Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing obstacles that impede persons with impairments from interacting with or using websites. All users have equal access to information and functionality on websites when they are properly designed, built, and edited.
A website complies with all Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 requirements if it is completely ADA compliant. This includes all HTML or web content, as well as any Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF documents that are posted to the website or websites that are linked to meet these standards.
Regardless of whether they are commercial, nonprofit, or governmental, all organizations need to explain why they are spending money or effort on a particular project. It simply makes good business sense to emphasize the advantages accessibility will provide a firm.
According to the proverb, like birds of a feather, flock together. Fortune 100 firms prefer to practice disability inclusion as a part of their entire diversity strategy; therefore, the adage remains true for them.
Although it's not fully apparent whether these businesses' results were a direct result of including people with disabilities, we do know that successful people frequently follow a similar routine.
Businesses are, therefore, better positioned to prosper in our increasingly connected and civically engaged society when they plan for accessibility.
Here are some details to assist you to improve user experience and following ADA compliant website best practices while also enabling you to develop a quality policy framework for web accessibility.
Understanding the Relationship Between ADA and Websites
The history of the ADA's interaction with websites is convoluted and frequently unclear. Even after multiple changes in the much more web-oriented era of 2008, the ADA does not specifically address online compliance.
Without any explicit legal protection, it is typically up to the courts to decide whether or not ADA rules should be applied to websites.
Every owner, lessor, or operator of a "place of public accommodation" is required by Title III of the ADA to grant users who fulfill the ADA's requirements for disability equitable access.
One could reasonably assume that this term includes websites given that 1.66 billion individuals made purchases online in 2017, however, there is a surprising degree of legal ambiguity.
Commercial websites are now considered places of public accommodation by several American courts, making them governed by ADA guidelines.
In other cases, it has been determined that websites are subject to ADA laws if there is a close "nexus" between the website and a physical location.
The most well-known illustration of this is the judgment against the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain for failing to make its website accessible to users with low vision.
Other courts have ruled that the ADA does not provide any protections for online users as written. Since there are no comprehensive federal regulations in existence, it is challenging to say with certainty whether or not any specific website is subject to ADA accessibility regulations.
The United States lately seemed to be moving toward adopting more stringent accessibility guidelines, which would only complicate the situation more.
The set of rules known as WCAG 2.0 Level AA, which serves as the foundation for online accessibility regulations in most of Europe and many other countries around the world, would have required federal websites to meet certain standards if they had been in place when the regulations were set to take effect in January 2018.
However, as part of a broader push toward deregulation, the current administration has removed this provision, leaving the ADA's online forms as hazy as ever.
Are All Websites Required to Comply with ADA?
The answer, as you've probably guessed by now, is no because it's incredibly unclear how or even if ADA regulations will be applied to any specific website. Still, it's wise to take extra precautions wherever possible.
The number of accessibility-related lawsuits brought against websites has increased dramatically in recent years, and many states have passed their accessibility legislation.
In these lawsuits, plaintiffs have had more success than ever before. For most businesses, it probably isn't worthwhile to bet that a court would find in their favor because there are no clearly established regulations to follow.
How then can you determine if your website complies with accessibility standards in the absence of a clear set of rules to follow? The aforementioned WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria are the best possible measurement.
Since 1999, the European Union and other nations have used the most recent version of the WCAG standards, which went into force in the spring of 2018.
Although WCAG is a list of suggested actions rather than binding regulation, it serves as the foundation for many internet accessibility laws around the globe and provides a solid guide for any American company aiming to ensure equitable access for all users.
Relationship Between the Law and Web Accessibility
Lawsuits involving online accessibility have significantly increased in recent years, with plaintiffs arguing that they are unable to access websites because they are incompatible with assistive technologies. Plaintiffs typically point to ADA Title III violations in these situations.
The ADA applies to websites. Title III of the ADA has been construed by the U.S. Department of Justice to include websites as places of public accommodation, while Title I of the ADA mandates compliance by firms with 15 or more employees. A fully accessible website is not susceptible to receiving a demand letter alleging ADA breaches.
