The Internet is no longer meant only for technical work. Practically everyone has something or the other to do on the web, like shopping, surfing, looking for jobs, looking for a good university, and booking vacations.
However, the problem is that about 15% of the population, or about one billion people worldwide, have some form of disability. And their disability may prevent them from accessing websites that are not ADA-compliant.
This is why, as per Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, website, and accessibility testing is essential for every web designer and owner. And in case you want to ensure your website accessibility but do not know how to do it, we can help.
ADA Site Compliance is the #1 source for all ADA website compliance issues. We have a team of accessibility experts who know and can perform all the legal and regulatory requirements for website compliance.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
The most valid reason for web accessibility is to provide disabled users with the same and equal opportunities as everyone else. Besides, with a billion disabled users and more worldwide, you lose out on their business if they cannot access your website.
And most users with disabilities today ensure they file a case against any inaccessible website they visit. This is why more than 3,200 US federal lawsuits were filed against multiple inaccessible websites in 2022. Website owners thus end up having to pay a penalty for this.
Besides, accessibility benefits everyone in various ways. For example, it encourages good coding practices and better SEO and gives people with disabilities independence. Besides, even those without visual impairments may need captions while watching movies. For example, while watching movies when everyone is asleep or while at the library.
What Are ADA, Section 508, and WCAG?
It’s better to understand United States Accessibility laws before understanding the WCAG.
The United States Web Accessibility Laws
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 and is a broad anti-discrimination law specifically for people with disabilities publicly. It was enacted to ensure people with disabilities received the same rights as citizens without disabilities.
These disabilities include physical, sensory, and other cognitive disabilities and deformities, including psychological, emotional, and physiological disabilities. The ADA is divided into five sections called titles based on different areas of public life and is:
- Title I: Employment
- Title II: State and Local Governments
- Title III: Places of Public Accommodation
- Title IV: Telecommunications
- Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted in the year 1973 against any form of discrimination based on disability in any federal-based programs. This is the accessibility law in the US that directly impacts federal agencies when protecting people with disabilities. And they have multiple sections, where two are most connected with web accessibility standards, Section 504 and Section 508.
Section 504 prohibits any form of disability-based discrimination by the federal government. It mentions that organizations receiving federal funding should ensure equal access to persons with disabilities while providing accommodation.
According to section 508, people with disabilities should be able to access all electronic and information technology and communications and information technologies like websites and emails. The WCAG influences section 508, which has adopted some of its guidelines.
And there is no exception to the laws because organizations must ensure their content is accessible. For example, you must have close captions for any training content. However, if you cannot afford it, you can offer your users a transcript or a translator for improved accessibility.
How did the World Wide Web Consortium contribute to WCAG?
The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, part of the World Wide Web Consortium, developed the WCAG technical documents.
What are the four compliance levels to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG?
The four compliance principles of the WCAG web accessibility guidelines that developers should follow to ensure their websites and digital content are accessible to all users. In addition to these four compliance principles, there are also 13 guidelines falling under them.
The four compliance principles and some of their relevant guidelines are:
Website and mobile accessibility, app information, and user interface components should be presented so that users easily perceive or understand it. It should be perceivable by the user or assistive technologies like screen readers.
- Using text alternatives like a label for form fields so that users who cannot see or interact with non-text content can understand it.
- Using transcripts, close captions, and alt-text synchronized with interactive media.
- Ensuring content can be simplified or adjusted as the website display size changes.
- Proper formatting, spacing, text size, foreground text, and background color to ensure the content is easily distinguishable.
All user interface components and navigation should be easy to operate. And this is best achieved by keeping it simple.
This includes ensuring the following:
- Websites can be operable through the keyboard without any disruptions.
- Providing enough time for users to access and read or enter responses for time-based media.
- Avoid excessive flashing and seizure triggers in display content and website design.
- Website users can easily and logically navigate to find content using easy-to-use navigation menus, drop-downs, and appropriate heading and subheading tags.
- Users have similar website experiences no matter what input modalities, like keyboard, mouse and eye trackers, and switch controls.
All user interface information and operations should be understandable in clear language. Preferably, information technology is organized logically, providing relevant instructions and feedback to users.
- Web content writing should be clear and understandable without any jargon. Definitions should be provided if any unfamiliar language is used.
- The content and site should be built as users expect, like a vertical scroll orientation and placing all navigation links in the heading and footers.
- Letting users use saved browser input information to avoid mistakes and maintain consistency and accuracy while filling out fields in forms.
All content should be robust enough so that different user agents, including assistive technologies, can interpret it. And websites should strive for compatibility with all types of user agents today and in the future.
Why Should I Care About WCAG 2.1 AA Standards?
There are three main reasons for organizations and website owners to be aware of and comply with WCAG 2.1 AA standards:
1. Including many people on their sites and apps
Reducing the number of prerequisites for operating and navigating content increases accessibility. Prerequisite examples include certain abilities, hand motor skills, mental acuity, and sight. Or can also refer to accessibility barriers in the users’ ability to access content from multiple devices.
There are more than a billion people worldwide with disabilities. And the number does not include the many others who experience changes in their ability to perform everyday tasks due to age, illness, injury, or circumstances. Web compliance ensures they can access, navigate and use websites and mobile apps like others.
2. Optimized website performance and functionality
Content adhering to WCAG principles and success criteria gives a well-structured, functional, and streamlined website. The website thus provides a better user experience, increased traffic, conversions, and sales with reduced abandoned carts, churn, and bounce rates.
Suggestions for optimized website functionality include:
- Using alt and descriptive text for all non-text content
- Coding alt-text tags and including transcripts for e-commerce products to let the visually impaired access the website
- Using keywords in alt text and transcripts. This makes it easier for browsers to discover your content.
