ADA Compliance, should you be concerned?

ADA Compliance, should you be concerned?

ADA Website Compliance is not new. Standards for this have been around since 1998. The main thinking is that you don’t need to do it for your website. Only if you are hiring a web designer or developer that writes compliant code.

But are you adding content that has the proper tags for SEO and HTML markup? You’ve won most of the battle in ADA compliance if you are. 

ADA has a broad scope and it applies to:

  • State and local government.
  • Public and private spaces.
  • Employment.
  • Building codes.
  • Transportation.
  • Telecommunication.

What Do I Need To Do To Be Compliant?

Why that’s simple, just follow all 61 guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level! Sound simple? Sorry, I’m being sarcastic.

It’s not as bad as it seems though. Your site probably already meets many of these rules and others will only take a web developer their time to bring you up to par. However, there are some items that are much more difficult to fix depending on the situation.

  • Text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
  • Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes things like skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tabindex everywhere.
  • Your site should be navigable with screen reader software. This can be difficult to test and can involve some arduous fixes similar to what is necessary for keyboard navigation.
  • Your site must handle text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout issues. Once again, this may be more difficult to fix in some complex designs.

How Do I Check All Of This?

A variety of software can be used to test for ADA compliance. But if you are on WordPress, it’s a lot easier than you think. But if not, you can try these tools:

  • WAVE is a good start, but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues.
  • Lighthouse can help generate a report on potential issues.
  • Manual testing for contrast ratio using this calculator.
  • Manual testing with screen reader software
  • Manual testing with keyboard only navigation

The automated tools will catch a lot of the simple issues, but manual testing is often still going to be required for nearly all websites if you want to ensure you are meeting requirements.

AAA vs AA Compliance

Depending on your needs I can’t answer if you should be A, AA, or AAA. That’s up to you and how well your site remains usable for all visitors, not just those with disabilities.

WordPress has quite a few plugins to use for ADA compliance testing. One of the ones I like actually places a annoying warning above the content editor for each page or post.

WordPress ADA Plugin
WordPress ADA Plugin warning dialog box

Until you meet ADA compliance, it stays there, but gives you help to resolve the issues in your content. But again, that is you on-page content. There’s the code, and media files.

ADA Compliance WordPress Plugin in Gutenberg Editor for blog post
ADA Compliance WordPress Plugin in Gutenberg Editor for blog post

Upon the release of WordPress 5.0 ADA was one of the biggest issues that sadly were missed. Speculation was that 5.0 was released to time with WordCamp Nashville. At that time 280 open tickets existed for Gutenberg Editor.

Therefore, fo ADA reasons, the classic editor is available as a plugin. I predict it will be for quite some time, and we will have two types of editors for WordPress. At least until this issues, and others, are resolved.

I personally have been using Gutenberg on my site. It’s been buggy on the editor for scrolling, and as far as other compliance issues, I’m not sure I’ll stay with the current release.

WordPress 4.9.9 is stable, and thus runs many production sites online still that I know of making your hosting more important and using their security. Such as WP Engine or other managed services for WordPress hosting.

ADA source: https://www.w3.org/TR/2018/REC-WCAG21-20180605/#identify-input-purpose

Additional items

Additionally, in February 2018, Congress passed the  ADA Education and Reform Act, a bill designed to make it harder for disabled Americans to sue businesses for discrimination. Republican lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill argue that the law will help curb “frivolous” lawsuits, while opponents have argued that this law will gut the ADA, essentially giving businesses little reason to follow the ADA guidelines at all.

source – https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ada-compliant-website/200106/

You can read more about that bill here .

What About ADA and SEO?

Well if you are optimizing your images, then you are probably close to ADA compliance. But you should dive deeper anyway into that media folder. SEO’s include and consider with images for example:

  • Alt text
  • Captions
  • Image Filename
  • Title text
  • Compliant HTML

These help ranking, but also cover your bases on ADA. But be careful of the fear mongering that is happening. If you are managing municipality sites, schools, and other institutions, you may want to address ADA.

But before you panic, understand that your risk of lawsuit might not be as high. Unless you have not been keeping an eye on your compliance or your sites terribly dated in its design.

ADA is not going away, and the Department of Justice has made it clear that these legal requirements are coming. Optimizing websites ADA compliance will serve to create better content. That makes it usable by more people, with or without disability.

Web design best practices

Focus on making your content available in different forms for different devices and audiences. Try to design your website logically. Therefore it will be easy to use, and make your website technically sound.

I've built brands and created online experiences since I started my own company in 2008 called Capstone Creations. Today I help business owners develop strategies that are geared for growth and conversion optimization using WordPress website development and design. I love digital strategy. If it's in advertising, I love participating building teams and guiding companies to discovering new avenues of revenue.

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