How can you reduce your legal risk? Two main actions are involved:
- Evaluate your present level of compliance and run a website usage accessibility audit.
- Use a high-level online accessibility solution right away to address your ADA compliance challenges.
Levels of WCAG Compliance
The Web Content Accessibility (WCAG) Guidelines version 2.0 AA is a widely adopted standard when it comes to accessibility compliance. AAA, AA, and A are the three WCAG conformance levels. This divergence, though significant, might be difficult to understand.
We'll address several frequently asked issues regarding the compliance levels in this article, comprising what WCAG AAA, AA, and A are, what everything means for your website, and what compliance level you require.
Within WCAG 2.0, there are three compliance levels: AAA, AA, and A. Each level outlines requirements that will be fulfilled for the website to be deemed accessible for users. Developers have an organized framework for acceptable, optimal, and minimal accessibility thanks to the distinction between conformance levels.
Even extremely cutting-edge technologies or complex websites can retain a minimal compliance level thanks to the greater flexibility provided by the various WCAG levels.
What do WCAG conformance levels AAA, AA, and A denote?
As was already established, there are requirements for WCAG 2.0 AAA, AA, and A. These standards cover a wide range of topics, including site navigation, text, inputs, videos, and more.
However, the WCAG body specifies what accessible websites should accomplish rather than listing particular activities that all websites must take. The significance of compliance levels AAA, AA, and A for users, then, differs most from one another.]
A minimal level of conformance with WCAG 2
The elements that are capable of rendering the website very inaccessible are essentially forbidden by these compliance standards. People with disabilities will find it extremely difficult or impossible to utilize websites that find it hard to comply with WCAG 2 A.
Ideally, your website already complies with WCAG 2 A. WCAG 2 A requirements that are noteworthy include:
- Without keyboard traps
- Accessible through a keyboard
- Alternatives to text-based content
- YouTube captions
- Shape, color, size, and other attributes alone cannot convey meaning.
Level AA of the WCAG 2: Acceptable compliance
Most accessibility regulations and laws around the globe, including ADA, adopt this level of conformity. The websites are usable and understood for different persons with and without disabilities to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. Both the message and the level of functionality are identical.
Even if your website might not yet be WCAG 2 AA compliant, a few straightforward updates can assist you in getting there. You can go through the main requirements in a very organized manner and tackle each one at a go with the aid of a WCAG checklist.
WCAG 2.0 AA criteria include the following:
- Most of the time, the color is at least 4.5:2
- Images that convey meaning typically employ alt text or another comparable technique
- The site's navigational features are constant
- Labels for form fields are precise
- A good screen reader may be used to provide status updates
- Logic is utilized to use headings
To assist webmasters in creating or improving accessible websites, Accessible Metrics as well as the Website Accessibility Checklist also utilize WCAG 2.0 AA. Starting by checking for accessibility issues is highly recommended.
WCAG AAA: Perfect adherence
Your site is easily accessible to several active users thanks to compliance at this level. Although achieving this degree of compliance would be desirable to ensure that every user has an equally positive web experience,
W3 advises against doing so because certain materials cannot be guaranteed to meet all AAA Success Criteria.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level AAA can assist to ensure that the audience can use your site conveniently if your website or application caters to the elderly or persons with disabilities.
This demonstrates the consideration of your audience's demands. Your users get to notice this added level of attention because so many websites are inaccessible.
WCAG 2 AAA specifications that stand out include:
- For video or audio content, sign language interpretation is provided
- Most of the time, color contrast is about 8:1.
- Any activity does not necessarily depend on timing.
- Context-sensitive help is offered.
- How to Comply with ADA Standards
So how can you ensure that your website complies with ADA guidelines? Your first universally agreed-upon advice will be to adhere to the WCAG 2.1 standards (mentioned above). The three-tiered grading scale for the WCAG 2.1 guidelines is as follows:
- Level A: Only a select group of users can view your website.
- Level AA: Nearly all users can visit your website.
