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ADA compliance for web accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires US businesses to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.

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What is the ADA and how does it relate to websites?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

It affects any business or institution that employs 15 or more people, or offers goods or services to the public, and is a ‘place of public accommodation’. Increasingly, websites are being interpreted as places of public accommodation, although, opinion is divided.

Therefore, it’s critical to ensure your website is accessible, not only as your moral obligation but to avoid litigation.

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What web accessibility standards does the ADA follow?

The ADA was written in 1990, and was never designed to cover websites. Being vaguely defined and inconsistently enforced, there is considerable disagreement over exactly what websites must do to comply with it.

The closest the US has to a consensus is the WCAG 2.0 AA standard. In many settlements the US Department of Justice endorsed WCAG 2.0 AA as appropriate, and conveniently this is exactly the same standard required for Section 508 compliance.

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What are the implications if my US websites are not accessible?

Nearly every well-known online retailer – including Target, Amazon, and Dominoes – have faced accessibility lawsuits. Target settled theirs for $6m. In many states, law firms are now actively searching for inaccessible websites to sue.

Data from our own Silktide Index highlights the top five accessibility issues facing government websites as;

  • Missing ‘Skip to content’ navigation
  • Failure to identify form fields
  • Using the same link text for different destinations
  • Text with insufficient contrast
  • Not marking navigation as lists

Any of these issues, while relatively simple to identify using Silktide’s platform, could leave you open to being sued.

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“For us, one of the most important features was the ease of understanding web page accessibility. Our users are aware that it’s important, but often are unfamiliar with how to “fix” issues. Silktide makes it so easy for our users to fix any issues – way more than any other solutions we looked at.”

Zach McCurdy | Web Trainer and Content Specialist | Grand Valley State University

How does Silktide help me comply with ADA?

Silktide’s platform automatically tests all your websites against the WCAG 2.1 (and WCAG 2.0) standards, and presents you with remedial actions and educational information to help you become more accessible.

We’re able to automatically test all unambiguous success criteria, and we also cover the mobile device accessibility requirements introduced on the most recent WCAG 2.1 standards.

We would recommend that until such a time that the ADA defines the standards it uses, you ensure your website complies with WCAG 2.0 AA at an absolute minimum. You should additionally strive for mobile accessibility as per WCAG 2.1 AA.

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