The ADA or, Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. It's intent from inception has been to prevent the discrimination of people suffering from various disabilities, protect their interests, and foster an egalitarian society.
Most people associate the ADA with wheelchair ramps and parking spots, so it’s easy not to consider the Internet as a place where accessibility is needed. However, the world has gone through a series of technological advancements since 1990 when the ADA was enacted. Now almost everyone and everything has a digital side including the applications of the ADA.
The ADA requires programs, privileges, and services to accommodate and cater to the needs of people with disabilities, who make up about 19% of the American population. Under the law, your business must provide unrestricted equitable access to all services, activities and every other offering your website has to offer. The ADA could pose a lawsuit risk for both public and private sector websites if they are not ADA-friendly.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Beyond complying with the law, having an ADA-compliant site means you’ll be creating good design practices which enhances your viewership and website traffic.
Here are five steps to make sure your website meets ADA standards:
1. Review the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
These guidelines offer suggestions on how to make your website accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. For example, does your site have videos? If so, consider captioning the videos to provide accessibility for the deaf and hearing impaired. Does your website offer audio descriptions of images? For the blind and the visually impaired, this option enables them to fully partake of your website. These are just two examples, but just adding adding a few simple features can make a world of difference for some of your customers.
2. Review your website’s styles and elements, such as headings, buttons, and links
When building your website, keep in mind that many different users may access your site. You might not think about an accessible color scheme, for example. If someone visits your site who is colorblind they might have trouble accessing your site if you choose a color scheme where the text and background blend together for them. Another example is the usage of thin, delicate fonts, which could make things more difficult for those with visual impairments.
Strong contrasting fonts and colors that are still appealing can ensure your site looks good while also being accessible.
3. Use web writing best practices when developing content
This follows with the common practices of building a simple and easy to use website. Does your site have clear headlines and sub-headlines? Breaking content into smaller, easier to read chucks can help tools like screen readers make sense of what’s on the screen. Also consider using periods in between abbreviations – for example U.S. and not US. Doing this means that a tool like a screen reader can properly pronounce what’s on the screen.
4. Alternative Text
Alternative text is a feature that explains what is in an image. For those who cannot see a photo or image on your website, the alternative text offers an explanation so they can know what is there.
5. Pinpoint your site’s accessibility problems by using WAVE
WAVE is the Web Accessibility Evaluation tool. This problem finding tool that has focused on web accessibility since 1999, and it can be installed as a Google Chrome extension for free.
To check a website’s accessibility, all you need to do is visit WAVE and enter in your website’s URL. WAVE will scan the site and alert you to any ADA compliance issues. It will give you a summary of errors and will detail what those errors are so you can address them more easily.
Taking these first steps will set you on the path to making sure your website is accessible to all.
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