One of the many wonderful aspects of the internet is that it is open and accessible to everyone. In 2016, access to the internet was declared a basic human right by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly. We now hold internet access to very high standards. However, in 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, the handling of the internet was not taken into consideration. This has left the handling of ADA and how it pertains to websites vague and up for interpretation. Recent landmark court cases have paved the way towards what is required, but the requirements are changing rapidly.
Even if the law did not require it, we believe that everyone should have equal access to the web, regardless of disability. We have developed an internal checklist of updates we believe should exist on every website based on a combination of the results of recent court cases and additional configurations that should exist to ensure as many people can take advantage of the website as possible.
Legal compliance is not our specialty, however, due to the nature of our work, we can provide insights based on what we have heard from our brand partners along with what we have read regarding ADA compliance. Obligatory note: We are not attorneys and the contents of this post are not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek legal counsel before moving forward with any ADA compliance initiative.
Courts have frequently referenced this set of guidelines produced by the World Wide Web Consortium. The majority of what this set of guidelines covers are the considerations websites need to follow to ensure those who are impaired due to a visually, hearing, or physically impaired are able to navigate and utilize the website fully. There are three levels of compliance.
- Level A is the most basic,
- Level AA offers a significant increase in accessibility to people with disabilities, and
- Level AAA is the gold standard, ensuring even individuals with more obscure disabilities are able to fully navigate and utilize the website.
Web page titles, headings, and image alt tags allow for the visually impaired to know what the sections of the site and images are about through automated voice dictation. These need to clearly describe the contents of each page. It is important to ensure that screen-reading software can read the text so these tags can be properly analyzed. Giving the user the ability to increase text size without a loss in site functionality ensures those who have poor vision, but are not completely blind, are able to use the site effectively. Color blindness is a common occurrence, especially among men, so it is vital to ensure that text and background color differentials are not going to prevent such visitors from being able to decypher the content. Readability is especially important when it comes to the navigation, policy, and checkout sections of a site.
For the hearing impaired, websites should provide transcripts for their video and audio content. For the physically impaired, ensuring a user can navigate the site using only a keyboard is important. Focusing on a site structure that provides clear organization to allow the user to navigate the site easily also helps ensure ADA compliance. Some other important components to focus on include ensuring visual content does not trigger seizures or other physical reactions, making sure that all abbreviations are spelled out and understandable, and that consistent navigation persists throughout the site.
For a free audit of your website to ensure that compliance issues are appropriately handled, please contact us. We can outline the resources necessary to achieve the appropriate level of ADA compliance.