The Most Important ADA Requirements for Websites
Learn how to ensure your website is accessible – and why it matters to keep you protected in 2020.
Domino’s Pizza made business history twice: first, when they announced their famous 30-minutes-or-less offer – and second, in early October 2019 when they stood before the U.S. Supreme Court because their website violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s right: the second largest pizza chain appeared in the highest court in the land. The result? The Supreme Court rejected their appeal to throw out the lawsuit. That means Domino’s Pizza — and potentially every other business with a website — can be sued for violating the ADA if that website is not sufficiently handicap accessible.
Any type of lawsuit is a scary prospect, right? Doubly intimidating is a lawsuit that you don’t fully understand based on something that happened on your website, without you even knowing about it. Even worse, you don’t need to be nationally-known like Domino’s Pizza to be targeted — all you need is a website.
At WebTek, we’re your expert online partner — we ensure you have online success with every avenue of your business. With this blog, we’re here to help you understand the basics of accessibility, and we’re offering insight into the most important ADA requirements for websites. Plus, we give you some action steps if you want greater peace-of-mind.
So, even though your business probably isn’t a nationwide fast-food pizza giant — you might still want to pay attention to this. Let’s dive in.
First, Our Disclaimer:
The Basics of Website ADA Compliance
As business owners, we’re all accustomed to thinking about the ADA in regards to a brick and mortar storefront. The ADA can determine countless things about your physical location, including everything from handicap spaces in your parking lot to the width of your doorway. Applying the ADA to websites is brand new legal territory – which is why Domino’s got targeted for having a non-ADA compliant site.
In the 21st century, websites are increasingly as essential to your customers as your physical location – and therefore, so is the need for digital accessibility.
But why, though? Well, in the same way that a lack of handicap spaces can keep a customer with mobility issues from entering your store, a lack of accessible features can keep a person with a disability from using your website. Once again, all it takes is one bad website and one frustrated potential customer to wind up facing a legal predicament.
So, how do you know if your website is welcoming to users with vision impairments or other disabilities? The answer is website accessibility standards and guidelines, better known as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Website accessibility standards is the term for the rules that govern whether your site is inclusive enough to support users with sight or hearing disabilities. Whether you agree that ADA should be digital or not, most business owners and stakeholders are striving to ensure their sites are compliant. Ultimately, you never want to roadblock a qualified potential customer and you never want to put yourself in harm’s way…legally speaking.
What are Website Accessibility Standards?
While at this point there is no way to guarantee 100% website ADA compliance, making reasonable accommodations helps your website work for more potential customers and protects you at the same time.
There are hundreds of published website accessibility guidelines to follow, ranging from the color contrast in the design of your site to the way the pictures in your photo galleries are named. Take a quick look at the WCAG 2.1 guidelines here. As you can see, there’s a lot!
Here are the most important accessibility guidelines for websites:
The most basic accessibility starts with being mobile friendly. Before anything else, it is vital your website is mobile friendly first! This means users don’t have to pinch and zoom to read your website on a mobile device and all the information scales down to a smaller screen size effortlessly.
Descriptive Alt Tags
If you’ve ever heard of website alt tags or alt text before, it probably related to SEO and making your website show up higher in Google search results. While alt tags are an SEO ranking factor, their main job is as a website accessibility feature. The express purpose of alt text is to describe an image in text to a person who can’t see it. Do all your website images have descriptive alt tags?
Easily Accessible Website Navigation
This key point of online website accessibility comes down to the way the site was designed and built. Just like the hallmarks of modern web design style, clean and easy functionality is in demand nowadays. In order to make your site easy to navigate for people with visual or motor function disabilities, you want the site menus to have a clear design and to be accessible by only using the tab key.
Text Size, Font and Spacing
One of the main ways a website conveys important information is through the text. However, if the font, the size, the spacing or some other quality of the site text makes it hard to read for individuals with certain vision conditions, you’ll want to take care of that.
While style is mostly a matter of personal preference, for some internet users, the wrong color combination can make your site unusable. In particular, certain text and color combinations can prove problematic for users with colorblindness.
Any website developed with WebTek since 2016 should be mobile-friendly and follow most of the basic guidelines of WCAG/ADA. However, that is no guarantee you won’t be sued for website accessibility problems. There is always more that can be done to follow the hundreds of guidelines. So much so, that the price to become fully compliant can cost more than the website itself. If you update the website yourself, you could easily be breaking those guidelines without even knowing it — simply by uploading a picture or changing a color on your website. How far do you go and when does it stop? This is a gray area that is only emerging as lower courts decide those answers in lawsuit cases already happening.
Stay Better Protected with Web Accessibility Solutions through WebTek
Although the number of lawsuits surrounding this compared to the number of websites on the internet are almost unmeasurable, it could be changing the landscape moving forward.
Our blanket general advice is to make sure your website is mobile friendly and follows accessibility best practices. For your customers’ own best interest, you should want your website to be easily accessed and used by everyone, otherwise you are probably alienating prospects.
- Accessibility Widget – One of the easiest accessibility upgrades you can do for your website is adding a widget that lets users adjust browser readability features to help them with their visual disability. This simple addition not only goes a long way towards keeping you legally safer, but it also ensures that the maximum number of people have the chance to use your website and turn into customers. The plugin allows a user to make site changes like enlarge text, change font colors, convert text to speech, enlarge their cursor, stop animations, highlight links, change the color constrast, and much more.The one big thing this add-on doesn’t do is fill in alternative tags for photos and images. Those most likely have to be done manually. To see this widget in action, jump on our website at www.webtekcc.com and look along the right side of your screen for the widget icon. Price for Widget add-on: $250
- Advanced Website Development for Stronger WCAG / ADAThis solution involves implementing more WCAG / ADA guidelines by developing your website with these guidelines baked into it. Some government projects require this, but most projects do not. Like mentioned earlier, sometimes these things can cost more than the website itself. You need to weigh out the higher expense with the risk of a lawsuit. If you feel this is something you want to pursue, we would be happy to quote it for you.
While we would not be overly concerned about a lawsuit stemming from a website that doesn’t fully comply with WCAG / ADA, it can happen. It seems anyone can sue for about anything these days as long as there are lawyers willing to pursue it. With that being said, there are action steps listed above you can do to better protect yourself. You could get a more favorable court ruling if you have demonstrated proactively taking some steps to comply with WCAG / ADA guidelines.
If you would like to have a conversation about your website — or would like to discuss installing the accessibility widget, let’s start the conversation today!