The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was instituted in 1990 to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. This resulted in the creation of wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces, the use of service animals, and more.
However, many people are unaware of how ADA compliance affects the web (including websites and web apps). Often, people without difficulties accessing websites every day do not consider what it takes for someone with a disability to do the same. ADA website compliance plays a key role here.
What is ADA Website Compliance?
ADA website compliance refers to a set of guidelines that websites should follow in order to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. For instance, a screen reader user who is visually impaired should be able to enjoy the same experience as a sighted user.
Title III of the ADA explicitly prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in any place of public accommodations. A key factor determining if the ADA applies to websites has been the crucial phrase, “any place of public accommodation”.
American court rulings on this issue differ. Some have ruled that commercial websites are places of public accommodation and therefore subject to ADA regulations. Others have held that websites can only be subject to ADA if they have physical locations. On the other hand, some have held that the ADA does not apply to websites at all.
In the absence of federal laws governing ADA compliance for websites, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is the prevailing standard. WCAG measures compliance at three levels – A (minimal compliance), AA (acceptable compliance), and AAA (optimal compliance).
Suggested Reading: WCAG 2.0 vs 2.1 (8 Things You Should Know About WCAG)
ADA Checklist Your Website Must Comply to
Here are some of the requirements your website must meet to be compliant:
- Your website should be accessible via keyboard navigation
- All hyperlinks should have a descriptive anchor text
- All pages on your website have “skip navigation” links
- All the text content should be structured using proper heading tags
- The color contrast of your web pages should be sufficient according to WCAG
- All videos should have subtitles, transcripts, and audio description
- Online forms should have descriptive HTML tags
- Heading or title should be readable and presented in a logical order
- Make sure, and ‘b’ or ‘i’ HTML tags are replaced with ‘strong’ and ’em’
- The presentation should have more than just color alone and convey information clearly.
- The site is navigable via keyboard, and the keyboard does not get stuck on any page elements.
- No strobing light or rapidly flashing lights or colors are used in the website design
- Links and buttons are clearly labeled and named logically
- The language of every page is identifiable in code
- Forms are labeled and have legends that are easily read by screen reader software
Benefits of ADA Compliance to Your Business
People with disabilities are not the only ones who benefit from compliance with the web accessibility standards defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Organizations and businesses that fail to comply with the ADA guidelines are at risk of lawsuits that result in them being fined heavily. Aside from heavy fines, this also affects their brand negatively.
It is in every business’s best interest to adhere to the government requirements to avoid any potential legal or financial consequences in the future.
While compliance prevents businesses from losing money, another advantage is that it helps them potentially make even more money. ADA compliant businesses are better positioned to capture an often discriminated and neglected market of potential customers.
People with disabilities have a total disposable income of $490 billion. Catering for them can result in larger profit margins for businesses.
Also, ADA-compliant websites get better SEO and organic search engine traffic. ADA compliance is a win-win situation for companies and potential customers.
How Much Does ADA Website Compliance Cost?
There’s no one-fits-all answer to this. The process of developing and programming a website is a technical one that requires a team of experts and comprehensive planning. Moreover, each project has its own requirements. Generally speaking, these are the phases required:
Website Audit (Finding the faults)
ADA compliance begins with a web accessibility audit. You need an audit of your website to identify the issues that need to be addressed.
You can use free or paid auditing tools to scan your website. Unfortunately, automated testing can only detect around 30% of accessibility violations, sometimes less. Therefore, you will also need to perform manual auditing. If you do not have a team of developers, you would need the service of accessibility experts for the audit.
Remediation (Fixing the faults)
Once the audit is complete, then the real work begins. The audit provides a comprehensive list of issues you need to fix, which helps you build a remediation roadmap. you can create a remediation roadmap.
If you have an internal development team that can fix the errors, great! If not, it’s best to hire the services of an accessibility expert.
Again, the cost to make updates to ensure that your website is compliant varies based on the accessibility provider. It all depends on how your website was built and how many pages there are.
Fortunately, Equally AI offers very affordable plans starting from $27/month for a website with up to 1,000 pages. You might also want to have a look at the full list of accessibility pricing available.
Compliance Monitoring and Maintenance
Accessibility is a journey, not a destination. ADA compliance is an ongoing process and not a one-time thing.
As long as the ADA keeps getting updated to account for more accessibility needs and continue adding more content to your website, you will need to reevaluate your website for compliance continuously.
Should you get an in-house development team?
A large aspect of creating accessible websites requires coding, meaning you will need the services of a programmer or web developer at one point or another.
Suppose you already have one working for you. In that case, that will save you the cost of using the service of accessibility audit teams to test and fix any accessibility issues that may exist on your website.
However, this does not mean you need an in-house team of developers. If you are building a software product, you need a development team to develop your product continually. However, if you have a simple website like a blog run by a small editorial team, getting a team of developers would be expensive and not in your best interest.
Is there a better alternative to paying for hefty fees to be ADA compliant?
You can escape paying the high costs of ADA compliance by accounting for accessibility at the beginning of your website development cycle.
Using the proper semantic HTML tags, adding alt texts to images, using the appropriate color contrasts are the things you should do while you build your website, not after.
One reason why companies often ignore accessibility is speed. They want to shorten their time-to-market as much as possible.
It is true that ensure your website is completely ADA and WCAG compliant, especially if new and custom components are being developed. However, the consequences of non-compliance will make the time you saved meaningless.
Civil Engineers ensure that the foundation of the building they are erecting is strong to avoid a collapse. Airplane Engineers ensure that everything in a plane is up to standard while building, not after, or the consequences would be catastrophic.
You also have to be proactive about ensuring your website is accessible.
Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Most companies often don’t plan for accessibility or pay enough attention to it when developing their websites, and they end up paying (financially) for that heavily.
I believe that all individuals should be able to access the internet regardless of ability. It is basic human decency to provide the level of accessibility needed to create inclusive digital experiences and services.
Website Accessibility must not remain an afterthought of your development and design process. Neither should it be at the bottom of your to-do list.
It is in your best interest and your users’ best interests that your website is and remains accessible.