ADA Compliance Website: The Latest Updates
Here is a hard truth: 95% of the companies don’t think about laws and regulations until they are slapped with a lawsuit. Now, talking of this, you should certainly know about ADA compliance website and how it matters to your business.
Before you even wonder if a term like “ADA compliance” does apply to your business, here is a quick answer - it probably does. Most companies found this the hard way. Even reputed firms like Reebok, Ace Hardware, Estee Lauder, and Patagonia were sued years back only because their websites weren’t ADA compliant.
Recently, Beyonce was in the headlines when her website was heavily sued for non-compliance with the ADA rules. Other than this, big healthcare companies like HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), Tenet Healthcare, WellPoint, and CAC Florida Medical Centers were recently sued for not complying with the ADA regulations.
Now, if you think that ADA regulations don’t apply to your site, then think again.
ADA lawsuits are on the rise: Here’s a wake-up call
Not complying with the ADA guidelines can land you into big trouble, including making you pay high penalties of up to $150,000 (or maybe, more – based on the seriousness of the non-compliance issue).
If this isn’t worrying enough, here’s the latest news - the number of ADA lawsuits have increased drastically in the last 2 years.
According to a report published by Seyfarth Shaw (a renowned law firm, which specializes in shielding such cases), about 10,163 ADA claims were filed in the U.S. federal courts just in the first 6 months of 2018, which is a 34% incline from the same time of 2017 with only 7,663 lawsuits.
Surprisingly, 21% of these lawsuits targeted government agencies, healthcare businesses, and big corporations. If you compare this data with the number of federal filings in 2013, it was just 2,722. Clearly, the number of lawsuits have tripled.
The ADA Title III claims took place in 14 states, with Florida & New York being the most active jurisdictions at 576 and 1564 lawsuits respectively. On the other hand, Pennsylvania & Massachusetts were held at third and fourth spots.
Evidently, these numbers signify that ADA lawsuits will break the record in 2019 as well as in the upcoming years.
This is indeed a wake-up call for all the businesses out there – be it healthcare, financial, cosmetics, entertainment, or more!
The consequences of violating the ADA regulations can
have serious effects on your business.Is your website ADA-complaint?
Even though the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed on the 26th of July, 1990, lawyers claim that these lawsuits aren’t coming down.
As organizations across the globe struggle to bring their websites into compliance with the WWW (World Wide Web) Consortium’s WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), former accessibility protocols have also intensified.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is certainly one of the most complicated and visible pieces of legislation in the world of accessibility.
Let us have a detailed insight into what an ADA compliant website actually means in the current scenario.
What is ADA Compliance?
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was established in 1990 to end the discrimination based on varying disabilities.
The laws have a wider scope and apply to:
- Public & private spaces
- State & local government
- Building codes
Today, ADA is the main reason you will notice disabled parking, height requirements at the service counters, and wheelchair slope obligations in all buildings.
The ADA’s Title III states that every “place of public accommodation” is legally required to remove “access barriers,” which would block a disabled individual to access a business’s services or goods.
What is WCAG?
WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is a set of standards created by the WWW (World Wide Web) Consortium by partnering with different groups to guide different web content producers to make their valuable work accessible to everyone, especially for individuals with disabilities.
WCAG 2.0 version is the technical standard, which features 12 guidelines categorized into 4 types (acronym: POUR):
1. Perceivable: These are issues, which affects a user’s ability to search as well as process the information on a specific website (say, for instance, providing quality audio descriptions for video content).
2. Operable: These are issues, which affects a user’s ability to use and navigate a website. (Say, for instance, making sure that all the navigations and functions of a website can be used via keyboard commands).
3. Understandable: These are issues that impact a user’s ability to comprehend and discern the information given on a website. (Say, for instance, composing errors that can include proper explanations to the respective errors and directions to fixing them).
4. Robust: These are issues that involve a site’s ability to evolve and adapt to meet the varying needs of visitors with disabilities. (Say, for example, testing your website compatibility with most leading screens and making sure that they can be upgraded even after a few years).
Note: The WCAG 2.0 guidelines were recently updated in June 2018 to version 2.1.
The updates in WCAG 2.1 covers modifications in technology and addresses the areas, which were understated in 2.0.
The WCAG guidelines are quite lengthy and take some time to understand. But here is a quick overview of the fundamental principals to maintain an ADA & WCAG complaint website.
Different compliance levels
The accessibility guidelines enacted by WCAG is categorized into three levels:
- Level A: These are issues that are most urgent. They include problems, which can limit a disabled person severely by obstructing him or her to navigate or use a website.
- Level AA: These are issues that are mostly associated with functionality. It addresses the areas wherever improvements are necessary to ensure that a disabled user gets a complete experience of a website. (Level AA is the target standard for most commercial sites).
- Level AAA: While Level A & Level AA are issues that require expanding and fine-tuning, Level AAA are issues with highest standards. While it’s a brilliant objective, complete compliance with Level AAA is beyond the reach for most websites.
Which business types should comply with the ADA?
