Would you like to expand your business market reach and increase customer satisfaction? Your website is the key tool to do that, however, it's not just about having a website; it's crucial to ensure it is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. This is where ADA compliance comes into play. Website accessibility creates the opportunity for people with disabilities to experience equal access to a digital platform.
Creating an ADA-compliant website is not only a legal requirement but also an ethical obligation. In this article, we will explore what an ADA-compliant website entails, why it is crucial for businesses and organisations to prioritise accessibility, but as well how you can ensure that your website is accessible.
Understanding the importance of ADA compliance
Before we dive into the audit process, let's understand why accessibility matters. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and eliminate discrimination against them. In the US alone, nearly 61 million adults live with a disability, and they deserve equal access to information and services on the Internet. Regarding websites, ADA compliance means that the site should be designed and developed to accommodate people with various disabilities, such as visual, auditory, cognitive, or physical impairments. ADA compliance for websites is not just a legal requirement but also a moral obligation. By making your website accessible, you ensure that all users can access your content, products, and services regardless of their abilities.
This inclusivity enhances user experience and expands your potential audience, leading to increased engagement and better conversion rates. When your website is accessible, users can easily navigate, understand the content, and engage with it. This leads to dwelling longer times, lower bounce rates, and increased user satisfaction—all of which send positive signals to search engines. Moreover, search engines like Google prioritise accessible websites, as it aligns with their goal of providing the best user experience. Websites that are accessible tend to have better search engine rankings, resulting in increased organic traffic.
Non-compliance with ADA guidelines can lead to legal issues and potential lawsuits. Several businesses and organisations faced legal action due to inaccessible websites. Creating an ADA-compliant website helps mitigate legal risks and demonstrates a commitment to accessibility.
Steps to achieve ADA compliance
1. Conduct an accessibility audit
Begin by assessing your website's current accessibility. Several tools and checklists available online can help you identify areas that need improvement. Use tools like WAVE, WebAim or AccessibilityChecker.org. These tools will analyse your website's structure, code, and content to identify potential accessibility issues.
2. Implement best practices
Based on the audit results, start making the required changes to your website. Firstly, we suggest you familiarise yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), provide a set of recommendations to make web content more accessible.
The success criteria in the WCAG guidelines consist of three levels of conformance:
Level A – shows that a website has a minimum level of accessibility, meaning not all users with disabilities can use it easily. If a website cannot reach this level, it is not accessible.
Level AA – an appropriate standard for most websites, showing that the common barriers have been removed.
Level AAA – the highest level in the WCAG. Some websites might not even be able to comply with all these requirements.
Aim to achieve at least the AA level of compliance, considered the minimum standard for web accessibility.
To improve accessibility, check for the following factors to see if your website complies with the WCAG guidelines:
Website accessibility key components checklist
Clear and descriptive headings
Having well-structured headings not only helps search engines understand your content but also aids users with screen readers to navigate your website efficiently. Organise your content using headings, subheadings, and bullet points. This improves readability and helps screen readers interpret the information correctly. Use relevant keywords in your titles to improve the accessibility and SEO-friendliness of your site.
Alt text for images
Images play a significant role in web content, but they can be meaningless to visually impaired users. Adding descriptive alternative text (alt text) to images allows screen readers to describe the image to the user accurately.
Captions and transcripts for multimedia
Videos and audio content should have captions and transcripts. This not only benefits individuals with hearing impairments but also provides an alternative way to consume content for users in different situations, such as those in quiet environments or with slow internet connections.
Consistent and intuitive navigation
A well-organized navigation structure is essential for all users. It becomes even more critical for people with disabilities who rely on clear and consistent navigation to move through your website seamlessly.
Readable text and adjustable fonts
Choose fonts and font sizes that are easy to read. Users with visual impairments may need to adjust the font size to make the text more legible. Offering this flexibility improves the user experience for all.
Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and background colours. Low contrast can be challenging for users with visual impairments to read the content.
Some users may not be able to use a mouse and rely on keyboard navigation. Make sure your website can be easily navigated using only the keyboard.
Accessible forms and input fields
Make form elements and input fields accessible with clear labels and instructions. This benefits users who rely on assistive technologies to fill out forms. Ensure that all forms on your website are accessible and can be navigated using a keyboard. Provide clear instructions and error messages for form validation.
Timeouts and animations
Avoid using auto-playing media or content that times out, as it can be disruptive for users who need more time to process information.
3. Train your team
Educate your web development team and content creators about the importance of accessibility and how to implement it effectively.
4. Regularly test and update
ADA compliance is an ongoing process. Regularly test your website for accessibility and update it as needed, especially when you make significant changes or add new content.
By making your website accessible, you not only comply with legal requirements but also create a more welcoming and user-friendly online environment. Prioritising user experience and ensuring your content is easy to read and navigate will not only benefit those with disabilities but also improve your website's performance on search engine results pages.
By following the strategies outlined in this guide, you can take significant steps towards achieving ADA compliance and optimising your website for better SEO rankings. Remember, accessibility and SEO go hand in hand in building a successful online presence that reaches a broader audience. If you're unsure about achieving ADA compliance on your own, consider consulting with our Authentic Engagement coach, just book an appointment here and we can guide you through the process.