- Level AAA: All users can view your website
Usually, it satisfies the requirements for Level AA compliance. To ensure that you don't exclude anyone, your best bet is to develop (or rebuild) your website to be 100% compliant.
Web Accessibility Guidelines and Standards
The most widely-accepted online accessibility standards worldwide are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, created by the World Wide Web (W.W.W) Consortium.
The WCAG compliance levels are AAA, AA, and A. AA compliance is typically regarded as sufficient web accessibility strictly for the majority of legal reasons throughout the world, USA inclusive.
The Rehabilitation Act - 1973 in America, Section 508, which mandates compliance with its regulations for all federal agencies alongside any state or municipal resources receiving federal funds, is based on WCAG 2.0 AA. Similar laws have been adopted by numerous other nations, with AA conformance serving as the benchmark.
Top 5 Lawsuits Regarding Web Accessibility
There were almost 2,250 web accessibility cases filed in 2018. The number of lawsuits related to web accessibility increased by 177% between 2017-2018, and if the 2019 lawsuits are totaled, this stat. is predicted to increase by another 7%.
These examples, which span every industry, involve both small firms and some recognizable brands in the world. Web accessibility laws saw significant progress in 2019, with the very first case making its way to the American Supreme Court. Below are significant web accessibility court cases over the past ten years and look ahead to 2020.
Netflix vs. NAD (2012)
One of the earliest well-known web accessibility cases was the video streaming service Netflix. Netflix was not what it happens to be now at the beginning of 2020 in 2012.
The Netflix v. NAD case, however, was a significant web accessibility lawsuit. It happened to be one of many for Netflix, which in the long run battled with other accessibility difficulties.
In this situation, the National Association for the handicapped (Deaf) filed a lawsuit against Netflix in Massachusetts, saying Netflix failed to provide equitable services for clients with deafness or hearing loss.
According to a judge in Massachusetts, ADA regulations apply to all or most online-only services as well. This happened to be a relatively new job that would eventually have an impact on many different types of enterprises.
Winn-Dixie v. Gil (2017)
Thousands more cases related to web accessibility have since been filed, but this one was among the earliest. Carlos Gil sued the popular grocery store, Winn Dixie, in Florida because its website was inaccessible to those with visual impairments.
In contrast to many previous, comparable instances that were settled adequately out of court, the Gil v. Winn-Dixie case was tried in court. This case established a precedent in Florida that businesses' websites must be equally accessible.
The judge who rendered the decision in favor of the prosecutor - Gil stated, "Winn-Dixie violated the ADA due to the inaccessibility of its store website has actively denied Gil the full enjoyment of the services, facilities, privileges, goods, accommodation or advantages that Winn-Dixie offers to its prospective customers."
Five Guys Enterprise v. Markett (2017)
Multiple web accessibility lawsuits against Five Guys Burger and Fries show the necessity for proactive effort. You may be more familiar with the legal concept of "double jeopardy," which prevents someone from being tried twice for the same offense.
However, the regulations differ slightly in court. In 2017, while redesigning their website for accessibility, Fries and Five Guys Burger learned this the difficult way when the company was sued for web accessibility.
Although unjust, this might sometimes make sense. Many civil court lawsuits, including those involving web accessibility, call for corrective action rather than financial compensation.
A second lawsuit can be required if a company has been ordered and sued to make its website accessible but has not done so. Regardless of whether this was the case for Five Guys, this whole case demonstrated the value of taking the initiative when it boils down to web accessibility.
Nike Inc. v. Mendizabal (2017)
In 2017, Mendizabal Maria sued Nike and other well-known companies for failing to make their websites accessible to customers with impaired vision. Nike happens to be one of many fashion companies that have been sued for accessibility issues.
The websites in question don't work well with screen readers and don't have alt-text as well as empty links. These happen to be some of the most widespread web accessibility problems, and these lawsuits emphasize how crucial it is to look for them.
Domino's Pizza LLC v. Robles (ongoing)
Domino's case went through numerous trials and appeals until the Supreme Court ultimately rejected it. Perhaps the most significant web accessibility case in American history to date is Domino's v., Robles.
