In the past, the Americans with Disabilities Act has, largely, been used against brick-and-mortar businesses to ensure easy access and movement for disabled people in stores.Alarmingly, for website owners, the ADA has turned its sights against online entities - whether or not they have a brick-and-mortar presence. Some high profile lawsuits over the last 12-18 months have had major businesses scrambling to make their websites ADA compliant.
The bad news is... there are no hard and fast guidelines
Imagine sitting down to take an math exam, and, when you open the test paper envelope, there's a piece of paper that says, "This exam is going to test your math knowledge." and nothing else. It's going to be hard to complete that exam right?
That's a little like the situation website owners are faced over the ADA and website design. We're told we need to be compliant, just not exactly HOW to be compliant. There are some guidelines - WCAG 1 & 2, Section 508, and PDF Matterhorn. The problem is there's a lack of guidelines on how to interpret it in regards website accessibility and how to implement it properly.
So what should YOU do?
Should you care?
If you care, where do you turn to?
Do I need to care about making my website ADA compliant?
Not at all... unless you want the ADA breathing down your neck and serving with with a lawsuit! Right now it seems that they're more interested in the big fish, but, as those run out or are won or lost, smaller websites will become the target. In the first 6 months of 2018, nearly 5000 lawsuits were filed against website alleging non-compliance with the ADA. Overwhelmingly, the majority were in either Florida or New York. However, residents in other areas should not be apathetic. Last November a New York man filed suits against 50 universities and learning institutions all over America alleging barriers to the blind on those institution's websites.
5 tips to start on your ADA compliance road
While the goal of ADA compliance is 100%, you have to make a start somewhere, right? So let's make a start!
ADA compliance tip #1
This one is super easy and the good news is your site probably has some of this covered already.
Add Alt text to every image. You SHOULD be doing this already for SEO, and, if you aren't, then doing it will have the added benefit of making your SEO better. Some images will need more description than others; make sure your description gives a visitor a full heads up on what the image is about if they cannot see the image (like when using a screen reader).
ADA compliance tip #2
This one is super easy as well, but most sites don't do this. All links should have a title tag attached to them to give more information to the visitor. You'll see the title tag in action if you mouse over a link and a little tooltip pops up. Unlike Alt text, the addition of a title tag (on a link that is) won't help with your SEO, but it's an easy, positive step forward with ADA compliance. Here's an example: <a href="/" title="HOME - HTML Code Tutorials">Click to visit home page.</a>
ADA compliance tip #3
"Skip to content". A link in the header jumping down to the "meat and potatoes" of the website (a.k.a. the actual content) allows quick access to non-repetitive content (such as header items). Use an HTML anchor at the top of the main content to achieve this. This means those using screen readers and text to speech don't have to read/hear the same repeating content.
ADA compliance tip #4
Add a site map. Like Alt text, this can add up to a boost in SEO power. Every site should have a site map to help visitors navigate. Using a dynamic, auto-updating sitemap is even better. That saves website administrators the job of updating the existing sitemap and resubmitting it.
ADA compliance tip #5
This one will require a little more work, but is an area many sites don't do well. If your site has videos on it which have speech and/or music as part of them, which add to the value of the video, consider creating captions and/or text transcripts. It can be as simple as adding the transcript to the page, or, better still, adding the transcript to the video itself. Adding the transcript allows the video to be consumed in different ways by everyone.
Where to now?
Great question! There are 3 roads you can travel.
- "It won't happen to me!" You can play the ostrich and hope it doesn't happen to you. Is that possible? Maybe. It could be that you'll do all the work and it would have never happened. Then again...
- Play it like Frank Sinatra and "Do it your way!". Can you work through making your website ADA compliant yourself? Probably. As long as you know where and how to start, then can work through all the non-compliance issues (you'll need to know some raw coding for this), then it's possible.
- Do what smart business people do. Do what you're good at (IE. your business) and let professionals take care of their business.
We had one of our clients ring us a while ago asking about ADA compliance as one of their suppliers just got hit with an ADA lawsuit because their website was non-compliant. This started us down the road of learning how to make compliant sites. After dozens (actually probably hundreds) of hours of reading and testing and tweaking, we have a fair handle on how to do this. We can help you make your site compliant. Contact us.