The purpose of your website is to reach your customers and potential customers. Everything about your site should contribute to this goal — the headlines you write, the images you choose, and your website accessibility.
Making your website accessible ensures that all of your website visitors, including those with disabilities, have a good user experience. And it ensures that everyone is able to access the information you want to share.
ADA Website Accessibility
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It guarantees that they have the same opportunities as everyone else, like employment opportunities, the ability to purchase goods and services, participate in government programs, etc.
This law does not explicitly address website compliance, but the Department of Justice has interpreted that part of it does apply to websites. ADA’s Title III requires that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally accessible to people with disabilities.
There has not been legislation or court rulings to formally adopt any website accessibility requirements into law. However, many organizations look to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). By following the WCAG, you can ensure your website is accessible to all users and avoid potential lawsuits.
4 Principles of Website Accessibility
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines explain how to make web content more accessible to those with disabilities. The WCAG is updated over time — WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be published by June 2022. WCAG considers four principles, which are necessary for anyone to access and use web content:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This is because people will consume your website using different senses. For example, a sighted person sees your website content, but a blind person may listen to it using a screen reader.
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that people must be able to operate the website interface using different means. For example, someone with a physical disability may use the keyboard or voice recognition instead of a mouse to interact with your website.
- Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable. This includes using clear and simple language.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. You should provide content that works reliably with all of the different devices people may use to access the web.
These four principles of website accessibility were first outlined in WCAG 2.0 in 2008. Since then, all of the guidelines are organized around these principles. Each of the 13 guidelines also includes “Success Criteria” with more detail as to how to implement them on your website.
Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Provide Text Alternatives
Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language. Images on your website should still convey meaning to those who cannot see them. This is achieved through alternative text or “alt text” which provides a simple description used to translate an image to braille, speech, or another form.
Provide Options to View Media
Provide alternatives for time-based media. For example, audio and video on your website should be accessible for those who cannot see or hear them. An alternative would be including text transcripts or synchronized captions.
Develop Adaptable Content
Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example, simpler layout) without losing information or structure. Your website should be compatible with the different means that people use to consume it.
Develop Distinguishable Content
Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background. For example, links should not rely solely on color to communicate information. Vision-impaired users also need contrast between text and background elements.
Provide Keyboard Accessible Functions
Make all functionality available from a keyboard. Not everyone who visits your website is able to use a mouse, so your website should be operable without one. People with fine motor control problems, like Parkinson’s Disease, may use a keyboard or voice recognition software.
Provide Adjustable Timing
Provide users enough time to read and use any content. If there is a time limit to any action on your website, like purchasing an item in a shopping cart, the user should have the ability to adjust the time limit. This is necessary for people with comprehension difficulties, physical impairments, or anxiety under time constraints.
Avoid Blinking & Flashing Content
Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures or physical reactions. For example, any content that blinks or flashes more than 3 times a second may cause a seizure. Other physical reactions include dizziness or nausea triggered by certain types of animations or movements.
Utilize Navigational Tools
Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are. Buttons or links on your website should make it clear what their destination is. Use page titles communicate to screen readers (and search engines) what page the user is on.
Accommodate Various Inputs
Make it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs beyond a keyboard. Besides using a mouse, someone visiting your website may use a touch screen or voice-to-text to initiate actions. Make links and buttons easy to differentiate using voice commands.
Provide Readable Content
Make text content readable and understandable. When you use plain language on your website, people of all skill levels can understand it.
Design Predictable Features
Make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways. If a website behaves differently than it is supposed to, it can confuse your customers. This is especially true for those with impaired vision or other disabilities – so keep things consistent.
Offer Assistance to Users
Help users avoid and correct mistakes. You can do this by letting your website visitors review their forms before submitting them. Communicate error messages using text so people can understand what’s wrong.
Offer Compatible Solutions
Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies. This means the code of your website should support a range of devices and assistive technologies.
Why Website Accessibility Matters for Your Business
Every piece of your website helps convey a message to your potential customers — testimonial videos, captivating images, or call-to-action buttons. It’s essential that all your potential customers have the means to understand your message and engage with your business. Following website accessibility guidelines helps you ensure that is possible.
At Best Websites, our expert team utilizes best practices that facilitate accessibility for your site. Additionally, we can evaluate the specific needs of your industry and help you meet any ADA compliance requirements. Learn more by requesting a 15-minute call with our team.