When you think of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), you might think of buildings with ramps and sidewalks with curb cuts. But in today’s modern world, making information and technology accessible to people with disabilities is just as important as making sure they can access buildings and streets. And it’s not just important–it’s required by the law.
So what does that mean for a SMB owner? It means that your website needs to be ADA compliant or you could face some serious legal consequences. But don’t worry, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about why you need an ADA compliant website and how to make sure you’re not breaking any rules.
What Does ADA Compliant Mean?
In the US, 1 in 4 adults has a disability of some kind (CDC). This can range from poor eyesight to paralysis and everything in between. In 1990, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was passed to help prevent discrimination against disabled people. Part of this is making sure that everyone–regardless of their physical or mental abilities–can access public resources.
And in today’s technological world, that includes virtual and digital resources like websites. So if your website is largely inaccessible to someone with a disability, you might be violating Title III of the ADA. To avoid getting into legal trouble, you need to make sure that your site can be used by someone who is blind, deaf, or uses assistive technology like screen readers.
Why Does My Website Need to Be ADA Compliant?
Every website does not need to be ADA compliant. However, if you fall under one of these 2 categories, you do need to be:
- If you operate 20 or more weeks a year and have at least 15 full-time employees.
- If your business or website is considered “public accommodation.”
Now, you might be thinking that you can simply wait until you get a warning about your website and ADA compliance and fix things then. But the ADA is a very strict law, and there are no legal defenses for violations. That means you won’t get any warnings or second chances.
If your site isn’t ADA compliant ASAP, then your business is vulnerable to lawsuits, major fines, and a blow to your brand’s image. If you’re not careful, you could end up like Domino’s, whose appeal got rejected by the Supreme Court after the pizza company got sued by a visually impaired person who couldn’t use their website (Fast Company).
5 Simple Steps to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty–how exactly can you make sure that your website is ADA compliant?
Well, there’s no clear guidelines or regulations in the ADA about what an accessible website needs to look like or have. But that doesn’t mean your compliance efforts are a shot in the dark. Most companies and organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the current version is called WCAG 2.1 AA. The WCAG is used in court cases about ADA compliance, so it’s a helpful guideline with a legal basis.
According to the WCAG 2.1 AA, here are 5 steps to making your website ADA compliant.
1. Alt Text Matters
If you know anything about back-end SEO, you know that Google wants you to have alt-text describing any images or videos on your website. However, many companies skip this step because it’s tedious–your website might have hundreds or thousands of images on it including images, icons, and your logos.
But alt-text isn’t just about boosting your SEO. When it comes to ADA compliance, all of your images and videos (basically, anything that isn’t text) needs to have descriptive alt-text. That way, people who can’t see or use screen-readers can still understand what the image or video is conveying. To get two birds with one stone, make sure your description is full of keywords to help boost your Google ranking while you’re at it!
2. Enable Keyboard Nav
When it comes to website navigation, you’re probably more concerned with making sure users can easily maneuver through your site. But to make your website fully accessible, you need to enable keyboard-only navigation. That way, people who can’t use a mouse or need other assistive technology to use a computer can still use your site.
You also need to make sure there are no “keyboard traps” on your site. That means a keyboard-only user should never get stuck somewhere on your site–they should always be able to navigate forwards and backwards.
3. Offer Alternatives
Alt-text isn’t the only alternative you need to be ADA compliant. If you have audio-only content like a podcast or music playing, it’s important to provide a transcript or description of the audio. And for videos, captions and transcripts are a must. Ideally, your transcripts should be clearly labeled and located close to the original media.
4. Avoid Flashes
To keep things safe for users with epilepsy and other medical conditions, make sure to avoid flashing lights and blinking visuals on your website. If any element on your site flashes more than 3 times a second, you could be in trouble.
5. No Time Limits
If you have any time limits on your site, like a time-sensitive shopping cart or a function that signs people out after a certain period of time, make sure someone can disable that feature. People with disabilities sometimes navigate sites more slowly, especially if they are using keyboard-only navigation. You either need to ensure that progress isn’t lost if your website times out while they use it or make the time limits adjustable or removable.
Because there are no hard and fast guidelines for ADA compliance for websites, it can be tricky to know exactly what to do. But if you stick to these 5 steps, you should be well on your way to making your website easy to use for everybody.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of making sure your website is ADA compliant, give us a call or email. We have years of experience creating easy-to-navigate websites that keep you out of legal trouble while boosting your conversions. Contact us today!