ADA Compliance for Websites

Many businesses are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant as it applies to their storefront or physical location, but many are unaware of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and how it applies to their website.

Let’s look into the what components make up an ADA complaint website and how it applies to your website.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

As you read this description, it does help you build a picture of how this could apply to your website. Those with different levels of abilities should have the opportunity to use your website in the same way.

What does ADA Compliance Mean for Websites?

Typing on laptop with Mobile Device and CoffeeNow let’s get to the big question that is on your mind. Is my website required to by ADA Complaint? Good question! The Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically address online compliance, so at this time we understand it us usually left up to the courts.

Although it is not required, we feel that it is a good idea to err on the side of caution. Accessibility laws are different for each state and lawsuits filed against business websites are increasing. It is better to be safe than incur legal troubles in the future.

So, where is a good place to start?  Take some time to review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It is a set of recommended actions that a company can take to provide equal access for all users and ensure that your website is ADA compliant.

What is WCAG 2.1 and How does it Relate to ADA Compliance?

WCAG 2.1 defines how to create web content that is more accessible to people with various levels of abilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. Following these guidelines can improve usability for all users in general.

WCAG 2.1 is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. For an introduction to WCAG, see the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview.

What is in the WCAG 2 Documents

WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are stable, referenceable technical standards. They have 12-13 guidelines that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

Four Principles of Accessibility

It is crucial to understand the 4 principles of accessibility and why they are important. The information below is cited from the W3 Web Accessibility Initiative Website.

The guidelines and Success Criteria are organized around the following four principles, which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. Anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses).
  2. Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
  3. Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
  4. Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).

If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web.

Three Levels of Conformance

It is important to understand the three levels of conformance and what criteria needs to be met to achieve these levels. The information below is cited from the W3 Web Accessibility Initiative Website.

First, there are a number of conditions that must be met for a Success Criterion to be included at all. These include:

  1. All Success Criteria must be important access issues for people with disabilities that address problems beyond the usability problems that might be faced by all users. In other words, the access issue must cause a proportionately greater problem for people with disabilities than it causes people without disabilities in order to be considered an accessibility issue (and covered under these accessibility guidelines).
  2. All Success Criteria must also be testable. This is important since otherwise it would not be possible to determine whether a page met or failed to meet the Success Criteria. The Success Criteria can be tested by a combination of machine and human evaluation as long as it is possible to determine whether a Success Criterion has been satisfied with a high level of confidence.

The Success Criteria were assigned to one of the three levels of conformance by the working group after taking into consideration a wide range of interacting issues. Some of the common factors evaluated when setting the level included:

  • whether the Success Criterion is essential (in other words, if the Success Criterion isn't met, then even assistive technology can't make content accessible)
  • whether it is possible to satisfy the Success Criterion for all Web sites and types of content that the Success Criteria would apply to (e.g., different topics, types of content, types of Web technology)
  • whether the Success Criterion requires skills that could reasonably be achieved by the content creators (that is, the knowledge and skill to meet the Success Criteria could be acquired in a week's training or less)
  • whether the Success Criterion would impose limits on the "look & feel" and/or function of the Web page. (limits on function, presentation, freedom of expression, design or aesthetic that the Success Criteria might place on authors)
  • whether there are no workarounds if the Success Criterion is not met

Becoming ADA Compliant is a process everyone should strive to achieve to make our websites more accessible by all. Have more questions about accessibility and your website?  Let's connect! 

Shopping Cart

Wondering how to best market your business online? Download our Website and Digital Marketing Transformation Toolkit

Digital Marketing Toolkit Ebook Icon
Scroll to Top