What Is Website ADA Compliance & Why Is It Important?

ADA Compliance for Websites

Recent regulations now require web designers to build websites that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If a designer / developer fails to craft a website with the ADA guidelines in mind for a business entity, there is potential for the business to face legal consequences.

It’s now more important than ever before to ensure your website is fully accessible to everyone.

What Does It Mean to Be ADA Compliant?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) distributed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for accessible design back in September 2010. These standards express that all electronic data and information technology must be available to individuals with disabilities. The ADA contrasts from Section 508 guidelines, which are an alteration to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and apply to all data, including PC equipment, programming, websites and online documentation.

In layman’s terms, a website needs to be accessible for everyone.

Who Do ADA Regulations Apply To?

ADA regulations apply to private employers with 15 or more employees, publicly-facing businesses and all government agencies. Failure to comply with ADA guidelines could result in penalties.

How Does ADA Compliancy Apply to the Web?

Businesses who operate a website online must comply with ADA regulations and make their content accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. This simply means that a website must be designed to be accessible to the deaf, blind or those who navigate by voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies. Websites must consider font sizes for everyone and comply with minimum standards, color palettes used on a site, captioning and alt text for images, image accessibility and functionality to work with screen reading devices.

The Bottom Line for Small Businesses

The key thing for small business owners to remember is that ADA compliancy only applies if you have 15 or more employees and operate a business at least 20 weeks out of the year. If you operate a small company with just a few employees or you are a solopreneur, you are likely okay to fly under the radar. Regardless, it is recommended to comply with ADA regulations to make a site accessible for everyone. If a site is inclusive to everyone, it ultimately means more traffic.

Big Business Case Study: Dominos Pizza

Dominos Handed ADA Compliance Suit from Federal Government
In a national case about ADA regulations and web development, Dominos came under fire for not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The national pizza chain failed to offer an experience that was available to everyone, including blind customers who were unable to appropriately use the site. Specifically, the plaintiff in the case could not fully use Dominos’ website through screen-reading software.

Dominos fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where the company was denied an appeal. The company argued that the law as outdated and should not apply to modern websites and apps. The Supreme Court felt otherwise:

Each defendant must figure out how to make every image on its website or app sufficiently accessible to the blind, how to render every video or audio file sufficiently available to the deaf, or how to provide content to those who cannot operate a computer or mobile phone,” the pizza chain had argued. “Businesses and nonprofits must maintain that accessibility as their online content constantly changes and grows through links to other content.

While this level of regulation would not apply to a small business website or app, the case does go to show that government agencies are strictly enforcing ADA compliancy more than ever before.

If you do operate a small business website, employ 15 people or more and operate a minimum of 20 weeks out of the year, you will need to make sure your site is compliant with ADA regulations to avoid legal ramifications.

ADA & SEO

We’re often asked if there is a correlation between ADA compliance and search engine optimization. While there is no concrete data to say there is a correlation to higher rankings, we do know Google is in favor of including everyone. ADA compliance lends itself to a favorable user experience, which is a critical component of successful SEO.

Basic fundamentals of SEO will also help with improved ADA compliance. Well-written title tags are great for screen reading devices, descriptive alt text is a must for the visually impaired, and proper heading taxonomy ensures the content of a site is structured for everyone.

What You Can Do

Take a look at your targeted keywords and see who in the search engine result page is ADA compliant. You’ll most likely notice they are outranking other websites because Google sees them as inclusive to everyone and wants to promote them in results.

How Do We Approach ADA Compliance?

Whether we build a site from the ground up, take over an existing site for maintenance or work on a site as part of an SEO campaign, ADA compliance is at the top of our list. We test sites through WAVE and leverage a variety of 3rd party tools to ensure compliance is always met. Plugins we use also allow users to increase or decrease text size, change and invert color palettes on the fly and point out any links on the page.

Remember, accessibility is inclusion and there’s no reason to exclude people from your website.

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