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ADA Compliance

Let us try to make ADA compliance issue a little clearer; we will go over following points as simple to understand as possible:

  • What it actually means?
  • Why is it now a big deal?
  • Who needs to be worried?
  • What can you do about it?

What does ADA compliance actually mean?

Short for the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA became law in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. Bear in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act, at least for Title III (private sector businesses), only applies to businesses that have 15 or more employees.

In January 2018, some new federal regulations took effect. All federal institutions’ websites must now meet at least AA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0. We’ll explain what that means a little later.

Why Is this so suddenly a big deal?

With legal precedent changing, ADA compliance related lawsuits are becoming more successful, and the courts are seeing more of them as a result. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to private sector businesses. As of late, those protections are more frequently expanding into digital territory, since web and mobile applications become necessary in our daily lives.

Who needs to be ADA compliant?

Any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA compliant web presence. “Public accommodation” could apply to most things depending on who is making the interpretation and decision. Generally, however, this would refer to B2C, retail, or any business the general public should be able to easily access, use and understand.

What needs to be done in order to be compliant?

It’s very simple – just follow all guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to A and AA level.

But, it’s not as bad as it seems. The website you have probably already meets some of these rules and others will take a web developer some time to bring up to compliance level. However, some items are much more difficult to fix, depending on the situation:

  • A minimum contrast ratio of text against the background must be achieved, which will probably significantly impact your website design.
  • Website must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This includes things like “skip navigation” buttons and will involve manually setting a tabindex on each separate page.
  • Site should also be navigable with screen reader software. This is very difficult to test and can involve some arduous fixes, similar to what is necessary for keyboard navigation.
  • Website must handle text scaling of up to 200%, without causing content-breaking layout issues. This will be more difficult to fix in some complex designs.

Can I check all of this?

A variety of software can be used to do some tests for ADA compliance:

  • Powered by WebAIM, WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) can be a good starting point, although it can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for alerts and contrast issues.
  • Google’s open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages Lighthouse can help generate a report on potential accessibility issues. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, and more.

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

  • Manual testing for contrast ratio (using this calculator can help).
  • Screen reader software must be manually tested.
  • Keyboard only navigation should also be manually tested.

 

We hope this sheds a little light into the situation and what does it mean for your company.

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