Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

By on Oct 10, 2013

I recently received the following email from a state association:

Wondering if you have heard anything about websites and ADA compliance. One of our members brought this to me:

… “moved to head up the (state) department governing ADA Compliance [and] asked what we were doing at the agency and I told her we were making some changes to our website. She said the website ADA Compliance was one of the next steps that her department would be involved in and asked if ours was. I told her I was not sure, but would check with the people putting it together. Now, I do not know what ADA Compliance for a website means. Does it mean that it would have to talk for a blind person and allow them to converse back to us? Does it mean for a deaf person that certain functions would need to be available for them? I only know that ADA Compliance is required and wonder if ours is.”

This is a question that has not received much attention, frankly, because it has not seemed that important. I am intrigued with the comment above that “website ADA compliance was one of the next steps that her department would be involved in.”

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses and nonprofit services providers make accessibility accommodations to enable the disabled public to access the same services as clients who are not disabled. This includes electronic media and websites. While the ADA applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, even smaller businesses can benefit from ensuring that their websites are ADA compliant. Doing so opens your company up to more potential clients and limits liability. Web developers should include ADA compliant features in the original site and application plans.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has a long list of items that should be included in a website to make it ADA compliant. Most of the items listed revolve around making sure that image, video, audio, plug-in, and graphic elements have text associated with them that describe what the item is or a description of the visual content in the element.

Navigating the Internet is particularly challenging for people with limited or no vision. Many blind people use specialized web browsers and software that work with standard web browsers, like Internet Explorer, that have features enabling users to maximize their Internet use and experience. This screen reading software reads the HTML code for websites, and gives the user a verbal translation of what is on screen.

Web developers need to keep this in mind when creating a website. The best screen readers use naturalized voices and alter tone and inflection based on HTML tags, so choose layout elements carefully. It is also important to keep in mind that navigation is significantly slower when using a screen reader than it is for sighted people. Minimizing graphics also helps shorten reading times and speed navigation for disabled users.

Development tools and tutorials exist to help web designers meet compliance standards and go beyond to offer disabled users an enjoyable experience (and keep them coming back). More information is available at www.ada.gov.

What have you done to make your website ADA compliant? Let’s start a discussion.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Steve, Over the years I’ve had one client (a large bank) request an ADA compliant website. There was a lot of publicity about the Target lawsuit at the time, which in part, spurred the request. I haven’t heard much about website ADA compliance since, so I did a quick search when I read your newsletter today and found this article that says rules and guidelines for public websites may go into effect later this year.

    http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/58946-U-S-Proposes-ADA-Compliance-for-Ecommerce-Websites

    • Heather, thanks for the update and including the link. I also have not paid much attention to the ADA compliance question. But I was intrigued by the comment I included in the newsletter that at least one state has it on their radar.

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