Your website should be accessible for everyone.
People may need special equipment and assistive technology devices to use a computer and navigate the internet. Anything from screen readers and smart speakers to desktop video magnifiers and large-print keyboards.
While there are no set legal requirements for your website, there are solid guidelines you should follow.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law. It defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees that these individuals have the same opportunities to participate in mainstream life.
This includes purchasing goods or services, enjoying employment opportunities, and participating in government programs and services.
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law in 1990.
While the ADA Standards for Accessible Design cover standards for public accommodations and commercial facilities, it doesn’t provide any information on web design best practices.
That’s why most businesses rely on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG was created by the Web Accessibility Initiative and World Wide Web Consortium in 1993.
While the WCAG guidelines aren’t legal regulations, they are extremely useful for improving your website’s overall accessibility. According to the WCAG, all websites need to be:
Since there are no legally defined criteria of ADA compliance for websites, the safest way to ensure your website is as accessible as possible is to use WCAG.
WCAG outlines three distinct levels of compliance for websites:
Level A compliance is the most basic and easiest-to-meet level of WCAG compliance. To be level A compliant, websites need to satisfy more than 20 different criteria, including:
The full list of level A compliance criteria can be found here.
Level AA compliance is a more advanced form of compliance. To become level AA compliant, websites need to satisfy 50 different criteria, including:
The full list of level AA compliance criteria can be found here.
Level AAA compliance is the most complex level of WCAG compliance. To become level AAA compliant, websites need to satisfy 78 different criteria, including:
The full list of level AAA compliance criteria can be found here.
In the past few years, we’ve seen website accessibility lawsuits skyrocket. If you want to protect your business from legal liability, you’ll need to make sure your website is ADA compliant.
Apart from protecting your business against lawsuits, ADA compliance also allows you to:
There are both manual and automated ways of checking your website for accessibility issues.
If you want to perform a thorough accessibility audit, you’ll need to use multiple different tools and methods. Here are a few to get you started:
Depending on your budget, you might also want to consider hiring a company that specializes in accessibility audits and optimization.
While achieving a high level of ADA and WCAG compliance is no easy feat, there are several fixes you can implement to improve your website’s accessibility in a short amount of time.
One of the most important things you need to do when looking to improve your website’s accessibility is to make sure all your website’s features can be taken advantage of using only a keyboard. This includes clicking on links and buttons, selecting and unselecting items, navigating pages, auto-completing text and closing dialog boxes.
Making your website keyboard-friendly ensures that users who can’t use a computer mouse for one reason or another will be able to use your website without issues.
Blind and visually-impaired users often use speech readers to help them understand the content of a particular webpage.
If you want to improve your website’s accessibility, you’ll need to make sure that it’s speech reader-friendly. Add alt text to all the images on your website, and make sure to use relevant, descriptive text when labeling your links and headers.
Test your website using a speech reader and see if you run into any issues, such as content being read out of order or text being unnecessarily repeated.
Using contrasting colors on your website is crucial for improving your website’s accessibility for people with color blindness or color vision deficiency.
If there isn’t enough contrast between the colors you use on your website, some people might have a hard time reading page content and distinguishing between different website elements.
WCAG requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for all visual presentations of text, except for large-scale, decorative and logo text.
If your website contains video or audio content, you can use subtitles and transcripts to make it more accessible for hearing-impaired users. Transcripts are also useful for users with visual impairment since they allow users to use screen readers to gain a better understanding of your video content.
You can create subtitles and transcripts for your content yourself or use a service like Rev.
Try to eliminate or reduce the number of website elements and features that interrupt the user experience, such as pop-ups, auto-playing videos and animations. Not only are they distracting, they can also be dangerous for users who are susceptible to seizures.
According to WCAG, your website shouldn’t contain any elements that flash more than three times per second. This will allow users with photosensitive seizure disorders to use your website without any issues.
Fixing your website’s accessibility issues isn’t a one-and-done deal. As you keep adding new content, it’s likely you’ll run into more issues along the way.
You should audit your website for accessibility periodically and work on fixing any new issues that arise as soon as possible.
Apart from protecting your business from lawsuits, improving your website’s accessibility also helps you create a better, more inclusive customer experience. It can help increase brand awareness and influence your search engine rankings, as well.
You can use this guide to improve your website’s accessibility on your own. However, to make sure you’re doing everything possible, you may want to consider hiring an agency or consultant that specializes in ADA compliance, too.
Boris Mustapic is a writer and content marketing specialist with a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. Having built his own successful ecommerce business, Boris likes to share his knowledge with ecommerce enthusiasts. Apart from writing about marketing and ecommerce, he also enjoys a good book and a glass of red wine.
Boris Mustapic is a writer and content marketing specialist with a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. Having built his own successful ecommerce business, he likes to share his knowledge with ecommerce enthusiasts. Apart from writing about marketing and ecommerce, Boris also enjoys a good book and a glass of red wine.