Explore 7 practical steps to guarantee ADA compliance on your website. Ensure inclusivity and avoid legal hassles with our actionable guide.

Get complete insights on achieving ADA compliance for your website, a vital step toward broadening your customer base and ensuring sustained business success.

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide have disabilities, as per the 2018 United Nations Report on Persons with Disabilities. Here are the questions for all of us to ponder: Are the websites we browse every day accessible to all, including people with visual and hearing disabilities? Are we genuinely providing equal treatment to all users? For most of us, the answers may not be affirmative. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, has played a significant role in addressing these concerns to a great extent. This landmark legislation in the United States prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires equal access to public places, including digital spaces.

In this article, we will explore seven important points to ensure ADA compliance, helping you make your online content more inclusive for all. By understanding the ADA Act principles and using these strategies, you can make a difference in the lives of many, creating a more accessible online space for everyone.

What is ADA compliance and what does it say about your websites? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on disability. The goal of this act is to ensure that those who have physical and cognitive disabilities are included in all areas of public life.  

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, which mandates that all electronic and information technology, such as websites, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those with vision impairment and hearing loss.

Now, what happens if your website is NOT ADA-compliant?

Failing to make your website accessible puts you at risk of potentially expensive lawsuits. Even if you unintentionally fall short of ADA standards, you could find yourself facing substantial financial burdens due to lawsuits stemming from inaccessible website content. So, conducting UX audit to ensure ADA compliance is as crucial as integrating ADA-compliant design features from the very beginning of creating your website.

Beyond the legal troubles, non-compliance with ADA standards can lead to additional challenges, including:

  • Legal fees can quickly add up, with severe penalties for first-time ADA violations ranging from $55,000-$75,000, and increasing to approximately $150,000 for second-time violations.
  • The potential for costly settlements to resolve disputes.
  • PR (public relations) problems that can damage your company's reputation.
  • The expenses associated with redesigning your website to meet compliance requirements.

Moreover, the consequences extend to your customer base, as you risk losing customers who rely on accessible websites for equal access to information and services.

How do you Comply with ADA?

To ensure ADA compliance, you need to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The primary recommendation is to adhere to WCAG 2.0, which categorizes compliance into three levels:

  • Level A: This level provides basic accessibility, making your website accessible to some users.
  • Level AA: Compliance at this level ensures that your website is accessible to almost all users.
  • Level AAA: The highest level of compliance, making your website accessible to all users.

While meeting Level AA compliance standards is often sufficient, it's best to aim for 100% compliance to ensure inclusivity.

Here is a breakdown of the  core principles (POUR) of WCAG guidelines:

  1. Be Perceivable: Your website must provide information that is easily perceivable by all users. This includes text, images, videos, and more. 
  2. Be Operable: Your website should be navigable by all users. Every feature you offer, such as site tools, must be usable by any visitor. 
  3. Be Understandable: In addition to viewing and navigating, users need to comprehend the content. Provide clear instructions for site tools, navigation menus, forms, and other features. 
  4. Be Robust: Ensure that disabled users, even with the assistance of technology, have the same experience as non-disabled users. 

7 actionable steps to ensure ADA-compliance of websites 

When it comes to WCAG, it covers a wide range of aspects of your website. Some of these are design-related, while others apply to your website's code. To make sure your website is ADA-compliant, you have got to make sure both these aspects align with WCAG.

Here are the 7 most important action items you must consider while building your website

Provide Alt tag for images

Add a description or tag to your images. These descriptions are like captions, manually added to tell people what is in the image. It is super helpful for those using screen readers. Take a look at the home page design of Mighty Networks pages that make use of ARIA tags ( Accessible Rich Internet Access) and provide alternative text to ensure that the design is accessible to screen reader users. 

an example of a website using ALT tag to meet accessibility compliance

Get the right colors 

Proper color contrast is a big deal. It helps people with vision impairments or color blindness distinguish between different sections of your site. This includes things like the contrast between text and background colors, as well as buttons and interactive elements. 

As you can see, the website 1% for the Planet has high-contrasting text with careful selection of colors. 

an example of a website showing proper use of color contrast for meeting accessibility guidelines

Never rely on colors alone to take your message across

 Using colors alone to get your message across can cause issues for people with color blindness or vision impairments. So, it's important to make sure you are conveying important info in multiple ways. Combine text and symbols with colors to make your site accessible to everyone. 

The website of Built by Silo is a perfect example of this. 

an example of a website showing good use of text and symbols to share message

Choose fonts that enhance readability 

The fonts you choose can really impact how readable your website is. You will want to steer clear of those thin, fancy fonts that can be tricky for people with certain vision impairments 

Take a look at the website of Partake, which has a toggle in the bottom right corner where key elements such as text and cursor size can be changed. 

an example of a website providing users option to customize font sizes

Keep your website organized to ensure consistent navigation

Good navigation is the key to keeping visitors on your site. Confusing navigation can lead to frustration and folks leaving your site. On the flip side, a well-structured navigation system with organized menus and links make it easy for people to find what they are looking for.

The website of WWF is a good example of not overloading the design with content helping the users with easy navigation. 

an example of a website using consistent navigation

Make your website device-friendly

Your website should look and work great on all kinds of devices. It should be just as awesome on mobiles and tablets as it is on big screens. You don't want stuff disappearing or acting up when people switch devices.

According to Statista, almost 60% of the total web traffic comes from mobile internet traffic. This is why at Aufait UX, we make sure that all our design projects prioritize optimization for various devices, just as we did for the Ed-Tech platform, Lead School.

an example of a UI UX design for a website with responsive design for optimizing for all devices

Avoid content that triggers seizures

Flashing lights that go all out can be a big no-no. They can trigger seizures and just make the experience uncomfortable for everyone. So, avoid anything that flashes more than three times in one second. 

Here’s a comprehensive ADA compliance checklist for you to follow to ensure your website adheres to the accessibility standards

ada compliance checklist for websites

Designing for diversity: Make your Website an Equitable place 

We prioritize designing websites based on parity, integrating accessibility standards from the very beginning in our design process steps. By ensuring that every design element and code snippet adheres to accessibility standards right from the start, our UI/UX design services walk along with companies so that they can proactively avoid potential issues down the road. 

At Aufait UX, we place a strong emphasis on accessibility considerations, valuing the equal treatment of all our users. It is crucial to recognize that the best products are accessible by default so ensuring accessibility should be your top priority. 

Aparna K S

Aparna is a content creator who is passionate about UX design. Her works are informed by her deep knowledge and understanding of the field. She blends creativity and her unique perspective of the field to create engaging and informative articles. Aparna seeks to inspire and educate readers by providing valuable insights into the world of UX design. Connect with Aparna via www.linkedin.com/in/aparna-k-s-7aaa2576

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