Is your website ADA compliant as per 2018 standards?

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Alright folks, so this article is all about ADA. If this word sounds alien to you, don’t worry by the end of this article you would have enough knowhow to deal with it. The Americans with Disabilities Act, known as ADA for short, requires businesses to ensure that all their customers have access to the same services, regardless of their physical limitations. Any business that has a physical location that is open to the public has already had some experience with meeting ADA accessibility guidelines.

You may have installed a ramp, increased the width of your door frames, or made other accommodations to ensure that your physical premises are accessible to all. The requirement for equal access used to only apply to physical locations and storefronts, but now the government is actively ensuring that the requirements for ADA accessibility include online properties such as websites and mobile apps.

That’s good news if you are one of the many Americans who have a visual, hearing, or mobility disability that makes it difficult to access some information on the web. If you are a business owner who hasn’t made provisions to ensure that your website and other online assets are ADA compliant, you could be looking at a host of legal and financial penalties. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. Most people are familiar with the physical accommodations businesses make, such as automatic door openers and wheelchair ramps. But the ADA applies to the virtual world as well.

Under the law, websites should be just as accessible as ATMs (ever notice the Braille there?), elevators, terminals and other user interfaces. Not only should your site be accessible to all on a laptop or desktop but also on tablets and mobile phones. Failing ADA compliance creates poor and awkward experiences for people with physical disabilities. Simply put, ADA compliance is assuring your website falls within a set of prescribed accessibility standards.

Remember, not everyone uses standard browsers like Google Chrome. There are many people who use different types of devices to access this information, such as text readers and audio scanners. Those tools need special instructions to help translate or convey the information on the web page to the user.

What Makes a Website ADA Compliant?
People with disabilities that affect their sight, hearing, or mobility may have difficulty accessing certain parts of websites and other online properties unless certain accommodations are made. Just as businesses may need to make adjustments to their physical location so that disabled customers have easy access to the premises, companies may need to adjust certain aspects of their websites so individuals with disabilities can take full advantage of all the features and services.

How Does the Need for ADA Website Compliance Affect Your Business?
For most businesses, the need for ADA web compliance means they will need to make at least some adjustments to all of their online marketing strategies. For instance, if your company provides tax preparation services, all of the tax forms you provide for customers to download would need to meet accessibility standards. Any online tax preparation services that you offer would also need to be configured so they meet ADA standards, as would your mobile app.

If you are a hotel owner, you probably have a hotel website, mobile booking app, virtual concierge through your Twitter account, and a reward program that loyalty club members can access through a social site. All of these web components should be audited and adjusted to meet compliance guidelines.

Here is how you can ensure your website is ADA compliant even if it isn’t as of now:

1. Find a qualified web agency.
Mention ADA compliance to many web developers and you may encounter a blank stare. First, find an agency working with the web platform or framework you use and ask about how their development workflow addresses accessibility. Most platforms have a partner directory. From there, you can start vetting agencies for their actual experience with web accessibility.

For example, if you have an ecommerce site, you should generally stick to an agency that specializes in that platform (e.g., Big commerce, Magento, WordPress, etc.). You should also aim for agencies that have experience with the various tools that assess a site’s accessibility.

2. Audit your code.
The prudent next step is running an audit on your site. The tools will crawl your site and identify all the areas that do not meet web accessibility standards for ADA compliance. The results will give you a very clear sense of the work involved so you can budget properly and weigh the benefits. Who knows, you may find out that your site is already fairly compliant, especially if you are on a fairly progressive platform and have used proper coding practices during your site build.

The cost will depend on your server setup, tools involved and the type of platform your website uses. Each site configuration has varying ramifications. In essence, the ADA audit cost could range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars or even more. We can do it for you, if it sounds like too much of work?

3. Determine the level of effort to become compliant.
At this point, an agency can use the report to gauge the overall level of effort and provide an estimate. Good partners will sit down with you and plot out a budget, some timelines, the proposed deliverables and some expectation management.

Perhaps the task list is so large that this approach is just not feasible for your company. At least, you’ll understand where you sit with ADA compliance and can plan to address it in the near future. Some critical work is usually better than no changes at all.

4. Put in the work.
Once the project has been properly road mapped, it’s time to get to work. Your development agency will start to work through the various tasks and be able to communicate how these changes will positively affect the user experience. Below are some common ADA issues and the resolutions:

The images on your site must have some alternative text associated with them in the event they do not render on a device or the user is unable to see the image. The alternative text will then clearly describe what that element is. Without that text, some of the screen readers will not understand what information is being presented.

If the colours on your site for important elements like buttons do not have enough contrast then it is hard for users to discern what the button is and where it should go.

If various inputs for forms on your website do not have proper labels, this makes it hard if not impossible for certain ADA devices to interpret their function. An easy example is a checkout form for an ecommerce site.

5. Stay up-to-date on compliance standards post-launch.
ADA compliance isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Compliance standards must be followed and will evolve just as your website does. There are guidelines all website contributors must know to stay within ADA guidelines. It is generally not burdensome but it does require some web managers to change their workflows.

ADA compliance has many benefits. It gives you a competitive advantage and may lead to more transactions, offers a better overall experience across browsers, provides digestible information for Google and other search engine results, helps the site reach a wider audience and reduces likelihood of ADA litigation.

If your website is not ADA compliant yet, we got you covered. Just get in touch with one of our web strategists and we would walk you through the process along with a free analysis.

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