The Americans with Disabilities Act was setup in 1990 to end discrimination among employees based on differing disabilities. The act was based on the landmark Civil Right Act of 1964, which was an effort to offer protection against discrimination based on religion, race, national origin, or sex. The ADA compliance added another layer of protection for employees with disabilities. The ADA compliance wanted public benefit organizations (i.e., public transportation, restaurants, schools, bakeries, hotels, grocery stores, banks, law offices, accountant offices, social service centers, healthcare providers, gyms, the United States Postal Service, and so on) to provide reasonable accommodations to employees, students, consumers with disabilities such as wheelchair access ramps, restrooms, supporting rods, and other accommodations.
ADA Compliance standards were released in 2010 by the United States Department of Justice for all public organizations to follow to become accessible even to people with disabilities that use computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, or other smart devices.
What is ADA Compliance for Websites?
So many websites still don't meet ADA compliance because they are not aware of it. They unintentionally design a non-compliant website, but the U.S. Department of Justice doesn't see the unawareness as a good reason to support your case. You will still get a lawsuit and have to pay thousands of dollars. Apart from being in legal trouble, you also end up losing business on a daily basis. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with disabilities are increasing every few years by millions. In 2010, there were close to 56 million people with disabilities. Your potential customer might be in that count too, who are unable to access your website no matter how good you've made it.
Many American states have adopted their own version of accessibility laws making it confusing for the general website owner to know which regulations to follow to make the website ADA compliant.
WCAG has been the guiding principle in European countries for making a website accessible to users. WCAG is a set of recommended standards to improve website accessibility. Have a look at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
WCAG guidelines can be categorized into three levels;
Level A – Issues that limit the accessibility of the website to a disabled person
Level AA – Issues that are a level deeper than Level A and address areas where enhancement is required to offer disabled users a complete experience of a website.
Level AAA – Issues are of the highest standard that is rarely followed by the websites because it is beyond their reach.
To choose the right category for a website, four areas of focus are considered;
Perceivable: The basic definition says that it is the ways in which the information and interface components are presented to users so they can perceive.
Operable: How operable are the user interface components and navigation for the website user.
Understandable: How understandable are the navigation and user interface for the website.
Robust: How robust the content is that it is interpreted by a variety of user agents and assistive technologies.
To check whether your website is ADA compliant or not, the test is on SiteImprove, or you can use Siteimprove Accessibility Checker Google Chrome extension.
Standard guidelines for websites to make accessible to users with all kinds of disabilities
Here's how you can make changes in your website design and make it accessible for people with disabilities.
Alt Text for Images
Alt text not only works as keywords for the images, but this is also the text that screen readers read. And this helps a lot when a visually impaired accesses your website.
People with some sort of color blindness would find it difficult to access your website's content and images. So, make a mixture of patterns, charts, icons, and whitespaces to let the content communicate with the users easily. Keep the contrast comfortable between the text and the background.
Choose easy-to-read fonts. Nothing fancy, and keep limited fonts throughout the website. Like you can use Bold Roboto for Title and light Roboto for text or anything like that.
When writing content for web, social media, emails, etc., consider making the content accessible to people with all four kinds of disabilities: hearing, visual, cognitive, and motor.
Adding proper headings to your content piece also helps the users identify the right structure for it. By proper heading, I mean writing title tags H1, H2, H3, and H4, respectively. And this has to be done in the correct order as well. H1 tag is followed by an H2 tag, followed by an H3 tag, and so on. This makes it easy for the readers to find the access the content.
For some people, this may be subjective, but there are some standard procedures you do to make your content more readable. Using short sentences and easy words, dividing your content into sections, along with proper heading tags, and introducing bullet points as well are a few pointers to improve the readability of your content.
When interlinking or giving a backlink to another website, avoid using phrases such as 'click here'. You can use it if the sentence demands it, but try to put a proper phrase and then hyperlink it. For example, if you want your users to download your eBook, then you can 'Get your Free eBook', 'Download eBook', instead of simply 'click here'. The same can be applied to links to other content on your website or on other's websites.
Now you get the idea bout implementing little changes in content and design of the website that make it accessible to a larger pool of audience. Now, let's look at other things.
How will the visually impaired or people with motor skills disability hearing disabilities navigate your website? Try to think of the easiest method way for them to navigate to the main pages, blogs, and other elements on your website. Have important pages in the menu section and important indicators for every action users take on the website.
Special Code for special elements
Tables, lists, graphs, or any other element on the page needs to be specially coded or labeled so the screen readers can read that element correctly to the users.
Lead generation elements
As said earlier that there are millions of people with disabilities out there, and if you focus on making your website easily accessible, you unlock opportunities to let them buy your products/services as well. And in order to do so, consider designing your lead generation elements noticeable enough and make them accessible for people with different disabilities.
By making little changes, you can easily get Level A.A. clearance for ADA compliance. Here's a detailed checklist on WCAG 2 A and A.A. Checklist. Once practicing that and have a good hold of it, you can move ahead to Level AAA as well.