When you are designing and building a website, you are curating a space that is going to best accommodate your users and provide them with the best experience possible on your site. Are you accommodating your entire audience though? 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability. That is every one in four people. Different types of disabilities require different types of accommodations. Making your website more accessible can not only help your business in the long run, but can make your users feel seen and valued.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is in place to help people with disabilities to receive the appropriate accommodations for everyday life. This includes things like noises at crosswalks, reserved parking spaces, alternative text on websites, and so much more. Accommodations allow people with disabilities to access things that people without disabilities access easier.
In a digital world, accommodations can look different. That is why websites need to be ADA compliant. So how does a business make its website more accessible? One place to start is with the web content accessibility guidelines, or the WCAG.
There are three levels to the WCAG. The first level, is level A. Level A provides minimal accessibility features. If your website falls under level A, you should have some key features on your website to make it more accessible. This can include, alternative text on images, closed captions on video content, text descriptions on video and audio content, headings in logical order, no empty tags, and many other things. Ensuring that your website includes the bare minimum accommodations is important to do, especially if your target audience includes people with disabilities specifically.
If you want to step up your accommodation game, you can create a website that falls under level AA of the WCAG. Level AA provides mid-range accommodations. Level AA accommodations can include things such as pages on the site being accessible in different ways, redundant links on one page are removed, underlined text that is not a hyperlink is removed, and keyboard access works.
Making sure that your website is ADA compliant can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but there are a few key things to remember. The first is that your headings and titles should always be relevant and use user friendly terminology rather than just internal terminology. Another thing to remember when putting together your site is that color cannot be used to differentiate information. People with disabilities that are using screen readers cannot differentiate information if it is differentiated using color. Use bold and italic text instead with a high contrast color scheme.
Alternative text is another essential when it comes to making your site more accessible to those with disabilities. Descriptive text paired with images allows those who are visually impaired to still receive the information in the image. Contrasting colors are also important for the visually impaired because it allows them to tell colors apart. Websites should be able to be navigated just using a keyboard. Keeping information in a consistent location is also important because oftentimes if you have something like a menu bar in one place on one page, and move it on another page, it makes it hard for users to navigate.
Another important thing to avoid is using image based content, like PDFs, in place of text. Tools such as screen readers cannot read images, rendering the information as unreachable to the user. Including a skip navigation button at the top of every page can also help users that use screen readers. It cuts down on the amount of time that must be spent on a page because their screen reader will not have to go through the same thing over and over again on each page of your website.
Why does ADA compliance matter?
Understanding the different accessibility accommodations that can be made on your website to meet ADA requirements is one thing, but understanding the necessity of accessibility is another thing. Making sure that your website is ADA compliant is good for not only legal reasons, but also to better your brand and help your website’s search engine optimization.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly known as the ADA, is in place to help people with disabilities get the accommodations that they need to get the same experience as those without disabilities. The ADA is not meant to make it harder for businesses to operate, but is in place to create equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Making sure that your website is accessible is important because if it is not accessible and ADA compliant, your business could suffer a lawsuit. While it may seem like a hassle at first, making your website ADA compliant is the best thing to do in the long run.
Another reason to make sure that your website is ADA compliant is that it will help your website’s search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO. When your website is more accessible, it shows up higher on search engines. Big search engines like Google look to see if a website is accessible or not, and puts the websites that are more accessible higher up in search results than those that are not accessible. Making your website ADA compliant also will increase your site’s traffic because more people are able to actually use and navigate your website. 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Making your website more accessible with things like alternative text and the ability to navigate with a keyboard, using contrasting colors, allows for more people to access your website and be able to actually receive the information and navigate it successfully. ADA compliance is not just about setting up rules that make it harder for businesses to operate, it is about making sure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and access to things that people without disabilities have.
When it comes to building a website, there are a lot of things to consider and think about. ADA compliance is one of them. Making your website ADA compliant not only can save you down the line from legal trouble, but can increase your site traffic and improve your SEO because you are able to reach an audience that was untapped before. Do not hesitate to make your website more accessible today!