As per the rules of ADA’s Title I, a business with 15 full-time employees and operates for 20+ weeks each year is required to be ADA compliant.
As far as the ADA’s Title III is considered, a business that falls under the "public accommodations" category like banks, public transportation, and hotels are required to be compliant as well.
Now, this means that the laws apply from digital accommodations to physical considerations.
ADA compliance checklist for websites
If you are about to launch your website, then make sure these factors are checked to pass the ADA compliant test.
1. Simplistic design
The website’s presentation itself can be a tough hurdle to maneuver. So, ensure that your website’s layout isn’t too complex. If it is, then at least, have options to make adjustments. Let a website visitor or reader have clear options to adjust the font size, color, or even images.
One of the main ADA requirements is resizable ability, which should be a maximum of 200% from the actual size.
2. Provide alternatives
- Alt Text: Now, “alt text” is something you keep hearing often but ever wondered what purpose does it serve? Alt text is the short form for Alternative text. It is important to add alt text to all your images so that even if they crash or don’t show up for some reasons, the alternative text is displayed to the visitor so that he/she understands what the image is about.
- Text Transcripts: Make sure that you add a complete text transcript below the video and audio files.
- Closed Captions: Every video on your website should have proper captions.
- Full Audio Descriptions for Videos: Yes, this is cumbersome but the guidelines of Level AA tell you to do so. It states that audio descriptions are crucial. Even the non-audible information must be conveyed.
3. Keyboard accessibility
It is important to make sure that your website is completely accessible without a mouse, just with the help of tab or arrow buttons.
4. Texts, Fonts, and Structure
When it comes to titles, banners, menus, and headings, go for bigger fonts because they look clearer and neater. A factor like “font size” is important, especially for users who have blurry visions or other vision impairments.
Fonts that are larger helps in easier readability with lesser strain. Besides this, color also plays an important role. Don’t design or underline the text because it makes it hard to read.
- Color Ratio: All fonts must contrast sharply from its background color at a minimum threshold of 4:5:1.
- Scalable: As said earlier, the text should be re-sizeable at a maximum of 200% without loss in functionality.
- Descriptive Links & Headers: Keep the links clear and descriptive for the user to know what he or she is going to expect after clicking. Don’t link to unrelated websites. In short, keep the anchor text informative and relevant to where you will be redirecting it to.
- Consistent Navigation: Every page on your website should have a consistent flow. It should be logical and predictable.
- Clean Code: A website should be free from errors and should be coded rightly.
- Clear Forms: Ensure that the forms are simple, understandable, and easy to fill.
5. Give HTML format
HTML format makes it simple to interpret, especially for users who are using text-to-speech applications or something similar. Avoid PDFs because these documents can’t be read.
Besides this, provide skip navigation because it helps users to skip to specific content directly without going through the entire website.
Level A Compliance: Checklist
These are the basic guidelines under Level A for proper website accessibility:
ü Images should have appropriate alternate text and should be readable by any screen reader software.
ü There shouldn’t be any empty link or heading tag.
ü Headings should be in a logical order.
ü The “i (italic)” & “b (bold)” tags should be replaced with “em” & “strong.”
ü The content of the recorded video must include captions.
ü Both video and audio should include clear text transcripts.
ü The language used for every page should be identified in the code.
ü Links to appropriate media players should be provided to see the content.
ü The website should be accessible without the use of the mouse (keyboard-friendly).
ü There shouldn’t be any time constraints on how long they can use the website.
ü Automatically blinking or scrolling content should be avoided.
ü There shouldn’t be any quick flashing colors or strobe effects on the site.
ü Use “skip navigation” feature to help users to quickly jump to a specific content.
ü Page titles should be succinctly and clearly described.
ü Anchor text of links and buttons should be named logically.
ü Forms should have proper labels and should be easily readable.
ü Any invalid input from the user should be clearly notified to the user.
ü The website shouldn’t have any major validation error.
Level AA Compliance: Checklist
Level AA is advanced when compared to Level A compliance and these are its basic guidelines for full ADA compliance:
ü Live audio and video content should include captions.
ü The text should be resizeable to 200% without any loss in clarity.
ü The contrast ratio between page and text background should be a minimum of 4.5-to-1.
ü The pages on the website can be accessed in various ways.
ü Don’t use images unless it is necessary. If text can accomplish the task without the need of images, then use text but keep it visible.
ü The content language should be identifiable in code even with any language change.
ü Keyboard focus should be clear and visible.
ü Buttons and menus should be consistent regardless of the user’s location.
ü Suggestions on “how to fix input errors” should be provided to the users.
ü Do not underline the text unless it redirects to a link.
ü Repetitive links on the same page should be minimized or eliminated.
Make your website access-friendly to all users.
Although the impact of the ADA regulations on website accessibility is more likely to stay vague in the future, there isn’t any doubt that equal access is one of the major concerns for people across America as well as the courts, which serve those people.
Therefore, abiding by the WCAG accessibility guidelines remains to be the ideal option for most businesses. It isn’t only a not wise way to stay away from lawsuits and controversies —but providing accessible options for every user is the right thing to do.