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What is ADA compliance?

ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, which states that all electronic and information technology (like websites) must be accessible to people with disabilities. It is not the same as 508 compliance.

ADA, 508, WCAG are different

While each standard aims to make all information accessible to people with disabilities, they are all different. Check the table below for a quick summary.

Accessibility Standards

Summary ADA 508 WCAG
What Is It? A civil rights law that prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities in all areas of life, including when using electronic and information technology. A federal law that requires federal agencies to maintain and use information and communications technology that people with disabilities can use. An ISO standard set of guidelines for creating an accessible website for people with disabilities.
Who Is Affected? Local governments State governments Nonprofits Businesses Federal agencies Federal departments N/A
How Is Non-Compliance Handled? $55,000-$75,000 for first-time violation $150,000 for repeat violations Revoked funding if federally funded Formal complaints Civil lawsuits N/A
How Are They Different? Applies to the public and private sector Applies only to federal agencies and departments Serves as a reference for ADA or 508 website compliance
How Do I Make My Website Compliant? Create an ADA-compliant website using WCAG guidelines in-house Use ADA-compliant web design services Install an ADA compliance plugin (if using a WordPress site) Use WCAG to build a 508-compliant website in-house Hire a web design agency to create a 508-compliant website N/A

Who needs to follow ADA requirements?

  • State and local government agencies
  • Private employers with 15 or more employees
  • Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public

Even if ADA compliance doesn’t apply to you, it’s still important to create a site that everyone can use. Get a new ADA compliant website today.

What happens if your website isn’t ADA compliant?

Unfortunately, however, if your website isn’t ADA accessible, you are liable.

A lawsuit, for example, could be filed against your company if people with disabilities cannot access or use your site. Even if your business didn’t intend to discriminate or exclude people with disabilities from visiting or using your website, you could pay thousands of dollars in lawsuits.

That’s why getting answers to the following questions matters:

  • What is ADA compliance on websites?
  • Who does ADA compliance affect?
  • How do you become ADA compliant?

Even though the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t released official ADA compliance guidelines, it has provided recommendations. Your company wants (and needs) to use these recommendations to start making your site and user experience ADA compliant.

How can I achieve ADA compliance for my website?

The WCAG compiled all principles, which will be discussed in the next section, into an easy-to-follow checklist.

This checklist consists of three levels:

  • Level A: Build a website that some users can access.
  • Level AA: Build a website that almost all users can access.
  • Level AAA: Build a website that all users can access.

For ADA compliance, most organizations recommend meeting Level AA requirements.

The core principles that guide WCAG include:

  • Perceivable: You want users to have the ability to perceive all the information that appears on your site, like text, images, video, and more. Even if a user can’t see your website’s text or listen to your website’s video, you need to provide an alternative.
  • Operable: You want users to have the capabilities to navigate your site and use all its features. Any user, for example, should have the means to use your main navigation, as well as any site tools, like calculators.
  • Understandable: You want users to have the means to understand your website content. That means users can understand your site’s text, images, videos, and tools. For example, your site may include instructions for using a feature, like a calculator or a contact form.
  • Robust: You want users to have the ability to receive the same experience, even if using assistive technologies. People reading your content versus those using a voice reader, for example, should get the same content even if it’s delivered differently.

How to become ADA compliant with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines

If you’re looking to start with the Level AA WCAG 2.0 guidelines for ADA compliance, follow these rules:

RuleAction Required
Captions For all live video, provide captions. You can add captions to your live videos using software or professional services.
Audio descriptions Provide audio descriptions for all pre-recorded content. You can also add a link near the content that directs users to your audio description.
Contrast ratio Maintain a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and images of text. Exceptions include large text or images of large text, logotypes, or incidental text or images of text.
Text resizing Allow users to resize site text (without any assistive technology) up to 200%. The resize must not cause a loss of content or site functionality. This ADA compliance item does not apply to captions or images of text.
Images of text Avoid using images that feature mostly text to convey your content unless users can customize the image or the image is essential. If you want to use these kinds of images, like for pull quotes, substitute them using CSS, which can stylize text.
Navigation options Offer users more than one option for locating a page on your site, unless that page is the result or step in a process, like completing an online checkout. Adding an HTML sitemap, site search, and consistent navigation menu can help you accomplish this to-do.
Headings and labels Use headings or labels to describe the topic or purpose of content. Aim for descriptive and straightforward labels or headings. You should also label all site elements, like a pricing table or contact form.
Focus visible Anyone accessing your site with a keyboard should have the ability to see the keyboard focus indicator — or the outline that appears on a form field — on site elements like links, form fields, and menus. Add this feature on your website with CSS.
Language For any website content that isn’t in your default language, add a language attribute to the page. A site that uses English, for instance, may add a language attribute for a page with content in French.
Navigation consistency Provide a consistent navigation location and organization for users. Your navigation menu, for instance, should always appear in the same spot (like the left-hand side) and with the same menu items.
Identification consistency Site elements with the same function should have consistent identification. You can label and name these elements, for example, and use identical alt text for elements with the same purpose.
Error suggestion Offer users suggestions for fixing input errors, like the format of a phone number in a contact form. You can provide correction recommendations via text.
Error prevention Any pages that generate legal commitments or financial transactions, modify or delete user-controlled data, or submit user test responses must be reversible, checked for errors, and confirmed before submission. Create an order confirmation page, for example, or allow users to cancel orders within a specific period.

Need help becoming ADA compliant?

Achieving ADA compliance for your website can seem challenging, especially if your web design and development team doesn’t have much time available. Becoming ADA compliant, however, is critical, as a lawsuit could cost your business thousands of dollars.

If you want to make your website ADA accessible now, versus later, Mach 1 Design can help. Get a new ADA compliant website today.

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