The Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. It is the reason why you are probably familiar with accommodations you’ve seen in your daily life, from parking lot designs to public education. You’ve most likely seen ramps in front of buildings to allow wheelchair access. The law also prevents students from being discriminated against in schools and mandates that students, regardless of ability, have a right to education. It set forth new standards in construction and architecture, how people are treated during job interviews, or at their place of work and changed how everyone uses the internet. Basically, it ensured that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as those without disabilities, and it covered all sectors, both private and public.
Does my business need to comply with the ADA?
Title I of the ADA states that a business with at least 15 full-time employees or that operates for at least 20 or more weeks a year must comply with the law. Businesses that are considered public accommodations under Title III, such as banks and public transportation, are also required to be ADA compliant. But if you are unsure whether or not you must be compliant with ADA, then it is best to seek out a disability lawyer who can advise you.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
In 2008 the World Wide Web Consortium came up with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that established how to create websites that are accessible to a wide group of individuals with disabilities. Regardless of the type of disability, they believed that all people should be able to access, process, and input information on the internet. Websites are used by people all over the world which means that there are more chances that someone with a disability will want to use it. So, they established four principles of accessibility to help guide businesses to make their websites more accessible.
All content must be able to be perceived by anyone with a visual or auditory disability. You can start making your website more accessible by asking yourself whether or not someone who is colorblind or has visual problems would be able to perceive your website or someone who is deaf will be able to hear auditory content. While it does not mean that you must create text for all audio on your website (or conversely, audio of all of your text), it does mean that your website must be optimized to be usable with screen readers and assistive technologies without requiring a third-party app.
How does a person use and interact with your website? Must users have a keyboard or a mouse in order to use your website? If your website requires special technology, then it creates a barrier to those who do not have that specific piece of hardware or do not have the capacity to use it.
If a website is hard to navigate or if the content written on it is illogical or nonsensical, then it’s going to be very confusing to understand. When a website is well-organized and is structured in such a way that a person can get back to where they started from if they end up on a webpage they didn’t mean to, that is easier for all people of all abilities to use.
The content on your website must also be well-written, clear, and concise. It does no good if a user can perceive a website but not make sense of any of the content presented on it. Content that rambles or doesn’t give clear instructions, or instructions that don’t match the features, leads to distrust in users, who will then be likely to find another website. Always check your web content to make sure that it makes sense to people of all abilities, and is not intentionally written in an overly-complex way.
Is your website accessible on older versions of internet browsers? What about older operating systems? Websites shouldn’t be so difficult to use for people who do not have the most up-to-date technology. It is ill-advised to require that your website be used only with the most up-to-date version of popular browsers since not all users will have the latest version. While users cannot expect websites to be compatible with extremely old versions, it is reasonable to expect to have full functionality of a website using a version from within the last few years.
How to Design an ADA Compliant Website
Now that you have a better understanding of the legal background to developing websites, it’s time to focus on what these mean in practical terms, and how they affect your decisions in the web design process. Some of these include:
- Making a clean design without too many options. Keeping your design simple makes it easier for users to navigate and input information on your website.
- Make headers, menus, and other features clear and prominent.
- Include alternative text to go along with all images that accurately describe them
- Test your website using a screen reader, and make any necessary adjustments
- Offer alternative suggestions when users input a misspelled word, which can be helpful to users with physical disabilities that find typing to be a barrier at times.
- Write text transcripts for all videos, and include captions in videos
Why Make Your Website ADA Compliant
In addition to some of the reasons listed above, here is an in-depth look at why making your website ADA compliant is a wise choice.
Grow Your Audience
In addition to the reasons listed above, there are some additional reasons why your website should be ADA compliant. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 61 million adults in the United States who have a disability. One in four adults in the United States has some type of disability. The majority of people who have disabilities live in the South. And according to the National Service Inclusion Project, about 334.2 million people have a functional limitation according to statistics they receive in the U.S. Census Bureau survey of income and program participation. These are people who have a severe disability and are unable to perform certain actions of daily living, or may need long-term assisted care and devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, personal systems, and crutches.
The internet is being used to create connections within the disability community, and many disabled people are social media influencers educating others about their challenges and what they are capable of. Some of these accounts have thousands of followers that include others who are disabled, and the community grows larger every year.
This audience is way too large to ignore. By making your website more accessible you enable your company to grow its audience. More importantly, the type of people you will gain are those who may become more loyal because your website provides them something that a competitor won’t. Everyone is looking for a way to make their life easier. Once they find something good, it’s hard to leave it.
Everyone Can Benefit
Website accessibility doesn’t only accommodate the needs of those who are permanently disabled. If any individual is temporarily disabled – due to a car accident or eye surgery, just to name some examples – then they will temporarily be unable to perceive your website the way they normally do or operate a keyboard or mouse. And that’s to say nothing of when pieces of technology just break or are stolen. So making your website accessible to as large of an audience as possible also means that you are accommodating those who will only use them for a short while, but will remember your brand as one of the ones that was easiest to visit online.
- App development
- CMS migration
- Building a WordPress site or blog
- Building and managing e-commerce websites
If you are looking to build a website to help power your business, then give us a call. We are eager to hear from you and to learn more about you and your niche. Our process always includes a full evaluation of your current website and what your future goals are. They give us a call today so we can get started on building you an ADA compliant website.