This case, which started in California, came very close to being heard by the American Supreme Court, which would have clarified the laws governing web accessibility and the responsibilities of businesses.
The case was transferred to another subsidiary court for further proceedings after the Supreme Court declined to hear it. The overall conclusion is in absolute favor of the ADA's web accessibility major requirements, which are supported by the plaintiff's prior and most recent victories in court decisions from the Ninth Circuit Court.
State courts will be in charge of interpreting the ADA because there will be no overbroad federal ruling on the matter.
3 Key Lessons from Lawsuits Regarding Web Accessibility
Utilize tools for testing and address typical issues
You can get a report from a testing tool like Accessible Metrics that includes accessibility problems that are frequently cited in legal complaints. Web accessibility may appear like an unreasonable requirement to businesses concerned with the costs of website modification and potential legal trouble.
However, several websites under the legal spotlight lack similar components, which are rather simple to add. Several of these issues can be found by automated testing methods, and many are easily resolved by adding text.
Websites under legal review typically lack these components:
- No alternative text for pictures or images
- Links with no content or text
- duplicate links
Proactiveness and dependability
The Markett v. Five Guys Enterprises lawsuit case demonstrates that a company can be held accountable even while making website updates. Being proactive is the greatest way to actively avoid a costly legal case—or several cases.
To ensure accessibility as you add content and make changes, test your website early, fix issues, and actively test it again frequently.
It's obvious that websites need to be treated with the same care as physical establishments—you wouldn't build a restaurant or store before making sure it’s ADA-compliant and activities accessible to all customers.
Utilize web accessibility, and don’t be in opposition to it
Businesses from every sector, including transportation, retail, fashion, and food, have attempted to circumvent web accessibility rules without success.
Arguments that equivalent services are offered elsewhere, that the company operates a physical location and does not, therefore, require an accessible kind of website, or that the website happens to not be a critical component of the company's operations have not prevailed in court.
Making your website more easily accessible will save you time, money, and effort while also improving your public image.
At first glance, the legislation and web accessibility may not make sense. Even though there hasn't been a conclusive federal decision (yet), a growing number of state court decisions suggest that websites are subject to the same ADA standards as physical venues.
Make web accessibility a top focus in 2020 to avoid pointless lawsuits and to welcome all visitors to your site. You might be amazed at how simple web accessibility can be once you get started using the Web Accessibility Checklist.
Best Practices for ADA Website Accessibility Documentation
What to Record
You must be aware of the information your documentation needs to contain to ensure that your ADA website accessibility compliance documents are comprehensive. Documentation requirements for many compliance issues are outlined in law or great detail by government organizations.
Unfortunately, web accessibility does not follow this pattern. What you'll need for ADA website accessibility compliance documentation, however, can be determined by the compliance documents required in other situations.
The following should be included in your accessibility documentation at a minimum, and more materials may be useful depending on your organization's requirements.
- Policies: Expectations, guidelines, and criteria for web accessibility should all be specified in writing.
- Training: It is important to keep track of all manuals, dates, sessions, instructors, and participants.
- Updates: Keep track of when and how policies and assets are modified.
- Audits: Maintain records of any auditing techniques and software used to check for web accessibility.
- Staff: These documents should contain the current names of everyone who is in charge of online accessibility maintenance and training.
- Problems and solutions: It is important to have a detailed record of any website accessibility-related complaints or findings, as well as the steps taken to report and address them.
Organize your policies
Documentation, particularly that which is required for employee reference, such as policies, is useless unless it is difficult to locate. Make sure they are simple to find using a file sharing system, and ensure that all staff and new hires are aware of its location.
A shared hard drive, a file-sharing program like Google Docs, or a shared document storage platform like DropBox might all be used as examples. Whatever you choose, make sure your staff is aware of when it is updated and where to locate the most recent copy.
Future upgrades won't be helpful if all of your staff are still using outdated versions of the documentation. A clear file naming standard should be used to ensure that these are well-organized, so employees won't have to waste time looking for what they need.
