Is your website ADA Compliant? Did you know it should be? If not, you aren’t alone. ADA compliance marks a major change to the digital marketing world. It’s important to know how your website stacks up.
What is ADA Compliance?
Years ago, we didn’t have designated parking spots for those with disabilities, or ramps to allow wheelchairs easy access to buildings. Today, it’s common to see these, which is due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law was enacted to ensure that all individuals have equal access to a business’s goods and services.
Under the law, a business is considered a place of public accommodation, and must remove any barriers that would keep a disabled individual from accessing that business’s offerings. While this has long referred to physical barriers, in 2010 there was a request from the US Department of Justice to amend the law to include the digital realm, namely websites.
Currently there are no strict guidelines that legally require websites to be accessible for people with disabilities. However, lawsuits have been successfully made against companies that lack accessibility features.
What do you need to know? Don’t be caught off guard. Until recently, most marketers didn’t know about ADA compliance. This gave them no way to prevent lawsuits, because they lacked the knowledge that there even might be a problem.
The ADA status on websites was expected to be finalized this past January. While that fell through, the courts continue to step in and file lawsuits against companies whose websites are found to violate current ADA guidelines. Be proactive by making changes to your website now. Besides potential legal issues, it’s good business practice to make your site as accessible and easy to navigate as possible for all your customers.
Make Your Website ADA Compliant
The best way to understand how your website stacks up against compliance standards is to do a comprehensive assessment of your site. You may want to contact your website service provider for more specific information, and to make changes you’re unsure how to enact. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 give a comprehensive overview of what is required for different levels/standards of compliance.
Some common adjustments you can make to your site include:
Each image you include on your site should have an alt text description. Visitors to your site may be unable to see images, or the images themselves may not render on all devices. Alternate text will fill in the blanks, allowing visitors to understand the content presented in the image and what information you are trying to convey. Website builders like WordPress clearly identify where to place the alt text when adding an image. The words you use in your alt text descriptions are also important–learn how to write effective alt tags. Effective alt text labels also serve to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Audio & Video Transcripts
For every video or audio clip you include on your site, it’s helpful to include a link to a page with the content transcribed into text, for those who can’t hear the audio or who cannot view the video properly on their device. Also include captions on the video itself.
Your website will be more functional for all visitors if text is at a high contrast to the background, making it easier to read. If the background color of your “Products” page button is too close to the text color, it will be difficult for visitors to read the text and understand where that button would take them.
Some people must use a keyboard rather than a mouse to navigate on the web. So, your website must be fully navigable using only a keyboard. Some websites are set up so that just by pressing the “Tab” key, a visitor can move across the heading and sub heading categories of your site, easily finding which page they want. To make this function easier, it’s important to have consistent navigation throughout the site. All headers and footers should appear the same on each page, with the same buttons linking to the same pages.
Include clear links to your home page as well as to a site map page. From the site map, visitors can easily find the page they’re looking for without navigating through your entire site. Don’t underline text that is not an actual link. And, do not include redundant links to the same content on the same page.
Ensure your page titles clearly and accurately describe what is found on that page. Also, your pages will be read better by screen reading software if you give different weight to your titles and move in ascending order as you go down the page. For example, the title of the page should be designated as H1. Your major subheadings should be H2, and secondary headers should be H3.
Forms must be clearly labeled and readable by screen reader software. Make form submission buttons specific; rather than “Submit” try, “Place an Order” “Contact Us” “Sign Me Up” etc. This ensures clarity as to what process that form is completing.
Developing a website that is easy to navigate for all visitors creates a win-win situation. When potential customers have a pleasant experience visiting your website, they’re likely to stay on your site for longer periods of time and come back to you when they’re searching for something new. More traffic means more business, and more happy customers.
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