Why Making Your Website ADA Compliant Is A Necessity — Not A Choice
In 2017, one of the biggest and growing trends in the website design and development space is the issue of ADA accessibility. The American Disabilities Act (“ADA”) which was passed in 1990 stipulates that places of “public accommodation” must be accessible and provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. With the rising importance of the internet, ADA compliance is now expanding to websites and any business that serves the public (i.e. retail stores, banks, accountants, healthcare providers, etc.) is expected to follow website accessibility standards.
While the issue of ADA accessibility for websites is not new, a wave of lawsuits has started to emerge across a range of industries, bringing the topic of ADA compliance to the forefront for businesses, especially those contemplating a website redesign. Coupled with recent mandates by industry trade associations and increased pressures from local, state and government agencies, incorporating ADA standards into corporate website builds is now becoming a necessity.
To further complicate matters, there are varying standards for website compliance with ADA requirements. The most common compliance guidelines are those developed and published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Specifically, WCGA 2.0. Under this guidance, there are three levels of conformance defined as: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). At Multimedia Solutions, as a general standard, we do not recommend going any lower than AA when approaching an ADA compliance conversion. Furthermore, the Department of Justice is expected to pass official guidelines on website accessibility standards by early 2018 (expected to be in line with AA requirements), which is why so many organizations are scrambling to get their websites up-to-date.
What Makes A Website ADA Compliant
What exactly makes a website ADA compliant? While there are many components that go into an ADA website conversion, below are some key considerations:
- Websites should have easily resizable text with a high contrast mode option to make text easier to read for sight impaired visitors.
- Photos need to have text descriptions for external, screen reader devices so that sight impaired visitors can interpret the content.
- PDF documents also need to be properly tagged so that screen readers can properly interpret non-HTML content.
- Videos on your website should include audio descriptions and transcripts for people who are hard of hearing.
- For those who may have limited motor skills, all key website functionality must be accessible through a keyboard.
Once ADA updates are made on your website, there needs to be a thorough review and audit of the site to ensure the website does in fact meet your defined ADA requirements. At Multimedia Solutions, we use a suite of third-party tools to ensure our websites meet ADA requirements and continually use ADA scanners throughout the website design and development process.
And websites are only the first phase. As ADA compliance becomes more standardized in the digital space, we expect to see ADA accessibility standards extend to areas such as mobile apps or new voice recognition platforms. It goes without question that the internet has completely transformed the way we communicate and providing digital accessibility to everyone will be the new and noble innovation of the future.