The 2021 Checklist for an ADA Compliant Website

  • 31.03.2021
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The Americans with Disabilities Act was created for much more than internet websites, but since it was created to evolve with the times, the range that it covers continues to spread. At its bottom line, the ADA covers all domains considered ‘places of public accommodation,’ language that showcases the act’s flexibility and exactly what makes your website fall under it. With the evolution of our notion of public spaces developing to include the internet at large, the ADA regulates web accessibility. Still, because many websites are created without a clear understanding of the act, many are not actually ADA compliant.

The Law

The law that dictates accessibility in the United States is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA states that if your content is not accessible, it discriminates against people with disabilities. A compliance checklist can help, but adhering to law should be more important.

Although the ADA does not strictly cover websites, it is so flexible that it encompasses web content and design. The Department of Justice and U.S. courts certainly interpret it that way. This means for you and your website then is that if you have anything commercial or marketable as content, you could be a target for a law firm with a keen eye for internet content.

Technical shortcomings are the first thing lawyers will look for, first and foremost seeking out anything that might have you in violation or falling short of the WCAG. If your website does not totally conform to the WCAG, you are not automatically in violation of the ADA. While there is no formal legal admonition for web accessibility, you could see litigation in your future: you may not be violating the law, but you do suffer a loss in the sense that you lose money, time, and energy in dealing with the fallout.

The ADA itself’s most concise guidance is an existing ADA Tool Kit for Website Accessibility for state and local governments and a supplemental Title II Website Accessibility Checklist, both easily searchable on the internet.

Closely examining the ADA and the supplemental documents can keep you from making any mistakes that could cost you in the future.

WCAG

The first thing to consider once you start to assess website accessibility is to measure it against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or the WCAG. Because websites need to be optimized to work with any assistive tech you put in place, the WCAG helps you ensure that optimization by checking if your content is accessible to all users. Badly designed web content can not only stop users from accessing your site, but it can hurt business and create barriers between you and your customer base.

It’s important to prioritize accessibility, especially on sites for local governments, as their websites act as information bases for their communities and as a bridge for those same communities. Prioritizing accessibility has the following impacts:

  • Increases site visits and traffic
  • Improves a site’s search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Secures legal best practices
  • It can impact approximately 19% of the community

WCAG has four main principles, each focusing on a list of criteria that assesses ADA compliance.

  • Perceivable – Is the information and the site interface presented so that users can easily perceive it and its contents?
  • Operable – Is the website’s user interface and web navigation user-friendly and clearly operable?
  • Understandable – Is the site’s content and its user interface’s operation easy to understand and use at first glance?
  • Robust – Lastly, is the website adaptable to the myriad of browsers and assistive technologies its users might be utilizing, even after steady updates?

Following this criterion set by the WCAG is a good way to gauge your website’s ADA compliance.

This criterion for website accessibility is then further separated into three levels to break down the degrees of accessibility.

  1. Level A (minimum) – Counting the most basic web accessibility features, which sets a minimum level of accessibility but not broad enough to encompass more situations.
  2. Level AA (mid-range) – Includes the broader and more common barriers for people with disabilities.
  3. Level AAA (highest) – Being the highest level of accessibility for online content, it is difficult to satisfy this criterion because not all content types can meet the AAA level.

ADA website compliance boils down to ensuring all the aspects of your website- text, design, video, or audio- conform with the technical guidelines laid down by the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

There are multiple ways to make sure your content stays within the guidelines. Let’s go through the ADA compliant website checklist.

ADA Compliance Checklist

A good way to break down your website requires to break them down from the Level A and Level AA compliances. Meeting these accessibility requirements is crucial to keep your website ADA compliant. Your website and its content must be optimized for any assistive technology.

Level A has the basic requirements and sets the bare minimum of standards to keep your website accessible. The Level A requirements are as follows:

Level A Compliance Checklist

  • Images should have alternative text or alt text that screen readers can translate.
  • The video should have text captions.
  • Video or audio content should have either a text transcript or audio descriptions.
  • Links on media players are required to view content
  • Any heading or title should be readable and presented in a logical order
  • Make sure, and ‘b’ or ‘i’ HTML tags are replaced with ‘strong’ and ’em’
  • There are no empty links or heading tags
  • The presentation should have more than just color alone and convey information clearly.
  • Autoplay audio is discouraged and should have an option to be stopped
  • Time limits provide notifications to the user
  • The site is navigable via keyboard, and the keyboard does not get stuck on any page elements.
  • Automatic scrolling or blinking content has an option to be stopped
  • No strobing light, or rapidly flashing lights or colors used in the website design
  • A skip navigation link should allow keyboard users to access the content easily
  • Page titles should clearly describe the content
  • Links and buttons are clearly labeled and named logically
  • The language of every page is identifiable in code
  • Any bad form input is immediately identified to the user
  • Elements in focus do not change the website content in any way
  • Forms are labeled and have legends that are easily read by screen reader software
  • There aren’t any major validation errors on the website design

After this, Level AA requirements are a little more complex but are important to make your website content accessible. They might be harder to follow, but narrow down the ADA compliance requirements further.

Level AA Compliance Checklist

  • Any live video or audio content on your website should have text captions.
  • The color contrast ratio is kept at a level pleasing to the eye for the visually impaired.
  • The contrast ratio between page backgrounds and text must be at least 4.5-1
  • The text must be allowed to resize to 200% while still keeping its form.
  • Images should not be used where text can achieve the same effect
  • Pages on your website are accessible in several ways
  • Keyboard focus should be clear and visible
  • The language of content is easily identifiable in code, despite any language changes.
  • Menus, buttons, and any navigation are kept consistent regardless of the user’s location on your website.
  • The site should allow users to receive suggestions on solving input errors.
  • Error prevention techniques should be implemented whenever the user inputs sensitive data.
  • No underlined text does not lead to a link.
  • Links that are redundant on the same page are either removed or minimized.

Conclusion

Making your website completely ADA compliant can be an intimidating task and can take lots of time and effort. But it’s also completely worth it. Even if you get away with any misses in ADA compliance, you will end up settling and still having to make your website accessible if you get hit with litigation.

Another thing to watch out for is even if you get sued once, it doesn’t mean you’re completely free from it happening again- which has already happened to several existing companies. The ADA is a stringent liability law and allows very few mistakes and excuses for not complying.

To keep your website and your content from being targeted, take the time to make sure your website adheres to the long list of requirements. We at ADA Compliance Pros can help you with that. You can work with experienced, certified professionals who can identify all the liability risks on your website and provide cost-effective solutions for meeting all ADA requirements.

Visit our website at adacompliancepros.com today to find out what we can do for your web content.

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