What is the ADA and why do you need an ADA-compliant website?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, and it is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The law was enacted to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities and access to the same rights and privileges as individuals without disabilities.
The ADA has been instrumental in advancing the rights of people with disabilities in a variety of areas, including employment, transportation, education, and access to public spaces. In recent years, there has been growing recognition that the ADA also applies to websites and other digital platforms.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for enforcing the ADA, has issued guidance stating that websites are covered under the law if they are considered places of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation are defined as any place that is open to the public and that provides goods, services, or programs, including restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.
As such, websites that provide goods, services, or programs to the public must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means that websites must be designed and developed in a way that accommodates users with disabilities and allows them to access all of the same information and functionality as users without disabilities.
There have been several high-profile cases in recent years in which companies have been sued for not having an ADA-compliant website. In some cases, the companies were in violation of the ADA and were ordered to make their websites accessible.
Who benefits from an ADA-compliant website?
Everyone! In the US, public and private sector organizations must make sure their websites are accessible. If they do not build an ADA-compliant website they are at risk of litigation and high costs of remediation. High-profile lawsuits from companies like Domino’s, Target, Netflix, and Harvard have resulted in millions of dollars in damages.
But it’s not just businesses and large organizations who benefit. Their website visitors stand to gain the most from better accessibility. People with disabilities may rely on technology including screen readers or keyboard navigation to browse a website. If you haven’t built it with accessibility in mind, you’re excluding a percentage of web visitors.
There are other benefits. Accessibility testing platforms tend to include other checks for problems with spelling, grammar, user experience, and mobile device compatibility. By incorporating automated accessibility testing into your workflow, you can improve every aspect of your website.
Automated accessibility testing helps you find a range of accessibility issues across your entire website, quickly. You can monitor thousands of pages at once and fix issues as they occur, or even before you publish them.
How can I build an ADA-compliant website?
There are many areas to consider in building an ADA-compliant website, from navigation to forms, typography, and more. Each has its potential problems. With many contributors to your website, errors will likely creep in. Accessibility isn’t something that the majority of content creators know of, so these errors are often introduced unwittingly.
Automated web accessibility testing helps you find problems with each of these areas. It identifies issues and gives explanations about why they cause problems for people. Your content team can learn about accessibility as they go. This helps to prevent future errors.
You can use accessibility testing to uncover issues in the following areas. All should be addressed to build an ADA-compliant website:
Page and heading structure
- Presence of an h1 tag on every page
- Correct ordering of headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
- Ensure menus are skippable
Typography and color contrast
- Make sure the text is readable for people with low vision
- Ensure text has enough contrast against its background
- Don’t rely on only color to distinguish elements like links, underline them as well
Images and alt text
- Make sure screen readers skip decorative images
- Ensure images are correctly marked as decorative
- Ensure alt text reflects the image content
- Make sure people who do not use a mouse can navigate your website
Mobile device testing
- Makes sure pages only scroll in one dimension
- Allow zooming into web pages
Screen reader compatibility
- ARIA descriptions
- Skip to content links
Broken links and spelling
- Make sure all links work, both internal and external
- Check for spelling errors, including inside alt text
- Make sure forms are correctly labeled
- Ensure sufficient text contrast in form elements
- Makes sure that autocomplete is correctly implemented
- Show the correct input keyboard when using a mobile phone
This is a non-exhaustive list and covers the most common web accessibility problems. Accessibility is a complex, in-depth topic that cannot be covered in its entirety here.
How can Silktide help you build an ADA-compliant website?
Silktide works by helping you find and fix web accessibility issues across your websites in the code, design, and content.
Because it’s automated, it helps you:
- Find accessibility problems at scale
- Check for ongoing changes to your websites
We recommend manual testing to find specific instances that cannot be automated. This includes, for example, describing the contents of images in the alt text. But manual testing is usually only an expensive, infrequent ad-hoc process.
Silktide monitors your website by testing pages all the time. Your content team can test pages before they’re published. This avoids any accessibility failures before your customers experience them.
The main ways that Silktide’s automated web accessibility testing platform helps include:
- Find accessibility issues across thousands of pages
- Explain how to fix the issues
- Provide training to web team members to prevent future issues
- Inspire your entire organization to improve, through scores, gamification, and ongoing reports