Business Owners' Special
If you own a business and have 15 or more full-time employees, chances are you already know about ADA compliance at your physical location. However, it has recently come to light that businesses' websites and apps also need to be ADA compliant.
We've put together a handy ADA compliance checklist for websites, to help out fellow business owners trying to do the right thing by giving people with disabilities equal access to their web content. Having an ADA-compliant website is important to the community and opens your business to 26% more of the population, not to mention it's a federal law.
The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act and was signed into federal law back in 1990, prohibiting the discrimination of people with disabilities in employment and in public accommodations or businesses.
This includes all state and local governments and their organizations and agencies, as well as pretty much any business that deals with the public in any capacity, except religious facilities and some private organizations. Almost every other public space must be ADA compliant, and this apparently includes cyberspace! There are stiff fines to pay for even first-time violations at $75,000, and $150,000 for every additional violation, not to mention lawsuits and overall bad P.R.
The Disabilities Act has been a credit to the growth of our country and society itself, reshaping our beliefs and expectations to better reflect our collective attitude of inclusion and accessibility for everyone. Access to your business may only be possible through an accessible website, for someone with a disability.
Disabled users often use assistive technologies such as screen reader software for the visually impaired. If you don't have web accessibility features programmed into your web pages from the start, there will be accessibility problems.
Guidelines For Website Accessibility
There are specific guidelines to making your website's content accessible, and to provide access to an even bigger audience in multiple ways to your products and/or services. An ADA-compliant website happens through following guidelines called the WCAG, or web content accessibility guidelines. You can find those here.
With ADA website compliance, users with disabilities won't have any more accessibility issues with your web pages and accessing your business. The main thing to remember when designing for website accessibility is to provide multiple ways for people with disabilities to be able to access and navigate your site.
We promised you a checklist, so let's go over some basics. First off, you'll need to go back to the admin board where you designed your website, as some of these are truly foundational changes. We advise hiring a web developer who specializes in accessible design. The work is somewhat time-consuming, but shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. Here are some things to remember:
- VISUALS - For any visual effects on your site, be sure you include alt text or alternative text. Alt text goes with photos, banners, logos, sketches, buttons, etc. Any visual cue that conveys a message needs to have accompanying alt text so that people using screen readers can still comprehend the message.
- TEXT, CONTRAST & COLOR - Be sure you are using bold and italics with a clear, easy-to-read font. Be sure that your text contrasts heavily with the background by having a high color contrast ratio (4.5:1) with your text and page backgrounds. Do not use color alone as an indicator (i.e. "for yes, hit the green button on the right"). Both of these directions assume the user can see the screen clearly, so give alternate instructions.
- AUDIO FILES - Any audio descriptions or audio-only content needs a text-based format or a text transcript to go with it, as well.
- NAVIGATION - Your web content needs to be navigable by keyboard users. Screen readers and assistive technology read from top to bottom. Keep the information in a consistent location. Don't forget to include a "skip navigation" option at the top of your web pages so screen readers can get to the content right away. Make sure navigation links are provided to media players for viewing content.
- MORE AUDIO & TEXT - Remember to include captions for any video or audio content. Make sure the language of content is identified in code along with any language changes. Be sure your page titles are labeled accurately and content is laid out in clear, chronological order. Be sure text can be resized to 200% and still maintain form.
- FORMS - Make sure forms are labeled and have legends that can be read by screen reader software.
- ERRORS - Include an error prevention technique when users are entering sensitive data to prevent invalid form input errors. Give users suggestions for how to solve input errors. Make sure there are no major validation errors.
- MISC. - Eliminate any time limits and redundant links. Remove underlining from any text that is not a clickable link. Don't forget the skip navigation link. Consider multimedia options like videos. You want users to be able to access your pages in multiple ways. You want to convey information to the user, so having options in different formats is more effective in communicating it.
In conclusion, your ADA compliance depends largely on your web accessibility, and the issues people have navigated your site mean less business for you. The fact of the matter is, ADA compliance is the law, besides being the right thing to do.
It is a huge step for our societies and communities towards becoming more inclusive of everyone, regardless of our differences. If you are a business owner today, this issue affects you. Accessibility is vital for 1 in 4 Americans who live with a disability, and it could happen to any one of us, at any time. ADA compliance is mandatory, and having a compliant website is part of that process.
In addition, when you need ADA compliant signs for your physical location, remember ADA Central is the company to use. We have a huge inventory and we also do professional custom work, and we have expedited service. The experience and expertise your business needs are right here at ADA Central.