Simple to Read and Comprehend
Complexity is not a sign of quality when it comes to web accessibility documentation that your staff must use and comprehend. Regardless of a person's level of technical understanding, your policies should make sense to them.
For instance, it makes no sense to require someone to learn computer languages if they merely provide words and photographs to the blog area of your website. Use plain English, and wherever you can, stay away from jargon.
Provide specific instructions on what an employee may do and whom they may contact with any questions regarding the policies.
Reliable and current
Technology advances quickly. This is a particularly crucial step in your documentation process because outdated or incorrect website accessibility policies are typically useless. If not, all of your previous efforts to create high-quality papers and procedures would be in vain.
Some of your website's or technology's accessibility policies will need to be replaced as they become outdated. You should have a procedure in place for updating your technology, as well as accessibility guidelines and general ADA website compliance papers.
For the staff to know when to check the policies for updates, they will also need to be aware of when these modifications are made.
Training on ADA Website Accessibility for All Team Members
It takes a variety of abilities to make a website accessible. Not every member of your staff needs to be fully knowledgeable about online accessibility. Each person, however, should be aware of how to maintain accessibility for the typical tools they use.
Because of this, we've organized our ADA website accessibility training into sections depending on the kinds of duties that certain members of your team are most likely to encounter.
Why is Web Accessibility Important for Everyone?
Everyone on your team—web designers, blog writers, programmers, and videographers—will be more likely to maintain web accessibility if they comprehend its significance.
Here are a few things to stress at the start of your ADA website accessibility training so that everyone is aware of the significance of web accessibility.
Websites provide a user-friendly virtual environment when leaving your home is difficult or impossible, but only if the website is accessible. Everyone can access the internet equally thanks to web accessibility.
All users may navigate websites more simply on smaller screens, use voice search, and magnifying screens. This helps both abled and impaired users in circumstances where it's more challenging to browse a website conventionally, such as on a rough bus.
A business runs the danger of being sued if it does not physically accommodate all customers. The same is true for websites; numerous lawsuits have been brought against companies that have unreachable websites.
Make Accessibility Rules and Procedures Readily Available
To ensure that everyone is on the same page, online accessibility rules and procedures should be accessible to everyone on your team.
For staff members to feel comfortable contacting their technical expert or accessibility specialist with questions, it's also useful to include contact information.
Last but not least, a list of hyperlinks to useful sites, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), might be useful for addressing queries.
3 Key Areas to be Aware Of
Alt-Text and Formatting for Authors and Photographers
Any staff employees who might include text, photographs, videos, or sound bites on the website should be familiar with the best practices for adding these elements.
Extending this training to others who might deal with the site in the future in addition to those who already do is a smart idea. It might be helpful to print out an ADA website accessibility checklist because some of these details are simple to forget.
Images should have alternative text (alt-text). The alt-text for the image should accurately and succinctly explain it. When adding photographs, be sure to show how to do it using your CMS.
The format is rational. To separate text into sections, headings and appropriate header formatting (h1, h2, h3, etc.) should be utilized. Instead of using bold, italics, and underlining to format headings, employ them where they are needed in the text.
Links are obvious. The destination of a link should be clearly stated in the link text.
Clear color contrast is present. Surprisingly, this is the most common web accessibility issue.
There should be at least a 4:1 color contrast between text and backgrounds. Usually, this will already be included in the styles and layouts of the website. Use accessibility testing tools like a contrast checker before making any color changes from the defaults.
For Videographers: Controls and Closed Captions
Videos are growing more and more significant on the global web. As a result, creating accessible videos is crucial to your ADA website accessibility training. All team members who produce, edit, and post videos ought to be familiar with these components.
Closed captions are used in videos. Videos may be interpreted in this way even without sound. This is a good strategy for everyone as deaf persons cannot utilize sound and many mobile users do not.
The playing of audio and video is not automated. When content plays without a command, it disturbs consumers in general and screen reader users specifically. There should be a stop button on these controls as well.
