Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted before modern technology was readily available, its language has changed with the times, so it still applies to today’s innovations. One example of this is that ADA policies apply to “places of public accommodation,” which initially meant destinations such as community parks and municipal sidewalks and certain business locations, or types of other commercial or residential properties, etc. But it also includes “places” one would reach through websites and mobile apps. They, too, fall under ADA, and so it is important we understand those protections and accommodate them.
Just a few examples of compliance include digital accommodations that address issues related to vision, cognition, and seizure prevention. Enhancing readability and focus, minimizing visual disruption. Making an online presentation, navigation, and intuitiveness more user-friendly to all types of users.
This report revealed that nearly 97% of the websites surveyed had some level of WCAG 2 accessibility failures. In this day and age, a website can’t be called accessible unless it has been specifically designed to be. And given that digital accessibility has recently been recognized as a civil rights issue, more and more website owners are starting to take action by making their sites accessible. It would be good if website owners voluntarily comply with the ADA, but unfortunately, to force them to do so, legal actions have been needed.
Created by the W3C, the WCAG standard is considered to be the benchmark for website accessibility. By following this simple standard, you can be sure that your booking page and website are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
Let’s have a look at the nitty-gritty details about ADA and WCAG.
Why is ADA Compliance important?
It’s federally mandated for federal and federal-funded websites to be ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliant as per the Section 508 rule. But it’s just as important for other businesses to have websites that are accessible and fully ADA and WCAG-compliant.
ADA-compliant sites are not just accessible to those with disabilities but also protect your business from lawsuits that can come up if it isn’t ADA-compliant. If you want to provide a website that is accessible to a more general audience, you may need to consider how your site will adhere to local accessibility laws.
Who does ADA Compliance Apply to?
The ADA laws outline obligations that apply to public businesses and accommodations under separate Titles. Title III pertains to people with disabilities and their right to access places of public accommodation. At the same time, Title II explains how websites can be redesigned so they are equally accessible for everybody.
Websites and digital content must follow best practices for public accommodations to ensure that their presence is up to date. This includes mobile apps, webpages, links, etc.
The ADA compliance applies to the following organizations
- Government agencies
- Private employers with at least 15 employees
- Businesses that are operating for the benefit of the public
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. They cover websites, applications, and other digital content. WCAG is an international accessibility standard. It was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and sponsored by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
There are three levels of conformance, as shown below
Sites that don’t meet Level A WCAG 2.0 requirements could make people with disabilities unable to use your site. It’s important that you meet these standards to ensure accessibility and usability for everyone.
Some notable WCAG 2.0 Level A requirements:
- Video captions
- Alternatives to text
- Easy to navigate with a keyboard
- Meaning is conveyed through only a single property like size, color and shape
- Should not have keyboard traps
WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance is the web standard used in most regulations around the world, including ADA conformity. In order to meet this standard, websites must be usable and understandable for those with disabilities. The WCAG website offers a comprehensive list of the accessibility requirements that you may need to consider to meet this standard. Though your site may currently not be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant, you can use a checklist to get there.
Some notable WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements:
- The screen reader should be able to convey status updates
- Accurate labels for form fields
- Alt text for images to convey their meaning
- Headings used in a logical order
- Consistent navigation elements all through the site
Compliance at this level will make your site more accessible to the maximum number of users and easy for people to use. While Level AAA conformance would be great for equalizing the web experience of all users, it is not recommended as a general policy because it is not possible for all to meet the criteria.
If your website caters to the elderly or individuals with disabilities, WCAG Level AAA compliance can help make it easier for them to navigate and use your site. By attaining AAA compliance, you would show that you are especially thoughtful about the needs of your visitors.
Some notable WCAG 2.0 AAA requirements:
- Easy to interpret audio or video content through sign language
- Completing activities is not essentially tied to timing
- 7:1 color contrast
- Context-sensitive help available
Is ADA Compliance Mandatory for Websites?
Under federal law, web accessibility is not required, but some local and state governments make it mandatory. Legally and ethically speaking, when designing a site, it is the responsibility of the designer to make sure they proactively include web accessibility.
The User Benefits of Website Compliance
Millions of people have trouble with colors, text size, or navigating around a website. These are just some of the many reasons to consider accessibility features in your website design.
The term for software that helps users make their way around the Internet is typically called assistive technology. These platforms can come in many different forms, including:
- Eye trackers
- Speech recognition software
- Screen readers
- Automatic contrast adjustments
Globally internet-enabled businesses generate trillions of dollars. It is understandable that the use of internet platforms and devices has become increasingly desired all over the world.
By following the WCAG and ADA guidelines, you ensure that your website is just as beneficial for disabled users as it is for all other segments of your audience.
Considering the broad demographics that they target, retailers can improve the online experience for a large portion of their audience. Every brand will have customers who have disabilities. Such people will be able to see the benefits of an interface that accommodates them. They will really appreciate the opportunity to interact with your website or app without having to struggle.
The Business Benefits of ADA Compliance
About 13% of the U.S. population of approx. 330 million people report some form of disability and 60% of individuals with a disability have home internet access. That’s roughly 25 million individuals who can benefit from a compliant website. Mobile phone access makes the number even larger. That said, the benefits of accessibility to your website are in addition to the obvious ones because you unlock the goodwill and purchasing power of this additional audience.
People with disabilities can easily become customers with significantly more potential money to spend on your business.
The benefits of ADA compliance are undeniable, and this connection to user experience is an important piece of that. But there is even more up-side you’ll see – ADA compliance positively impacts your business in many different ways.
The most apparent reason behind embracing ADA is to enable a positive experience for users. Another reason is to be legally compliant. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that the number of lawsuits related to violations of Title III of the ADA has skyrocketed in recent years.
Domino’s and the Golden State Warriors have been sued for not making their websites ADA accessible in recent years.
Compliance with ADA is necessary for any business but can be especially crucial in public-private partnerships. Compliance typically means competitive advantage and a potential differentiator from your competition.
Compliance with WCAG 2.0 and ADA is important and can make your website more accessible to people using different technologies. The goal here is to develop a website that’s accessible to people with disabilities, which can enable users, improve your online business presence and help you avoid lawsuits.