3. To comply with international and federal laws
Websites and organizations must adhere to the WCAG forms the basis for digital accessibility regulations worldwide. Failure to do so leads to significant liabilities, including civil lawsuits, fines, and possible enforcement.
How Do You Know If Your Website Is Accessible?
The best way to find out if your site or app is accessible is through these basic tests:
- Being able to use the tab key to navigate through the website. You should know where you are on the page once you hit the tab key, after which a focus indicator indicates where you are. You should also be able to use the focus indicator to select the page elements a typical user will want to navigate. You should also be able to tab to navigate away from links, menus, search fields, and items.
- Having captions and transcripts if you have any video content on your site and providing audio descriptions if you have audio content.
- Ensuring developers on your front-end dev team know about accessibility and should be able to answer your questions with a clear and affirmative answer. They should also be able to explain what they have done to ensure web accessibility through your website and app.
- Asking someone you know who has a disability impacting their use of computers and mobile devices if they can use your site or application.
- You know your site is inaccessible if you answer no to these pointers. However, you pass the test if you answer yes to all points. It, however, does not necessarily mean that your site and applications are accessible. It is because the tests are not comprehensive, and as websites keep updating, there is always the chance of accessibility changing with time. In case you have multiple internal and third-party teams working on the different components and applications, some parts of your content may remain accessible while other parts are inaccessible. The only way to truly know if your site is accessible is through a complete accessibility audit. And this means an audit that includes experts performing automated and manual testing with the help of many web accessibility tools.
Benefits of Website Accessibility
Website accessibility refers to ensuring your website is designed and coded for all users, including those with disabilities, easily access and use it. It is an essential part of any online business, and as there are so many related benefits, every business should take web accessibility initiative compliance seriously:
More traffic and audience
You expose your website and business to a larger audience by ensuring accessible web design and compliance. You do not want to miss out on the amount of business that 16% of the population can offer to an ADA-compliant website. With an easy-to-access and navigate website, people with disability will enjoy accessing your products and services and maybe return for more or recommend you to others too.
Improved SEO ranking
ADA-compliant websites perform better than inaccessible websites because of their improved search engine optimization rankings. It is because Google considers website accessibility while ranking sites. Besides, most WCAGs are similar to the strategies used to increase website SEO. The higher your website ranks in search engine result pages, the more visitors you attract.
Proves you have an inclusive business
You prove your business is committed to inclusivity and accessibility once you have an accessible website. This, in turn, helps build your trust with customers and improves your brand reputation.
Avoid unnecessary lawsuits
Accessibility is a legal requirement in many countries, including the US. And any website or app that does not comply with these accessibility requirements and standards may end up having to pay hefty fines. You can avoid all these hassles and legal issues by ensuring your website is accessible and compliant with the law.
Better user experience
Web compliance not only provides easy access to users with disabilities but also helps improve the user experience. For example, clear and concise text, well-formatted content, and easy navigation benefits any website visitor and enhance their experience.
Who is a WCAG Compliance Auditor?
Like any auditor, a WCAG compliance auditor has to assess websites and digital content to ensure they comply with the WCAG. They must also provide reports, recommend improvements, and help remediate the website to ensure WCAG compliance.
They work with web developers, designers, and content creators to implement the changes and ensure everyone, including users with disabilities, can access the website and digital content.
Frequently Asked Questions
With so much involved in website accessibility, we often receive many questions. So to make it easier for you, we have compiled a few of our most frequently asked questions and answers.
1. How do I make my website WCAG-compliant?
You can make your website WCAG-compliant by ensuring the site adheres to the guidelines. And to make this possible, you must evaluate your existing website layout, design, and content.
The material should be perceivable, operable, and understandable by all users. This means the material should be clearly and easily viewable and understood, have intuitive navigation, use more ADA-compliant graphics and readable fonts, and use alt-text where needed.
The website should have logical features for easy navigation and a keyboard-friendly website. The website and app should also be compatible and accessible by different devices, software systems, and other assistive technology.
2. What are the 4 WCAG guidelines?
WCAG 2.0 is based on four principle guidelines, perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The guidelines are commonly known by the acronym POUR.
3. What is WCAG accessibility compliance?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) define how it is possible to make web content more accessible to users with disabilities. It involves multiple disabilities like auditory, speech, cognitive, language, learning, visual impairments, and neurological disabilities.
4. How to check a website for accessibility?
There are four main checks to do to ensure web compliance. They are to ensure that:
- The Web content is perceivable and deliverable in various ways.
- The interface is operable and has site features available through the keyboard.
- The site is understandable and comes with user-friendly navigation.
- The site is robust and will not create too many validation errors.
5. Do I have to make my website ADA-compliant?
Yes, you must. With most websites failing accessibility tests and plaintiffs usually winning cases, ensuring ADA compliance saves you money and prevents lawsuits.
6. Do nonprofit websites have to comply with ADA?
Yes, nonprofits should also have accessible websites. Many nonprofit organizations have already faced legal cases for non-compliance.
So it is clear that website accessibility is an essential matter every business should seriously follow. ADA-compliant websites increase your audience and SEO standing to help avoid legal issues, enhance the user experience, and make your business inclusive.
Besides, accessible websites are easier to navigate thanks to their clear, consistent, easy-to-understand design and content. This leads to improved user experience and consequent website engagement.
So if you do not know how to make your website more accessible, it is better to leave it to the professionals.
This is where we can help. We at ADA Site Compliance are a team of professionals you can turn to for assistance. We are the #1 source for all ADA website compliance issues, with accessibility experts who know all the legal and regulatory requirements for website compliance.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.