ADA Web Compliance Guide

2020 Guide To ADA Web Compliance

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Target, Winn-Dixie, Dominos, Nike, Burger King, Fox News Network, Blue Apron, CVS Pharmacy, Hobby Lobby. What do these businesses have in common? It may come as a surprise, but all of these well known brands have been sued because of ADA web compliance. These accessibility lawsuits led to millions of dollars in settlements.

In fact, the number of demand letters filed increased by 300 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year. These are estimated to continue to rise in 2020. Similarly, nearly 98 percent of small business websites in the U.S. fail to meet accessibility requirements.

Keep reading for information on how to avoid a web accessibility lawsuit and download our free ADA website compliance checklist below.

What is ADA Compliance?

ADA Compliance was created in the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities. This includes:

  • Eliminate discrimination of people with disabilities
  • Set strict standards for enforcing the law
  • Allow the federal government to enforce these standards.

Review the entire amended Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

Many of the requirements have become widely accepted as best practices for business owners with a physical store location. Some accessibility guidelines include handicap parking, allowing service animals, accommodating wheelchairs or mobility devices and removing barriers to entry. It’s important to mention that each business will have different standards based on physical location and type of business.

Does ADA Compliance Apply To Websites?

The amendments added in 2018 to the Americans With Disabilities Act includes a provision that highlights web content and websites specifically.

The updated provisions included in Section III are better known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1. These recommendations were established to make web content more accessible to a wider range of people, including those with disabilities. WCAG 2.1 expands the initial recommendations due to changes of the web, technological advancements for those with disabilities and mobile accessibility.

Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, organizations that receive federal funding must be accessible to people with disabilities. Whereas, the ADA covers the private sector and includes both businesses and places of work. It requires those businesses to make accommodations for employees as well as customers.

Why Do You Need ADA Web Compliance?

There are several reasons why your website should be ADA compliant. First and foremost, neglecting ADA web compliance could leave your business susceptible to a lawsuit. As previously mentioned, the number of web accessibility lawsuits filed skyrocketed in 2019. This could lead to excessive settlements that many small businesses are unable to pay.

Secondly, the recommendations in WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are directly associated with the overall user experience on your website. It may be no surprise to you that Google weighs user experience heavily within its organic ranking algorithm. Additionally, the ADA standards overlap with SEO best practices. Effectively implementing these recommendations can have a positive impact on your organic search rankings and can help to increase sales.

What Does It Mean To Be Compliant?

Being fully compliant means that every user, including those with disabilities, can explore your site completely and have the same experience. This includes accessing all your content, navigating your site and fully engaging with all the site elements. 

Here are some commonly overlooked aspects that could leave you vulnerable.

Image Alt Tags and Captions

ALT tags are an alternative description of an image for search engines to use since they cannot see images. These tags help search engine crawlers and aid blind users by describing what is being displayed. Google weighs these tags heavily within its ranking algorithm and they fit the ADA standards for compliance.

Video Transcriptions, Captions and Tags

Like images, videos and other media should be optimized properly to be ADA compliant. This includes using targeted keyword phrases in the file name, title and description.

Additionally including a text transcript can help individuals using screen readers and provide search engines with keyword rich descriptive text. Lastly, videos should also include closed captioning.

Title Tags

The title tag provides context to search engine crawlers and helps users quickly identify if the information is relevant to them. Each page of your website should have a unique title tag.

Heading Tags

Including heading tags, or H tags, on your site can create an effective content hierarchy and target specific keyword phrases. They can also provide Google crawlers with a better idea of the most important topics of your website.

The H1 tag is the “headline tag” and should include the primary keyword of that page. H tags run from H1 through H6. Structuring H tags as an outline is recommended to establish the content hierarchy for screen readers.

Link Anchor Text

Anchor text is key to providing Google with relevant information about the content of a given page. These should also be descriptive to help the customer understand where that link will take them.

On-Site Sitemap

An HTML version of the sitemap on your website does offer several benefits. First, it’s a positive user experience that allows visitors with disabilities to easily navigate your site. Secondly, it can help crawlers find pages that may not be included in the XML version of your sitemap. Finally, it can help with adding additional uses of targeted keywords on your site.

Keyboard Control and Content Hierarchy

As mentioned previously, establishing a content hierarchy is important for establishing relevance within Google searches. It also plays a large role for users that navigate your site using keyboard navigation. Once created, users using their keyboard can easily tab to the next section or move from one page to another. 

Size of Text

Similar to optimizing your copy for mobile devices, ensuring your text is readable for individuals with vision issues is also important. Allowing those individuals the opportunity to increase or decrease the size of the text can help you meet the ADA standards.

Color and Contrast of Text

Using color alone to convey information should be avoided. Instead, for individuals with color blindness, adjusting the contrast helps increase the ability to read content on your website.

The Impact of ADA Compliance Tools

Technological advancements and new products are hitting the market daily. There are several tools available to audit your website for compliance to expensive all-in-one solutions.

We’ve partnered with the leading, fully-automated compliance tool on the market. This ensures your site is fully compliant from day one. Our fully customizable solution seamlessly integrates on your site and automatically updates to the newest regulations providing real-time ADA maintenance.

To schedule a free demo of our ADA web compliance tool fill out the form above.

We all know that maintaining and optimizing a website is time consuming. That is why these tools are so appealing to many business owners. However, a compliance tool alone will not provide a positive impact to your organic rankings.

We can’t overlook the multifaceted nature of both search engine marketing and user experience.  Together they play a massive role in growing your business. This means utilizing a proactive approach of both SEO best practices and a customized compliance tool.

What Now?

So now you have an idea of what it takes to become complaint, but what’s your next move?

First, complete a web compliance and site audit. We would be happy to review your site and offer recommendations for both compliance and full site audits. This may lead to a better understanding of other underlying issues that could be impacting your growth.

Most importantly, be honest with yourself when you see the results. Even if your site is compliant today, are you thinking about what’s next? If your results aren’t good, fill out the form above to schedule a call with one of our Strategists and get your free ADA website compliance checklist.

Second, start optimizing your site for compliance. Whether you take it on yourself or want to look into our solutions, get started sooner rather than later.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, As amended with ADA Amendments Act of 2008. (n.d.). ADA.gov. https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

Ada update: A primer for small business. (2011, March 16). ADA.gov. https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm

Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. (2008, December 11). World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/#intro-layers-guidance

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