In March, the U.S. Department of Justice released new guidance on ADA compliance and websites, declaring something that’s true in our world: an inaccessible website in 2022 is the same as an inaccessible parking lot, doorway, or elevator sign: it can lock people with disabilities out.
Without ramps and elevators, stairs are a barrier to the second floor for people with limited mobility. Similarly, a website without captions on images can be inaccessible to people with blindness or vision differences is inaccessible. Same with a website that doesn’t provide auditory cues or written captions to videos for deaf and hearing-impaired people.
In the words of the Department of Justice, “Inaccessible web content means that people with disabilities are denied equal access to information.” They further relay that since multiple goods and services providers have moved online, it’s just as crucial for a business’s website to be as accessible as a brick-and-mortar location.
The DOJ also stated that they were making ADA compliance a priority, citing cases where well-known businesses needed to reach an agreement with the DOJ to comply. In order to avoid fines, lawsuits, or a letter from the DOJ, website accessibility is a must for 2022. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some pointers.
NOTE: By no means is this an extensive list nor are we attorneys, so consult your attorney if you have additional concerns about your site being ADA compliant.
Captions, captions everywhere! Only presenting information visually can lock the visually impaired out of your site. That’s why it’s important to create captions that a screen reader, also called text-to-speech software, can read. There should be a short description of each image on your site, also called an alt tag. If your website has a carousel or a slideshow, ensuring these elements are accessible are a must, too.
Written captions are also crucial for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If you feature videos on your site, there should be closed captioning or subtitles that describe what’s being said.
Visuals are more than just images. Font and colors are also a part of accessibility. For instance, about 3% of the population is colorblind. Therefore text vs. background should be clearly marked (don’t put red letters on a green background, for instance).
Sensory issues can also play a part in creating an ADA compliant website. Your site should be easy to navigate and see for everyone, so avoid a cluttered website with tons of bright colors, flashing videos, and loud music. An eyesore for the average person could spell sensory overload for someone with a sensory processing disorder.
If that sounds like a lot of considerations, you’re not alone. That’s why a written accessibility policy, stating you’re committed to maintaining an inclusive website, should be on your website’s checklist. This statement should cover a few things to make sure you’re covered in the event of an ADA-violation claim.
- State your commitment to ensuring individuals with disabilities have the same access to information as those who don’t.
- List actions your site has taken to improve accessibility under the ADA, including plugins, modules, and navigation features. Plus, mention what you’re in the process of adding to make your site ADA compliant if applicable.
- Most important of all, a disclaimer. If any part of your website is still inaccessible despite your efforts, give your site viewers contact information to reach out. That way, you can receive any possible complaints, and try to make them right ASAP, before a possible issue with the ADA or DOJ comes up.
The good news here is that your disclaimer doesn’t need to be mired down in legalese. Saying you’re committed to meeting ADA compliance, outlining the standards or technical requirements you’re using, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and then providing contact information for any possible issues to be addressed is all your disclaimer needs.
But what is WCAG, you ask? WCAG was first formed in 1999 and constantly evolves to keep up with changing technology. They have different standards and guidelines that you can read about here. Note: WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are finalized, and 2.2 is coming up, set to be finalized in Fall this year.
Also consider …
Is your website made for people with a disability, or does a large part of your audience have a disability? If so, it’s critical to assess your audience’s and customers’ needs to build a website they can access. For example, if you’re an eye doctor and see a lot of patients with vision loss, glaucoma, astigmatism, etc. having accommodations for the visually impaired isn’t just a must, it’s common sense.
Also, avoid mouse and keyboard traps. Some disabilities impair people’s ability to navigate with a mouse or a keyboard, so ensuring everyone can go through your site’s journey without hitting a “keyboard trap” or a “mouse trap” is a necessary way to be inclusive.
If you’re unsure whether your site is ADA-compliant, there are tons of free tools you can use to check your site and make sure it’s up to snuff. If web design is something you want off your plate, we’re here to help! Contact us today. Meanwhile, see what we can build for you here.