing & Sizing
In web design, spacing can be achieved through two methods: padding and margins. Padding, when added to an element, creates space inside the element between its edge and the content, allowing the element to appear larger. On the other hand, margins provide spacing around an element, offering it some breathing room.
Individuals with tremors or a loss of hand-eye coordination may find it challenging to click on a small button. To enhance this process for all users, incorporating padding around the buttons provides a larger clickable area. Additionally, adding margins around the target facilitates ease of navigation, helping users locate the right selection and reducing the likelihood of accidentally hitting adjacent elements.
Readability & Color Contrast
The paramount consideration for readability is that all text must consistently exist as actual text. Although this might seem straightforward, individuals often embed words within images or upload uncomplicated PDFs to websites without providing an option for screen readers to access the information. While the ‘alt’ attribute can address this issue for most images, it is not applicable to PDFs. If feasible, creating a dedicated page for the PDF and offering users the choice to download it, along with making the information available in another format, is recommended. Ensuring that all information in PDFs is accessible as text whenever possible is essential.
As per the NIH, approximately 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females experience color blindness. To ensure that this population can effectively read the content on webpages, it’s crucial to choose contrasting colors for readable text. While a white background with black text is a reliable choice, combinations like a green background with blue text can pose challenges. Utilizing tools to swiftly check if your colors meet contrast requirements is advisable.
- Visit https://contrast-ratio.com/ to use a tool that compares two colors and provides a ratio for the set. A ratio above 4.51 is considered passing and ensures readability for all users.
- For a comprehensive analysis, check https://color.a11y.com/. This tool enables you to input the webpage URL and generates a report indicating which elements pass or fail in terms of contrast. It allows you to assess your site for contrast compliance and identify elements that require adjustments.
Ensuring readable text is a paramount starting point to provide the best experience for your users.
As our society increasingly relies on technology, prioritizing website accessibility will become more crucial for your business.
Yes, we provide a comprehensive ADA compliance checklist to help you ensure your website meets the necessary standards.
No official exemption exists for all business websites. However, specific criteria may apply, and it’s advisable to assess your situation with our experts.
Section 504 applies to federally funded programs, while Section 508 pertains specifically to electronic and information technology accessibility standards.
We offer professional ADA compliance audits to thoroughly analyze your site and identify areas that need improvement.
Our experts can guide you through the process, offering tailored solutions to make your site ADA compliant and reduce the risk of legal issues.
Yes, seeking professional assistance is crucial to navigating ADA compliance requirements and minimizing the risk of lawsuits.
The A and AA ratings refer to different levels of compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). AA is a higher standard, indicating a more comprehensive level of accessibility.
WCAG 2.1 introduces additional success criteria and improvements, addressing more diverse needs and technologies compared to WCAG 2.0.
While phone support is beneficial, an ADA-compliant website ensures accessibility for all users. It is recommended to have both to cater to a wider audience.
Legal timelines vary, and prompt action is advisable. Seeking professional guidance to rectify ADA compliance issues promptly is crucial to mitigating legal risks.
Non-compliance may lead to legal action, including lawsuits and fines. It can also result in a negative impact on your brand reputation.
While there isn’t a specific law, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is often applied to ensure accessibility in public accommodations, including websites.
Automated tools can help identify potential issues, but a comprehensive ADA compliance audit conducted by professionals is recommended for accurate results.
No industry is immune, but businesses in sectors such as retail, hospitality, and finance have faced a higher number of ADA-related lawsuits.
The cost varies based on factors like the size and complexity of your site. Our experts can provide a tailored estimate after assessing your specific needs.
ADA compliance is crucial for all websites, regardless of size. It ensures inclusivity and helps prevent legal complications.
While templates and builders can be a starting point, they may not guarantee full compliance. A professional review is recommended to ensure adherence to ADA standards.
There isn’t an official ADA certification, but you can obtain an accessibility statement to communicate your commitment to compliance.