ADA Compliance and Websites

The other day I was speaking with a long time client of mine who is a Real Estate Agent/Broker. He mentioned to me that there were whispers in the Reno/Sparks area Real Estate meetings that there may a requirement to ensure that all Real Estate websites in the area are up to date on ADA compliance. I thought that it would be a good time to take a moment to talk about what it means to be ADA compliant on the web.

The latest round of requirements came out in June 2018 with WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). There are four basic guidelines web designers must follow to make a site WCAG compliant. They fall into the categories of Perceivable, Operable, Understandable & Robust. Here are some of the basics for these categories.

ADA Compliance and Websites

Main Factors in ADA Compliance:

Perceivable:

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
    • This basically means that for all images you should have an Alt and Title tag to be used with screen readers. This also helps increase your sites SEO (Search Engine Optimization) score so you get a double bonus by doing this. Most content management systems like WordPress allow you to do this whenever you upload an image.
    • It is also good to have your image named something recognizable. Most cameras and cell phones name thier photos with numbers and letters (IMG-76423.jpg) but before uploading you should change the name to something more descriptive like 3-bedroom-home-reno.jpg. This isn’t necessarily a requirement but it is a great best practice when working on your web content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
    • This is basically saying that you should subtitle all prerecorded video content and provide a text version of all prerecorded audio & video content on your site so that the blind and deaf have alternatives to access the content.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
    • This is mainly a programmable area where we label each section of the site to be presented correctly with assistive technologies.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
    • This is the main one that we have been working with for years. It incorporates everything from the color of your site (to ensure the colorblind can see/read it), to audio control, to the ability to zoom in and read larger text without changing the layout of the site. There is a long list of items to take into consideration here.

Operable:

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
    • This means that all keyboard shortcuts and commands should be accessible. For example: when you use the Tab key to move from one part of a form to another.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content. Some examples are:
    • A lot of websites are designed with sliders that present information sequentially. These have to have the option to pause them so readers can have time to see all the information on each slide.
    • If a website has a timeout on logged in users, it must be set to warn the person that they are going to be logged out in X minutes (think about how your bank’s website works).
  • Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
    • This can be caused by flashing or fast moving objects which are just ugly anyway.
  • Help users navigate and find content.
    • Again, there is an entire list of things to do in this area. This includes bypassing sections of content by using things like hidden “Skip to Content” links, descriptive page titles, titled links, and heading order.
  • Make it easier to use inputs other than keyboard.
    • This section includes the usage of pointers (mouse) and other inputs. Basically you want to make sure the target that you want the user to click on is big enough for even the shakiest hand to hit.

Understandable:

  • Make text readable and understandable.
    • Here we discuss web content consisting some of the following: Set a default language on all pages, include definitions for unusual words and phrase, identifying what abbreviations mean, and use a reading level that is easy enough for someone with a lower secondary education level to understand.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
    • Some of these are basic like consistent navigation and identification across the entire site.
    • Others are just to be sure that the meaning of the content doesn’t change on an action, like moving your mouse over it.
      • Think of if you hover over an image and text appears that is not related to that image.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
    • Give error message when filling out forms and a description of how to correct it.
    • Prevent any errors that may occur especially with legal and financial data.
    • Add help icons and links for possibly confusing areas.

Robust:

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
    • This section is completely done through web development and programming.

If you have any questions about keeping your website up to date with ADA compliance please feel free to contact us and Inventive Web Design would be happy to help!

The majority of this information was taken from w3.org who one of the largest authorities on web design and web development in the world. You can find more information on ADA and WCAG compliance at: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/

Note: I am a web designer and a web developer and am writing this article to help current and future clients as well as anyone who reads it understand more about what ADA compliance on a website entails. That being said, I am not a lawyer and by following these guidelines you may not be completely compliant and therefore open to a lawsuit. Here at Inventive Web Design we always strongly suggest you have legal counsel review your web content.

Matthew Minten

Matt is a techy, web guy that loves to program but am also blessed with a creative streak. He does graphic design, web design, augmented reality and photography (and many other things). He believes that anything can be done on your website; if you can think it up, he can create it. Matt founded Inventive Web Design in Reno in 2009 and has been helping local business ever since.