The video flashes no more frequently than three times per second. Everyone is distracted by frequent flashing, but persons who have seizure disorders are put in danger.
Navigation and Control for Designers and Developers
The more complicated components of the website are handled by designers and developers. These specialists have greater technical expertise, but they also bear greater responsibility for maintaining the site's accessibility.
Make sure the facilitator of your ADA website accessibility training course can answer more difficult web design and development-related queries.
The website ought to be keyboard-navigable. This entails the use of components like menus that can be opened and closed with a single click and skip navigation links. There should be no "keyboard traps" where a user could get trapped.
The website can reflow. For mobile users or people with visual impairments, reflow enables the site to reorganize based on screen size or magnification.
The website can be used without color or images. By disabling images and style sheets in your browser, you can verify this for yourself. If browsing your website without them is challenging, utilizing a screen reader will make it significantly more challenging.
Ways To Test
Designers and developers should be able to test the site to make sure any updates or additions are still accessible as they are in charge of its functionality, navigation, and appearance. Both manual testing techniques and a variety of programmatic testing tools can be useful.
It's crucial to keep in mind that web accessibility is not simply one person's duty, even if some people will have more experience with the website than others.
Anyone who works on the website should be aware of the importance of online accessibility as well as how to maintain it. Your website will stay accessible to all visitors if you provide ADA website accessibility training, audits, and corrective actions.
The Basic Guidelines of WCAG 2.0 Standards
Every user should have the capacity to comprehend any information that appears on the website. Pictures, texts, and videos, alongside other content fall into this kind of category.
Noticeable refers to adequately providing the best options to actively create good accessibility. For example, the text-to-speech option should be readily available for individuals who are blind.
The website should be easy to utilize for all kinds of visitors. Every feature you get to provide, comprising the site tools, should be easily accessible to every user. This will probably need to be written into HTML, so you'll need web developers that are current on compliance guidelines provided by ADA.
Users are expected to be capable of comprehending what they're reading, paying attention to, and other content in addition to actively being capable of "seeing" and navigating your website. Including instructions as well as the website tools, forms, navigation menu, or other services the website offers is a way to bring this idea to life.
You need your disabled visitors to have a similar experience as non-disabled visitors, even if the disabled ones are supported by technologies. This simply explains that your website's content is expected to be easily accessible to all persons, notwithstanding how the content is presented.
Don't condense directions, descriptions, or other explanations. Give all users the full experience to handle them equally.
Be Sure To Follow These ADA Compliant Website Best Practices
Websites are always changing. One should hope that new material is consistently introduced and that the design interface is continuously improved. Periodic WCAG audits should be planned to maintain accessibility.
You can use automatic auditing tools to check on new pages, products, and blog articles until significant interface changes are made. Manual and assistive technology testing should be done on the impacted pages/templates after significant modifications are made.
Although it can seem difficult, ADA website compliance is possible. Recognize that you can tackle it in stages. For some, ADA compliance has to deal with redesigning your website to ensure that the options for accessibility are well integrated into HTML coding.
Although costly and time-consuming, it is also important. Also, if one doesn’t do it, the cost will rapidly increase. Be sure that you think of ADA compliant website best practices as a good positive. Making companies inclusive of all individuals will increase business and also improve companies’ reputations.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which websites must comply with the ADA?
A website must be ADA-compliant if it sells goods and services to the general public or on behalf of another company. Any size business in any industry is affected by this. Legal compliance with the ADA is necessary.
How many websites adhere to ADA standards?
According to studies on web accessibility, less than 2% of websites worldwide are fully compliant. Although a sizable portion of websites is in some way accessible, the great majority of websites do not effectively target the impaired market.
How can websites be made ADA-compliant?
Making your website accessible entails making sure persons with disabilities and those utilizing assistive technologies may access it completely. The most fundamental adjustments you might anticipate making include:
- Image alt-tag creation
- Transcribing audio and video content
- color contrast ratios being changed
- examining the components of your website, such as the buttons, links, and headers