In 1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act was instituted to protect against people with disabilities, particularly in the workplace or commercial spaces. Of course, this was before the internet so the law was initially only created for physical commercial spaces. However, over the past decade or so, as more and more commerce is done online, there have been new interpretations of the ADA and “recommended” guidelines that websites should follow. I’m not super familiar with this law, so don’t quote me on this, but from what I understand these are still (strongly encouraged) guidelines, but could be enforceable in the future. So if you are doing business online, now is a good time to work towards being ADA compliant!
What does this mean for my website?
Well, a good place to start (if you already have a website) is this ADA compliance checker at SiteImprove.com. It will give you a good overview of how accessible your site is, and what you can do to improve it. I tested my site and it was 84% compliant. . .not bad, but now I’m working on getting it to 100%!
If you haven’t built your site yet, or are thinking of a rebuild, now is a great time to learn about accessibility so you can incorporate it in your new site! If you’re working with a designer/ developer, be sure to mention this to them as soon as possible. If you’re building or maintaining a site yourself, you can use this handy checklist to make sure you’re on your way to being ADA compliant:
- All media files and maps should have an “alt” tag (this is a description of the image that will be used by readers for people with vision impairment)
- All your online forms (such as contact form, email signup, etc) should have descriptive html tags
- All hyperlinks should have a descriptive anchor text
- All pages on your website have “skip navigation” links (essentially allowing visually impaired people to skip past redundant navigation on every page)
- All the text content should be structured using proper heading tags (H1 followed by H2, H3, etc.)
- All PDF files should be accessible (if you’re using Acrobat to create pdfs, they have a built-in accessibility feature)
- All videos should have subtitles, transcripts and audio description
- The color contrast of your web pages should be sufficient – for example, don’t put white text on pale blue background! (you can test your site’s color contrast here)
- All fonts should be accessible – simple, sans-serif fonts are best, especially for important text, size should be relatively large
- All HTML tables should be populated with column headers, row identifiers and cell information
- All audio files on your website should have a written caption
- All call to action buttons on your website should have an accessible name and an ARIA label (an attribute designed to help screen readers attach a label to an otherwise anonymous HTML element.)
- All your website should be accessible with keyboard navigation – aka the “tab” key.
- Have a website accessibility policy page – This is particularly important for businesses in the health and wellness genre. Learn more about how to create this page here.
- Have easily locatable contact information to allow users to request accessibility information