Target audiences are often built from demographics, such as age, gender, income level, and occupation. However, within your target audience, there may also be a difference in sensory and cognitive abilities. Overlooking this difference could negatively impact some of your users’ online experience (including the ability for them to even use your website). This is where ADA accessibility becomes an important consideration. Here are some common questions and answers to help you learn more about this topic and how it applies to websites!
What is ADA accessibility?
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Title III of this act requires that service providers make accommodations that will “enable the disabled public to access the same services as clients who are not disabled.” Past cases have shown that electronic media and websites are no exception to this rule.
Should my website be compliant?
The current law is not very specific when it comes to accessibility standards and which websites should be compliant. In general, government agencies and organizations that provide public accommodations seem to be the focus. However, many industries have their own regulations. If you have a compliance officer or legal team, we recommend requesting their guidance. Even if your organization is under no legal obligation to be compliant, learning more about accessibility guidelines may help you create a more inclusive user experience.
What are the web content accessibility guidelines?
Since the ADA has not yet been updated to specifically address the case of website accessibility and no official website accessibility regulations have been released, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have been used for regulation. These guidelines include four categories of website testing:
This covers items such as alternative text, captions, audio descriptions, text contrast and size.
This category focuses on keyboard accessibility, the ability to pause changing content, avoiding content that may trigger seizures, and creating easily navigable content.
The guidelines under this category relate to the use of language, input error descriptions, and predictable layouts.
This is more of a technical category that focuses on ensuring your website code is compatible with current and future accessibility tools.
How do I know what to change on my website?
While ADA compliance and the WCAG can be overwhelming at first glance, there are tools that can help you create an initial understanding of your website’s current status; like Wave. However, you may want a more in-depth review which could be carried out by a compliance, usability, or web development team; depending on what resources are available to you.
What are some other resources I can reference?
- Official Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) website
- Transition guide for incorporating standards within your organization
- Powderkeg tips on quick accessibility updates for your website