November 23, 2020  |  Expertise

Why ADA Compliance and web accessibility matters

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Now more than ever, having an accessible website is important not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because costly lawsuits against companies with websites that are not in compliance have increased over the past few years.

All industries need to comply with website accessibility laws, but industries such as real estate, healthcare, automotive, education, finance and ecommerce are more likely to be sued.

ADA Compliance lawsuits can cost companies between $15,000 and $100,000.

UseableNet: Business Case for Web Accessibility in 2020

What is ADA Compliance?

ADA Compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination. Due to the growth of the internet and how people spend their time online, websites have come under the umbrella of services that are vulnerable to a lawsuit if they are not accessible to all users. Businesses have both a legal and moral obligation to ensure their website is accessible to all users.

ADA Compliance vs. Accessibility

Although these words are closely intertwined, they refer to different things.

ADA Compliance is the legal side, ensuring your website is in compliance with the law. Accessibility is the technical or developmental side, which determines how well a person with disabilities can access and use your website.

In order for websites to be ADA Compliant, they need to be accessible.

Website accessibility is the process of making your website and all of its content, functions and tools accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

How do we make a website accessible?

All users should enjoy a complete and equal use of your website, and should have a positive user experience. They should be able to access all content, navigate through the website successfully, engage with different elements, use any tools and understand the content.

What guidelines does your website need to follow to be ADA Compliant?

When it comes to ADA Compliance, the go-to recommendation revolves around the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.

This is a resource comprised of 38 requirements that outlines several recommendations and goals around creating and maintaining an accessible website.

If your website meets all 38 requirements, that’s fantastic. But even if it doesn’t, your website can still be accessible and meet the legal standard.

The WCAG is long and can take a while to digest, but the following are some key takeaways:

  • Alt text: All images and non-text content on the website that is essential to the user experience or contributes to your content’s meaning needs alt text.
  • Website structure: Proper markup techniques should be used to structure your website’s content (e.g. use correct heading tags and HTML for ordered and unordered lists).
  • Information hierarchy: Present content in a meaningful order and sequence so it reads properly.
  • Color contrast: Colors, typography and other UI elements should maintain a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.
  • Text resize: Text must be able to be resized up to 200% without negatively affecting the ability to read content or use functions.
  • Avoid text-heavy images: Images that feature mostly text to convey your content should be avoided unless the image is absolutely essential (for example, a logo).
  • Keyboard navigation: All content and functions on a website must be accessible by keyboard only. Keyboard-only users must never get stuck on any part of the website; they must be able to navigate forwards and backwards.
  • Focus states: Anyone accessing your site with a keyboard should have the ability to see the keyboard focus indicator on UI elements, including links, form fields and menus.
  • Avoid flashing graphics: Web pages should not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one-second period.
  • Descriptive headings and labels: Headings and programmatic labels must be clear and descriptive. They do not need to be lengthy.
  • Consistent navigation: The navigation layout should be consistent throughout all pages of the website (e.g. same links in the same order, same positioning and styling).
  • Consistent design system: UI elements with the same function should have consistent styling and be easily identified.

Other reasons to make your website accessible

In addition to ADA Compliance, there are other benefits in making your website accessible.

  • Brand Integrity: Accessible websites lend to a better experience for all users and will increase the chances that site visitors will speak well of your brand and share it with others.
  • Optimized SEO: Accessible websites lend to more conversions, a lower bounce rate, and fewer complaints which are key when search engines rank your site.
  • Financial Rewards: Investing in accessibility now will save money later in legal expenses and emergency design or development upgrades.

Ideabar’s Interactive team designs and develops websites with accessibility top-of-mind, and all sites are tested for ADA Compliance to meet the Level AA WCAG 2.1 guidelines.