Pagoda Blog

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

November 7, 2019

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population—25 million Americans—have some sort of disability. While not all of these disabilities may affect how someone interacts with your website, many do, and it’s your responsibility to ensure these individuals can effectively navigate the information that you’re providing. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) now applies not only to brick and mortar establishments but to websites as well. In 2018, there were 1,000 lawsuits related to the ADA accessibility of websites brought against businesses ranging from restaurants to ecommerce stores. 


Your website, regardless of the size of your business, should be fully compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and 2.1 to meet the needs of this significant portion of the population. If you’re uncertain whether or not your website is ADA accessible, read on for an overview of what it means to have an ADA compliant website and steps you should take to move toward compliance.  


What does it mean to have an ADA compliant website? 

We all know generally what an ADA compliant workplace looks like: It includes wheelchair ramps, ADA accessible bathrooms, handicapped parking spaces, and elevators if there are multiple stories. But what does an ADA compliant website look like? WCAG uses four criteria to measure a website’s accessibility: 


- Perceivable

- Operable

- Understandable

- Robust


So that’s a start, but what does it mean to have a perceivable or robust website? You can review all the guidelines for meeting these criteria on, but be forewarned that it’s a long, overwhelming list. The best place to start when determining your website’s compliance is to use a web accessibility evaluation tool to rate your site. also outlines several common problems found on many websites that make it difficult for users with disabilities to access the information. Below we review these problems and how to fix them: 


Images without ‘alt’ text

Individuals with a visual impairment most commonly use screen readers or a refreshable Braille display that dictates the text displayed on your website. When you include images on your website without including alternate or ‘alt’ text to describe that image, the screen reader or Braille display can’t translate the image to the user. (Search engines also can’t ‘read’ your images so alt text helps to improve your search rankings as well.) 


This is easily resolved by reviewing all images on your site and adding an alt text description. This description needs to accurately reflect the image displayed so that it’s clear what is being shown without someone actually seeing the image itself. For example, if your homepage displays a photo of an insurance agent meeting with a client, the alt text might read, “Photograph of an insurance agent meeting with a client.” As you can see, this is not the same as the title you would give to an image, such as ‘homeowners-insurance-consultation.jpg.’ 


Inaccessible document types

Not all documents can be read using technology like screen readers. For instance, PDF documents, although popularly used online, are not ADA accessible. Always provide a text-based format as well, such as HTML or RTF (Rich Text Format) to ensure accessibility. 


Unalterable colors and fonts 

For those with low vision, it is only possible to read a website in a specific color and font. Sometimes high contrast settings are needed, such as bold white or yellow letters on a black background or bold black text on a white or yellow background. Other times they require softer, more subtle color combinations to make the text legible. This doesn’t mean that you need to design your website in a specific color combination. To be compliant, you just need to ensure that your website is designed so that text, background colors, and font sizes can all be specified by the user to meet their needs. 


Inaccessible videos   

Like images, videos, slideshows and other multimedia content need to include some form of alternate text to accommodate those with visual or hearing impairments. This is especially important as video becomes the primary way that many websites share information, from the about page to vlogs and online trainings. Always provide captions so the video can be understood without sound (this is helpful for all users, as people aren’t always in an environment where they can listen to your content) and include audio descriptions for those unable to see the video. 


Content that requires a touchscreen or mouse

For ADA compliance, your website should be navigable using a keyboard alone. This means that users can pause or play videos using only the keyboard and you should be able to pause or slow down any automatic scrolling features. 


Distracting graphics

Minimize or eliminate any blinking or flashing graphics to ensure all users are able to understand the content. If you do include moving graphics, ensure users can pause them or disable that feature. It’s also important to understand that graphics flashing more than three times per second could induce seizures. 


The first steps towards ADA compliance  

If your current website has some of the above issues or rates as non compliant per a web accessibility evaluation tool, the first step is to include language in the footer of your website that states your business is in the process of ADA compliance. You can generate an accessibility statement through to ensure you include all necessary information. The next step is to reach out to your website developer or IT support to begin implementing a perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust website. Make sure you include a phone number or email address on your website so that all website visitors can easily get in touch, and inform all staff who interact with customers or clients of the accessibility options you offer or plan to offer.   


Once you’re in compliance, make sure you stay up to date with changing requirements by using this basic ADA checklist and checking for updates.  


Related posts: 


What is GDPR and is Your Business in Compliance?

How to Train Your Entire Team in Cyber Security 

Why Your Business Needs a Technology Update 


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