In the rapidly evolving landscape of the internet, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has emerged as a key factor, bringing a wave of uncertainty and questions about compliance. Recent developments have sparked discussions within companies and web development firms about potential changes in website design practices to align with ADA regulations. Are we finally on the verge of gaining clarity on this matter?
Navigating the ADA and Website Design
For years, the intersection of the ADA and website design has been a subject of speculation and anticipation. Organizations, both public and private, as well as educational institutions, have long been concerned with ensuring their online platforms adhere to ADA guidelines. However, other industries have largely focused on usability aspects, only considering specific dimensions of accessibility. Now, experts are predicting a shift where virtually all entities will need to embrace ADA compliance or face legal consequences.
Disclaimer: It’s important to note that the content in this post is not legal advice. As someone navigating this landscape, I’m eager to explore how we can make our websites ADA compliant to the appropriate standards, but always seek professional legal advice when necessary.
Raising the Bar: Beyond Previous Efforts
Up until now, much of the emphasis has been on following Google’s lead, tagging image and video content to cater to visually impaired users through screen reading software. We’ve also prioritized optimizing content for various screen sizes and devices. While these steps have been crucial improvements, they might not suffice to meet the potential new ADA standards.
Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
Follow this quick checklist to determine if your website is ADA compliant:
- Alt Text for Images: Provide descriptive alt text for images, conveying their content to visually impaired users.
- Keyboard Navigation: Ensure all website elements are accessible through keyboard navigation, enabling users who can’t use a mouse.
- Color Contrast: Maintain sufficient color contrast between text and background for readability.
- Headings and Structure: Organize content using proper heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) to create a clear hierarchy.
- Forms and Fields: Label form fields clearly and provide instructions for filling them out accurately.
- Video Subtitles/Captions: Include subtitles or captions for videos to make content understandable for those with hearing impairments.
- Readable Fonts: Choose fonts and font sizes that are easy to read, avoiding overly decorative styles.
- Link Descriptions: Use meaningful link descriptions that provide context, rather than vague terms like “click here.”
- Responsive Design: Ensure your website is responsive and functions well on various screen sizes and devices.
- Accessible PDFs and Documents: If using PDFs or other documents, make sure they are accessible and screen-reader friendly.
- Skip to Content: Include a “skip to content” link at the top for users to jump directly to the main content.
- Focus Indicators: Highlight focus on interactive elements (buttons, links) to aid keyboard users.
- Text-to-Speech Compatibility: Verify that screen reading software can accurately interpret and convey your website’s content.
- Animations and Flashing Content: Limit or provide controls for animations and flashing content that could trigger seizures.
- Consistent Navigation: Maintain consistent navigation menus and layouts across your website.
- Alternative Content: Offer alternatives for non-text content like images, such as transcripts for audio content.
The Standard to Strive For
Amidst the speculation about the upcoming standard and its official adoption, the consensus among industry professionals, including my colleagues, seems to point toward WCAG 2.0 Level AA. This is a distinct standard established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), responsible for setting web standards. While achieving this level of ADA compliance might require significant work for existing websites, integrating these principles into the design and development processes of new sites should not impose excessive challenges in the long run.
Embracing the Future with Preparation
In the sea of uncertainty and varying predictions, one fact stands clear: the Department of Justice (DOJ) has refrained from amending ADA guidelines, opting instead for enforcement actions. Despite the confusion, the time has arrived to assess your web properties’ ADA compliance and devise strategies for adapting to new standards—whether they become official mandates or continue as guidelines.
The landscape of ADA website compliance is rapidly evolving, requiring businesses to proactively prepare for potential changes in regulations. WCAG 2.0 Level AA seems to be the benchmark for compliance, and while challenges exist, embracing accessibility standards is crucial for fostering inclusivity and avoiding legal repercussions. As we venture into this new era of ADA compliance, remember that the path forward involves not just compliance, but also empowerment for all individuals to engage with the digital world.
ADA website compliance ensures that websites are accessible to people with disabilities, providing equal access to information and services.
WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines are standards set by the W3C to enhance web accessibility, promoting usability for individuals with disabilities.
Prioritizing ADA compliance fosters inclusivity, prevents legal issues, and broadens your audience reach.
Upgrading your website for ADA compliance involves tagging content, optimizing design, and possibly seeking professional assistance.