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Designing an ADA Compliant Website

Designing an ADA compliant website.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people living with disabilities. This includes in schools, places of employment, and any public places. 

The internet was in its infancy when the ADA was established in 1990, so the current language defining the standards for websites is vague at best. With an ever-growing technological world, the ADA has been working to enforce digital inclusivity. Creating a virtually inclusive world means making websites accessible for everyone. 

If you’re a business or service, it is your responsibility to understand accessibility requirements. 

Aside from being the right thing to do, it can bring more traffic to your website by not alienating an entire community of people. The more traffic you get, the more your business will grow. 

You’ll also want to avoid a lawsuit, as there has been an increase in companies being sued over non-ADA compliant websites. 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is a comprehensive document that explains how to make web content accessible. 

The list is a deep-dive for web designers or anyone with a need or want to make their website accessible. 

The WCAG lays out four elements you need to focus on: 

  1. Perceivable – Ensuring the website’s content and information is clear and available to view and understand for everyone. 
  2. Operable – It must be a seamless process for people to navigate through
  3. Understandable – The information must be accessible for everyone to comprehend 
  4. Robust – Content must be easily interpreted in a reliable way for all users 

What Makes a Website Inaccessible?

The ADA provides everyone with access to a toolkit for referencing problems and solutions. Some of them are laid out below: 

  • Images without text equivalents:
    Folks who are blind, have limited vision, or any other disability that impacts their ability to easily read text on a screen use screen readers and/or refreshable Braille displays. These technologies have the ability to read text. However, they are unable to interpret photographs – even images with text on it. To avoid this problem, the ADA toolkit suggests adding “a text equivalent to every image.” One way to add text for each image would be to include a line of HTML code, or alt tags.
  • Inaccessible Formatting for Documents
    PDFs may seem accessible and user-friendly if you don’t have a vision impairment, but for those who do and use screen readers, it makes text enlargement programs difficult to use. While the toolkit suggests utilizing an “alternative text-based format, such as HTML or Rich Text  Format (RTF) in addition to a PDF,”  there are ways to make a PDF accessible

Some common issues with PDFs are defined below:

  • Missing document title 
  • No Alt text with Images 
  • Confusing and illogical reading order
  • Tables without a defined header 

 You can avoid these problems by including searchable text, having images with alt text, and having a clearly defined reading order (left-to-right).

  • Colors and Font Sizes
    Imagine you’re watching a movie with subtitles, and the text for the subtitles is white and blends into the scene. You might end up turning the movie off, or bare through it and miss a chunk of the story. If you live with a vision impairment, this is something you deal with on a regular basis.

    Most of us love an aesthetically pleasing website. Colors and layouts can enhance a viewer’s experience, making the website enjoyable to look at. However, web designers need to consider the experience that someone with low vision or someone who is blind will have on the website. 

The ADA toolkit suggests that designers avoid making it impossible for users to change the color and font settings of the webpage they are visiting. It should be designed to allow users to override color and font settings with their own preferences.

Having an ADA compliant website will help you avoid any discrimination and legal complaints. Luckily, there are a ton of accessibility checkers, such as Split Reef, Audioeye, and Pixel Plex    among many others that can help you avoid creating or maintaining an inaccessible website. 

By ensuring that your website features are logical and by making your website readable and perceivable, you are allowing a wider audience to consume your information and content. 

If you’re still concerned about your website not being ADA compliant, we have designers and developers who can help, you can contact us here.

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