THE TOP 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ADA COMPLIANCE
1. KNOW THE LINGO
You’ve probably heard a lot of different acronyms when it comes to accessibility: ARIA, ADA, WCAG: Each of these refers to something different, and each defines a set of guidelines that will help make your site more accessible to all. So which do you need to know?In general, ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. As the internet has only become more ubiquitous since then, websites have come under the umbrella of services that are vulnerable to a lawsuit if they’re not accessible to all users. WCAG is a list of guidelines to follow in order to create and maintain an accessible website, and WAI-ARIA is a type of markup that is used by developers in order to create accessible website features.
2. YOUR WEBSITE IS AT RISK FOR AN ADA LAWSUIT
Although guidelines and definitions can be interpreted differently by different users or court cases, in general, it’s agreed that anything serving as a public accommodation must be ADA compliant. This applies to websites in the same way as it does to public buildings; while government buildings are held to the highest standard, businesses, restaurants, and apartments must be equally accessible to all of their users as well. Your website is public on the internet and provides valuable information to your users, and therefore it should take care to serve everyone who seeks to use it.
3. ACCESSIBILITY BENEFITS EVERYONE
As one of many users who is able to see my computer screen, hear audio, and navigate sites easily with my mouse (or finger), it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone using my site will be the same way. However, when we implement accessibility tactics, we’re not only making our site usable for those with permanent visual, audial, or motor impairments; we’re making the site easier for everyone to use. By ensuring that keyboard navigation and screen reader optimization are functional, we’re also ensuring that users with temporary impairments have an optimal browsing experience. Think about someone who’s broken their wrist, someone watching a video on your website in a silent area with the sound off, or someone who’s suffered temporary vision loss – making your site accessible will allow these people to browse and get information from your site as well.
4. ADA-COMPLIANCE TESTING IS A SPECIALIZED SERVICE
While most developers know the basics of accessibility, for a truly compliant site, it’s best to go to the experts. Learning how to understand and implement the WCAG guidelines and WAI-ARIA markup is a specialized skill that comes with practice, and you want to trust your site with someone who has experience with these standards and is comfortable testing them.
5. IT’S YOUR JOB AS A WEBSITE OWNER TO HELP MAINTAIN COMPLIANCE
So you’ve just spent a lot of time and money on getting your site evaluated and brought up to ADA compliance, now what? As the website owner, you should make sure you’re participating in the compliance process and understanding how all of this affects your website. While it’s your developer’s job to maintain compliance as they develop new pages and features on your site, keep in mind that there are best practices you’ll need to implement as well if you’re adding content to your website. Always add alt tags to your images, use descriptive link text, and don’t add markup where it isn’t necessary. If you have any questions about the basics, don’t hesitate to ask your developer or compliance-testing agency for some ground rules.Now that you have a better understanding of what ADA compliance is and what it means for your website, I encourage you to take a look at your site and see where improvements to accessibility can be made.