In our current work from home, the environment website has become more important to our businesses and daily interactions with our clients.
Having your website work for all of your clients has become more important than ever.
A Brief History of ADA Compliance and the Internet
All federal, state and native government websites are required to meet accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
which was updated in 2001 to incorporate internet and intranet information and applications.
While there’s some gray area about what regulations apply to privately-owned companies, in 2017 the Southern District of Florida ruled in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.
that the ADA regulations in Section 508 applied to Winn-Dixie’s website, although Winn-Dixie is currently appealing the suit. but, in Robles v.
Domino’s Pizza, LLC in October 2019 the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the ADA regulations should be applied to the Domino’s Pizza website, but gave no clear regulations on what accessibility standards needed to be met.
This ruling also left it up to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis if the ADA regulations should apply to each company’s website.
These cases have prompted a rash of lawsuits for websites that don’t meet the online Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which are considered the present best practices.
Does My Website have to Be ADA Compliant?
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does provide an exemption for personal clubs and religious organizations,
so websites for these groups also are exempt. Other parts of the ADA leave exemptions for small businesses that employ less than 15 people, but it’s unclear if this applies to websites.
The ADA requires that any business, no matter size, make all reasonable efforts to accommodate customers with disabilities,
but fails to supply further clarity on what is considered reasonable efforts.
Title III of the ADA pertains to the general public accommodations for private businesses and nonprofits. Title III states that generally it applies to any
“(1) Public accommodation;
(2) Commercial facility; or
(3) Private entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes.”
This does provide clarity for any websites offering educational materials since they’re specifically mentioned in the law.
However, for other business entities, it is often argued that your company’s website is a “public accommodation” of your company and that case has been made in court.
The First, Second, and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have all upheld cases claiming that public accommodations should apply to websites.
However, the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have all stated that an area of public accommodation had to be a physical location.
The line “…noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the
ADA.” is critical and means the DOJ is not prepared to make the gray area of the law black and white. They put the difficulty back to congress and ask them to “provide clarity through the legislative process”
While the chief, Legislative and Judicial branches of the state have all failed to provide a clear answer, many private industries are handling these issues in litigation.
Given all of that, the short answer is:
It may not be legally required for your site to be ADA compliant right now, but it’s going to be in the future and it is just a good idea.
Here Are the highest 5 Things You Should Do to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
Orientation and Responsiveness
People with disabilities often find it easier to use a tablet or smartphone to browse the web.
Your website should be functional on these devices by scaling to the various screen sizes and changing to fit the different formats.
Some functions like hover effects work well on desktops or laptops,
but don’t function on touchscreen devices, like tablets and smartphones,
therefore the content shown on a hover will have to displayed another way.
Most websites fix this issue by making the content available with a click instead.
Responsive websites are commonplace for many website platforms.
Most people think of the menu at the top of the page when they hear the words navigation and website together.
For our purposes, we are talking about how one will move through your website to read or collect the knowledge it has to offer.
For the visually impaired it is often a challenge to move from one section to another if the site is not structured properly.
Tab navigation allows your user to simply move through the site using keyboard shortcuts. Most screen readers depend on this type of navigation to read the website in the right order.
For people with physical disabilities, this tab navigation could be the only way they can access your site.
If this function isn’t working properly they could abandon your site entirely.
Labels, Titles, and Alt Tags
Buttons, Images, Icons, and other visual elements on your website have to be functional for all users.
To accomplish this these elements will have to labeled properly for all devices and tools to be able to identify and interact with them.
Buttons should have a title attribute that is the same are the text on the button.
for instance, a user with a tremor could use a voice activation program to interact together with your site,
so that they will say the word that appears on the button, like ‘send’ to submit a contact form.
If that title thereon button is ‘submit’ the program will not be able to identify the button and the action will fail.
this will be very frustrating to the user and will result in a loss of a lead for you.
Much like the buttons, images need an attribute to assist identify them as well.
For a picture, this is often the ‘alt’ tag.
This attribute should included on all images and will describe the image,
so it gives the user the knowledge they would get from viewing the image.
If the image you’re showing is of two happy people smiling
but is located in your testimonials section the ‘alt’ text could read “photo of two happy customers”.
Without the ‘alt’ attribute the screen reader won’t be able to interpret the image for the visually impaired.
Icons have the identical issue as images, but handled differently.
they’re a mix between the button and the image.
Since most icons are an SVG or font the ‘title’ attribute is going to used for these
like the button, but the worth will be the description like with the image.
Other visual elements may require a ‘title’ or ‘alt’ attribute also.
Spacing and Sizing
In web layout, there are two ways to make spacing; padding and margins.
Adding padding to a component adds spacing inside
the element between its edge and the content. this may allow you to make an element larger.
The margins will add spacing around a component to give it a bit of breathing room.
For someone who has tremors or a loss of hand-eye coordination clicking a small button can be difficult.
to form this process easier for all users adding padding to the buttons
will give them a larger target to click and adding margins around the target
will make it easier for the user to find the right selection and not hit an adjacent element by accident.
Readability including Color Contrast
The most important thing to know for readability is all text should always be text.
This seems straightforward but isn’t.
People will add words to a picture or add simple
PDFs to websites without an option for the screen reader to be able to read the information contained.
The ‘alt’ attribute on the pictures should solve the issue for most images,
but this is often not an option for a PDF.
If possible you ought to create a page for the PDF and give the user the option to download a PDF,
but know available in another format.
All PDF information should be accessible as text whenever possible.
According to the NIH, color blindness occurs in about 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females.
to form sure this population can read the content webpages
you will need to pick contrasting colors to provide readable text for all.
White background with black text may safe bet,
but a green background with blue text can get into the trickier territory.
There are tools you’ll use to quickly check if your colors meet the contrast requirements.
This tool checks two colors against one another and gives you a ratio for the set. Anything above 4.51 is passing and may read by all users.
This tool allows you to type within the webpage URL and get a report on which elements pass and which elements fail.
This may allow you to test your site for contrast compliance and see which elements need to adjust.
To supply your users with the best experience, readable text is the best place to start.