If you know much about accessibility, you might wonder does my website need to be ADA compliant? What are the pros and cons and what regulations are in effect? Even if you aren’t legally required to make your site available to people with disabilities, you should do your best to help them navigate your pages. You’ll expand your customer base and show good will toward others.
The ADA estimates 54 million Americans have one form of disability or another. While not all impact how people interact with websites, many do. Ensuring your site is ADA compliant helps a percentage of your customer base have a good experience while on your site.
Does my website need to be ADA compliant or would it just be a perk? The answer depends on the type of business you run and regulations in your country.
Is ADA Compliance Mandatory for Websites?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t spell out what exactly accessibility for websites entails. However, it does state that certain types of businesses must make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.
How do you know for sure does my website need to be ADA compliant? If you fall under certain categories, you must make every effort to ensure your site functions for readers and voice command devices, for example.
The ADA breaks into five titles outlining expectations for compliance and when businesses should accommodate those with other requirements.
ADA Title I
Title one is about employment. If you have more than a handful of employees, you must make every effort to ensure people with disabilities are able to access all the perks your other workers can.
For example, if you offer remote work opportunities, you must ensure the software accommodates those with visual impairments or physical disabilities.
ADA Title II
This applies more to state and local governments, so doesn’t impact small business owners. It’s good to be aware of the different sections of the act, but for business purposes, you can skip over Title II info.
ADA Title III
This Title may well impact your business. Title III requires public accommodations to be ADA compliant. For example, restaurants, theaters, parks or any other place open to the public. While much of the information applies to brick-and-mortar locations, you should also consider how your website impacts people’s ability to enjoy their experience.
For example, if you own a restaurant with only carry out or curbside pickup, can people easily access online ordering or do readers refuse to work with the coding on your site? Investing a bit more in a compliant system helps your customers and ensures you’re following ADA guidelines.
ADA Title IV
Title IV applies to television and telephone access. Unless you own a communications company or broadcast, you may not have to worry much about this regulation.
ADA Title V
Title V prevents descrimination against individuals who had to file a complaint with the government and employees. It likely won’t apply to your small business, but it’s always wise to familiarize yourself with the rules.
Steps to Ensure Your Website Is ADA Compliant
We’ve looked at the titles and answered the question, “Does my website need to be ADA compliant?” Now, you probably want to know how to check your site and ensure everyone can use your site effectively.
1. Look at Colors
Around 8% of the population is colorblind, impacting the overall look of your site. What is aesthetically pleasing to one person may become impossible to read to another. Fortunately, you can run checks via online wizards to see how your site appears to someone missing color perception.
2. Create Contrast
Not everyone with a disability is blind. Some simply have some visual impairment that requires a bit of accomodation. Make sure your site has a strong contrast. For example, if the background is white, the text should be black.
3. Add Alt Tags
Something as simple as ensuring every image has an alt tag can help those utilizing readers know what’s going on with your page. There are plugins that help you check all your images for tags and fill in any missing ones.
4. Test Forms
Forms are an issue for many readers. If the labels aren’t exact, the user will have trouble filling in the form and submitting it. You can run an accessibility check in most browsers to make sure your forms and pages function as expected.
5. Pay Attention to Close Buttons
Does your site have pop ups and other elements? Can the user find the X if it isn’t visually clear? Hitting an Esc Key or giving a command should allow them to easily close the popup. Without the right command, the popup takes over the site and the user can’t access the menu or other features.
6. Ask for Feedback
Send out a survey to your customers and ask them for feedback on accessibility. Sometimes little things can impact the overall experience. They may technically comply with requirements but they make the user’s life more difficult, such as where you place certain elements or the order in which they appear.
Does My Website Need to Be ADA Compliant Or Can I Ignore It?
Unless you run a certain type of business, you may be able to get by without being compliant. The real question isn’t “Does my website need to be ADA compliant” but is “How can I make my site work for all abilities?”
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.