What Are The ADA Accessibility Guidelines For 2022
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Incorporating accessibility features in a website requires functionality that allows someone to use screen-reading software to access the content without getting frustrated about their disabilities.
One-fourth of the US population is disabled and businesses that are accessible to the public, need to ensure barrier-free access to their content despite the hearing or vision loss of the users.
If you fail to do that you are simply violating the law and have to face legal repercussions. Like the famous boutique hotel in Palm Springs that faced a lawsuit not because their property was inaccessible to people in wheelchairs but because their official website was inaccessible to deaf users.
“The requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act leave us no option but to deactivate some pages” (Excerpts from the home page of Avanti Hotel, Palm Springs).
Lots of businesses, including market leading brands have caught up to the need of avoiding ADA violations. Still, commercial websites are vulnerable to lawsuits because of the ambiguity of the law. There is no formal government standard to ensure ADA compliance. And due to technological evolutions, the accessibility framework provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) keeps updating.
Therefore, it can be said that the only way to steer clear of the risk of lawsuits is to attain a proactive approach and constantly perform audits with the help of website accessibility tools.
The ADA (Americans with Disability Act) became a civil rights law in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination based on disability. In the year 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revised the Title III of the ADA Act and provided standards to make technology accessible.
W3C process published the first version of a stable and referenceable framework to ensure ADA compliance. It was called WCAG ( Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). The first ever version was published in 2008 as WCAG 2.0 and the revised success criteria were added in WCAG 2.1 in 2018. The WCAG 2.2 draft is almost finalized and we do have WCAG 3 as a working draft.
All these web accessibility resources are useful for businesses, web developers and audit specialists. Adhering to the success criteria mentioned in WCAG ensures that the content is Perceivable, Operable, Robust and Understandable.
In simple words, the content displayed on your business website, software platform or mobile apps should be easy to navigate, easy to understand and easy to access. Users should be able to access the content with just a keyboard and those who are not able to use the keyboard should be able to navigate the displayed information via mouse or suitable hardware. If there is a form to be filled out, disabled users should be able to do that. The contrast ratio should not be triggering seizures and there should be properly labelled images, content and other elements that make accessibility barrier free for the disabled users.
These ADA accessibility guidelines were meant to help businesses to remediate websites which were full of barriers for disabled users. Still, the road to success is long and in the meanwhile, ADA violations are increasing day by day. California tops the list for the highest number of lawsuits, followed closely by New York and Florida.
The bad accessibility features are prominent, even on the home page for most businesses. Despite having browser extensions, accessibility issues are prevalent. Maybe you are not making accessibility a part of your workflow?
To overcome the barriers, you need to know the current accessibility guidelines, accessibility components and accessibility barriers.
There are various components that work together to meet the objectives of web accessibility, such as web browsers, media players, assistive technology, evaluation tools and websites that incorporate text, images, sound and the code that decides the structure.
All these components are interdependent and to achieve total accessibility you need to focus on effectively implementing one component; the rest of the components implement accessibility on their own. For instance, when a software to create websites makes accessibility features easy to implement, it is likely that the content will be free from accessibility barriers. If any of the components are weak, you need to perform accessibility audits and focus on accessibility barriers.
As discussed earlier, the framework that governs the Title III of the ADA is WCAG. Businesses need to focus on the resources of the current version, i.e. WCAG 2.1. The success criteria of WCAG 2.0 are word to word included in WCAG 2.1.
The framework currently focuses on mobile accessibility barriers and challenges for people with low vision and cognitive disability. This implies that your commercial website should have simple layouts, enhanced contrast, easy navigations, text alternatives for non-text content, and audio descriptions or captions for media elements.
There are three levels of conformance to aim for accessibility guidelines.
LEVEL A – Fulfils the basic requirements
LEVEL AA- Best suited for websites, covers most of the accessibility barriers
LEVEL AAA – Desired level, but almost unachievable for websites – Level AA usually will suffice for a commercial website.
Businesses are encouraged to aim for Level AA of WCAG 2.1 to adhere to the law. The proposed roadmap to accessibility might sound confusing, time consuming and probably overwhelming if you lack domain knowledge.
You can contact our auditing team, they are passionate about making web content easy to understand, easy to read, and easy to operate. The desired level of conformance to the success criteria can be achieved once you pay attention to the accessibility barriers.