ADA compliance is making sure that your website adheres to the American Disabilities Act and is accessible to disabled users. While the law traditionally refers to brick and mortar storefronts to accommodate disabled customers, the Internet has changed the game. Users can access more information about products and services within seconds thanks to high-speed connections. You need to make sure they can reach that information with little to no trouble.
Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG) are international standards that provide three tiers of compliance for websites that provide a reference for the US Department of Justice. As of 2019, the US government uses the 2.0 version of WCAG when viewing ADA website cases. Tier A, the lowest, does not meet ADA minimum requirements, but tiers AA and AAA do. AAA is the most expensive and accommodating, and we will discuss the levels in detail below.
When you comply with the ADA, you both protect your website from lawsuits and allow more potential customers and clients to peruse your products and services. These benefits at a glance already seem useful and practical when you dig deeper, you realize how you will reach people and avoid ADA trolls.
Per the 2018 Census Bureau report, there are at least “20 million working-age people with disabilities” in the United States, and 7.5 million of those working-age people have jobs. These are twenty million people you could reach with your products and services and that are not a niche audience. A website has one chance to make a good first impression on your users. The attention to accommodation will lead to disabled users recommending your website and product, increasing the word of mouth.
Practically speaking, reaching an AA tier, as set by the WCAG, will also protect you from prosecution. Lawsuits can break your budget and lead to bankruptcy, so it’s all the better to avoid them. There are ADA trolls that will file suit just to get money out of your business, and some lawyers will send “shakedown letters” demanding several thousand dollars of payment in exchange for avoiding litigation. Most businesses would rather pay the money than go to court to verify those findings. Even if you decide to go to court and a judge rules the charges as frivolous, you would rather avoid the court, mediation and attorney fees, especially as lawyers target mobile apps and other media.
Your website needs to meet these four qualities that WCAG sets: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust. Perceivable information is accessible to everyone, including disabled users; while operable means that anyone can use the platform without a problem, understandable content and user interfaces are self-explanatory, and robust refers to having that accessibility on as many web browsers and spaces as possible. Browse the official guidelines to go beyond what’s covered below.
Level A covers the basics: providing text alternatives for printed words, audio descriptions, and captions for prerecorded video and audio. You also track information sequences to convey them perfectly. A website’s color palette should also be used to clarify information and help users navigate, and users should identify errors easily.
The AA tier asks that you provide a reasonable amount of accommodation that covers these qualities, from alt text for images — this helps visually impaired users identify images– to text transcripts for video and audio, readable text and constant closed captioning. If you follow AA, then you will meet ADA guidelines.
Level AAA is the most complicated. Its guidelines mandate that you need to provide sign language translations for hearing-impaired users, among other accommodations. The WCAG recommends not using these criteria, unless absolutely necessary, because one cannot accommodate all disabilities, and the costs of implementation can skyrocket.
The ADA Compliance Checker tool is the most comprehensive site checker available. We make it easy to see where the issues are on your website, even in deep pages, and how to fix them. This is a lengthy process that is costing you SEO and possibly a lawsuit the longer you wait to address. Contact us today to get started.