What Is ADA Compliance and Why It Matters For Websites in America?

What Is ADA Compliance? And Why It Matters For Your Website?

If you are thinking that you have done everything possible for your website to get running, think again. Have you checked for ADA compliance? If not yet, then you must. ADA is not something you can avoid if you want your website to be labeled as legitimate. To make it ADA compliant you must apply several rules based on the ADA guidelines.

In this post, we will talk about everything you need to know about ADA and how you can make your website ADA-compliant. Here is a complete guide to the subject and let us first start with understanding what is ADA compliance.


What is ADA Compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that came into effect in 1990. According to this law, discrimination against individuals with disabilities is strictly prohibited. It states that every service or opportunity open to the public must be accessible to people with disabilities and thus has a predefined set of rules to be followed for ADA compliance.

It was in the year 2010, the United States Department of Justice released certain ADA guidelines to preserve the rights of people with disabilities and declared that all electronic and technology with digital information such as websites must follow the ADA guidelines as well. This will ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities in the digital realm.


What Does ADA Compliance Mean for Websites?

Though ADA guidelines do not explicitly mention websites to be compliant, yet according to the law it has become a mandatory step for website owners. The law states that every public accommodation must provide equal rights for people with disabilities and the latest recommendations by the ADA have taken websites into consideration for ‘places of public accommodations’.

Thus, websites must follow the ADA standards and remove accessibility barriers. In other words, every digital property owner must ensure that their service is accessible to people with disabilities. Further, non-compliance with ADA regulations might lead to financial penalties.

Some key requirements for an ADA-compliant website must include:

  • Alt text for images and graphics
  • Captions and transcripts for audio and video content
  • Screen reader compatibility
  • Keyboard accessibility
  • Color contrast for easy reading
  • Avoiding flashing content

These above-stated requirements will ensure that your website provides the same information and is accessible to both people with or without disabilities.


Who Needs an ADA-Compliant Website?

Almost every organization including the government sector must adhere to the ADA guidelines. It may be a state or local government agency, or a business open to the public, it must meet the ADA requirements. Some common examples of businesses that must follow ADA are retail stores, healthcare centers, banking organizations, hotels, theatres, and others.

Since ADA guidelines explicitly mention electronic and information technology, it applies to all online businesses and websites as well. Though you or other website owners might not intentionally ignore ADA rules, it is still important to make your website ADA-compliant to avoid any penalties, either in the form of money or reputation.


What Happens to ADA Non-Compliant Websites?

Before going deeper, you must know what may happen if your website is not ADA-compliant. In case of non-compliance, the state may charge you with monetary penalties such as:

  • $55,000 – $75,000 fine for first-time violation.
  • $150,000 fine for repeat violations.

Then there are other forms of penalties such as:

  • Fundings provided to federally funded organizations may be terminated even for first-time violations.
  • A lawsuit can also be filed against the organization owning the website if people with disabilities are unable to access the information on your site. These lawsuits sometimes can end up in penalizing thousands of dollars to the website owner.

Some well-known companies that have faced such lawsuits are Amazon, The Wall Street Journal, and Hershey’s.


How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant

You can make your website ADA-compliant by applying WCAG and Section 508. WCAG 2.0 guidelines including 508 standards are ideal for websites to be compliant. Following this guideline will make your website accessible to people with disabilities across the United States.

Let us get to know the core principles that these guidelines follow:

1. Perceivable

You must provide an alternative to your users with disabilities so that they can perceive all the information available on your website including text, visuals, audio, and more. This means that for a blind person, there must be an alternative for every visual data, and for the deaf an alternative to the audio.

2. Operable

Navigation must be easy for users with disabilities to make your site operable to them. Your website’s main navigation, including all its key features, must be made accessible to everyone. Check out our detailed resource on different ways you can optimize your website.

3. Understandable

The users must be able to understand the information available on your site. For example, in the case of an instruction manual, you must make it friendly to users with disabilities as well.

4. Robust

User experience must be equal for all. This means that the information available on your site must be the same for everyone, even if it is available in different forms.

These above-stated principles can be put together in the form of the below-mentioned actionable items.

  • Provide captions for all videos, including live videos.
  • For all pre-recorded content, provide audio descriptions.
  • Maintain a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for all texts and images against the texts.
  • Allow text resizing up to 200% without any assistive technology.
  • Images of text must be avoided except when necessary.
  • Provide more options for navigation.
  • Use headings and labels to describe the type of content your website is hosting.
  • Focus visible feature must be available in case anyone is accessing your site with a keyboard.
  • Add a language attribute to the page where the language used is not your default language.
  • Navigation location consistency must be maintained on your website.
  • Identification consistency must be maintained for site elements with the same functions.
  • Offer users for error suggestion to fix any input errors.
  • Provide error prevention measures for any page that generates legal commitments or financial transactions.

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Final Thoughts

Even if your brand is not a well-known one or is doing a considerable amount of business, ADA regulations apply to you as well and can cause you penalties if not followed. Thus, it is a fairly wise decision to go with the ADA set of standards and protect your website from any form of penalties.

Having said that, ADA compliance is not something easy to do. It is typically a time-consuming and expensive process. But if you do not do this it may cause you more expenses and hazards. ADA compliance will mean a better reputation and a better business for your website. For more guidelines and resources on ADA compliance, check out its official website.

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