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Do You Have an ADA-Compliant Website?

Disabilities are far more common than most people realize.

When most people think of the Americans with Disability Act, they think of physical barriers, like buildings without ramps or elevators.

But the ADA applies to websites as well, and companies are being sued for having inaccessible websites.

Common Problems

You may want to say, “I don’t get any disabled website visitors,” but you have no way of knowing that, and disabilities are far more common than most people realize. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 56.7 million U.S. residents (18.7% of the population) have some sort of disability, and 38.3 million residents (12.6%) have a severe disability.

While the legal and regulatory reasons are compelling, there are other issues at play. For one thing, there’s the curb cut effect – when a change is made to accommodate a disability (say, cuts in the curb to allow wheelchairs to easily access sidewalks) and ends up benefitting the broader population (say, people with strollers).

Common Examples

In the case of websites, one example would be closed captions for videos, which allow hearing-impaired site visitors to understand the video content. A study by Verizon found that 92% of respondents consumed video content with the sound off – which they’re able to do thanks to closed captions.

Another example would be allowing website visitors to control contrast settings, which makes it easier for visitors with low vision to see the site, while also helping visitors who are sitting outside to see the website more clearly.

Unfortunately, there is no federal law that clearly outlines what an ADA-compliant website looks like. Many web designers rely on guidance from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which focus on these four POUR principles:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Basically, the principles recommend creating website content that visitors can easily perceive, navigate and understand using a wide range of devices and platforms.

Common Solutions

While there’s no law specifying the attributes of an ADA-compliant website, there is a commonly accepted list of problems that your website should avoid:

Images without text alternatives

The assistive technologies used by the vision-impaired or others who can’t read websites aren’t able to process images. Including an “alt tag” for every image allows vision-impaired site visitors to understand what the image conveys.

Documents that aren’t posted in an accessible format

As noted above, images are inaccessible to assistive technology. To ensure that your PDFs are visible to as many site visitors as possible, don’t post scanned documents. Make sure every file is text-based.

Specified font colors and sizes

Vision-impaired site visitors may need to change the size or color of the text on your website to be able to read the content.

Videos and other multimedia without accessible features

Videos should include closed captions and a transcript, when possible. An audio description of what’s happening in the video can be useful for vision-impaired site visitors.

Forms that are hard to fill in and submit

Your web designer can add a descriptive html tag to each field on a form to make the form easier to understand.

Navigation that is hard to use

If your navigation links are image-based, you can ask your developer to include a description in the coding to help vision-impaired visitors know what they should click on.

Disabled visitors can’t find the information they need

Make sure to clearly display alternate contact methods (typically, your company’s phone number and email address) so that visitors can easily get in touch if they need more information.

Not all these solutions may be fully attainable, but it’s important to make a good-faith effort.

For more in-depth details, see the federal ADA website’s “toolkit” for state and local governments, which also applies to businesses.

We’re not lawyers, so we can’t guarantee that following these best practices will avoid a lawsuit. But we can say that these guidelines will help create a more inclusive website experience, to the benefit of all your site visitors.

Pilot Fish has helped its customers achieve best practices for 25 years. Contact us today for the assistance you need.

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