Website Design

What is an ADA Compliant Website?

What is an ADA Compliant Website?
November 23, 2022

ADA compliance makes certain that a website is designed to be experienced by those with differing abilities. Legally, people with hearing, vision, or physical impairments must be able to navigate all websites. However, accessibility can be difficult to design and maintain.  

What Are the Legal Accessibility Standards for ADA Compliance?

ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. The law requires that all electronic information be accessible to those with disabilities. 

The journey of ADA website compliance has been difficult. When the internet was relatively new, website designers and businesses were not held to strict standards. Over the last decade, the world has become much more dependent on electronic communication. 

What Are the Characteristics of an ADA Non-Compliant Website?

Some common complaints about website accessibility involve the following characteristics:

  • Too much reliance on color to provide information
  • Mouse-only navigation
  • Poor color contrast
  • Lack of captions on videos
  • Inaccessible online forms
  • Images without test alternatives

According to a study by Deque Systems, two-thirds of visually impaired Americans experienced ADA compliancy issues when attempting to make a purchase online. In addition, the study found that 70% of e-commerce, news, information, and government sites had critical non-compliance characteristics. 

How Non-Compliance Hurts the Workplace

An example of how ADA non-compliance hurts those with differing abilities can be seen in the workforce. Most job openings are posted online and refuse in-person resumes. In addition, many prospective job applicants must fill out several online forms, complete personality testing, and send resumes via email. 

Large and small companies also introduce various types of software and hardware in an attempt to make business easier. However, advancing technology may be leaving behind many with disabilities. 

A workplace technology study found that:

  • 18% of self-employed individuals had their contract terminated due to inaccessible software
  • 25% found that most online trainings are inaccessible for their abilities
  • 50% of employees had trouble using new software their companies provided
  • 48% of job applicants could not access onboarding paperwork 

If a person with different abilities cannot access the information or complete the onboarding application process, it may be considered discrimination.

ADA Non-Compliance Lawsuits Are Increasing 

Over the last decade, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in ADA non-compliance lawsuits. Since 2013, the number of ADA non-compliance lawsuits has risen by 320%. 

The total number of ADA federal lawsuits launched over the years has steadily increased: 

  • 2,722 in 2013
  • 4,789 in 2015
  • 7,663 in 2017
  • 11,053 in 2019
  • 11,452 in 2021

Prior to 2013, a lawsuit aimed at inaccessible websites was practically non-existent. 

Are There Challenges to Creating an ADA Compliant Website?

ADA Compliant Website

Creating a fully accessible and ADA compliant website has many challenges. It can be difficult to account for the broad spectrum of abilities and barriers.

For example, assisted technology for differently-abled persons has seen major improvements over the years. A website must be accessible to those with and without assisted technology. 

Unfortunately, some website designers and companies only provide accessibility to a limited number of differently-abled users. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has attempted to list the spectrum of abilities and impairments websites must consider to stay ADA compliant:

  • Age-related impairments
  • Situational limitations
  • Auditory disabilities
  • Cognitive and neurological disabilities
  • Motor disabilities
  • Speech disabilities
  • Visual impairments

When a site cannot be successfully navigated by those experiencing all of the above barriers, they may face a range of penalties and fines. 

What Are the Legal Ramifications if a Website is Not ADA Compliant? 

Websites that do not meet ADA compliance standards can incur multiple fines and penalties from lawsuits. The legal ramifications can include the following:

  • Court fees
  • Large discrimination settlements
  • Penalties of $55,000 to $75,000 for a first offense
  • Additional penalties of $150,000 for multiple offenses
  • Costs of rebuilding the website to meet the standards

In addition, companies may suffer adverse effects on their reputation. It is critical to check ADA website compliance. 

What to Look for When Creating an ADA Compliant Website

One of the best ways to ensure a website is ADA compliant is to go by the WCAG guidelines provided by the WAI. The WCAG guidelines describe four key principles to build and maintain an ADA compliant website. 

Perceptibility for All Users

Users have different abilities. Some users may have visual impairments. Others may be born with hearing impairments. Making sure website content can be perceived by all users is crucial. 

Some examples of user-inclusivity involve:

  • Pictures with text that can be read aloud to a visually impaired person
  • Videos that have subtitles so those with hearing disabilities can understand the context of images

Able to Operate

All users should be able to operate a website. This often involves making sure a website can be navigated by mouse, keyboard, and voice. Some assisted technology will allow users to scroll and click with keyboard commands. If a site is only maneuverable by mouse, the website will be inaccessible. 

Easy to Comprehend

All users should be able to easily understand and access the information on a webpage. To comply with ADA standards, businesses may need to provide instructions for site tools and other features on the page. In addition, subtitles on videos and captions on photographs must be written in a way that a visually impaired person can easily comprehend. 

Universal Quality

Along with accessibility, websites must provide or attempt to provide the same overall user experience as someone fully abled. In other words, the content provided for disabled users must retain the same quality. Captions, descriptions, and other content should not be unnecessarily shortened. All users must be treated the same regardless of their abilities. 

Important Steps to Consider for Website ADA Compliance

Content, design, and navigation should be considered when evaluating website ADA compliance. Website content, including social media, emails, and blogs, should be accessible and concern a site’s:

  • Structure
  • Readability
  • Linked text
  • Types of files (e.g., PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoints)

Design is also important. The color contrast, font, and alt text on images and videos are crucial for those with differing abilities and their adaptive technology. 

In addition, keyboard navigation, fillable forms, CTA buttons, and other features need to be accessible for multiple devices and abilities. Improving a non-compliant website now can save thousands in preventable lawsuits. 

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