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How to Create an ADA-Compliant Website: A Checklist

Melanie Lenaghan Melanie Lenaghan  |  
Nov 19, 2019
 
This year, Google searches for "ADA compliance" and "website ADA compliance" have skyrocketed. More and more organizations are realizing the benefits of compliance (and the penalties for not complying), and that's driving a surge of ADA compliance. If you're unfamiliar with what it is, why it's important, and how to get started, then this post is for you.
 

What does ADA Compliance mean?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. According to ada.gov, the Attorney General has responsibility for publishing regulations implementing the requirements of title II (state and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the ADA. 

Title III of ADA includes websites as “places of public accommodations”. Simply put, it’s the law to ensure your website follows these regulations just like a restaurant or a business is required to be accessible to those with disabilities.
 

Why is it important to be compliant?

For starters, it’s the right thing to do. If that’s not reason enough to be compliant, you could be dealing with a lawsuit. According to adatitleiii.com, there were 814 lawsuits in Federal Court in 2017 due to allegedly inaccessible websites. In 2018, that number jumped 177% to 2,258 lawsuits; 2019 is projected to be even higher. 
 
There are also added benefits for being ADA compliant. If you are following best practices, your content will be well structured (which helps search engines better crawl your content - which is good for SEO). And if Google can better crawl your content, sees more visitors clicking on your content, and sees users spending more time on your site, that will help improve your ranking in their search engine results.
 

I understand its importance. Now what?

Audit your site to get a baseline of where you're at. There are many automated testing tools out there, but I prefer Google’s Lighthouse Audit tool. You can find it right in Chrome’s dev tools. This is a free tool that can locate issues and recommend fixes. There is also the ARC Toolkit Chrome plugin by The Paciello Group that is helpful as well. 

Make sure to document your progress. That could come in handy if any legal trouble did arise.
 
Note: Applying fixes takes time. It’s a good idea to look at your analytics and start by fixing your high traffic pages.
 

The ADA Compliance Checklist:

  1. Use semantic HTML whenever possible so screen readers can properly navigate your site. Screen readers can read out headings and paragraphs. It allows you to jump to the next or previous heading. There is also built-in keyboard tabbing functionality for certain elements.
  2. UI controls – use buttons, links, form elements, and labels appropriately.
  3. Use the html label element to associate text with form elements.
  4. Use clear language for links and buttons. Instead of “Read More”, try “Learn how to be compliant”.
  5. Accessible data tables – ensure you are using <th> and <caption>.
  6. Use alt text and titles for images (except for decorative images). Make sure they are descriptive of what the image is displaying.
  7. Ensure there is enough color contrast between background and foreground colors.
  8. Confirm that id attributes are unique.
  9. Add a [lang] attribute to the <html> element.
  10. Check if your third-party tools are compliant.
  11. Add an accessibility statement to your website. W3.org has a nice tool that helps you build an effective statement.
 

Test and Improve

Although this is a high-level checklist, following these guidelines will go a long way. Make ADA testing a regular part of your QA process, and utilize the automated tool’s feedback to make improvements. A website should always evolve; therefore, revisit this testing every few months or so. 
 

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, applying ADA fixes takes time, knowledge, and effort. It’s also okay to reach out for help from an expert. Ensuring you are obeying the law, gaining SEO benefits, and providing value to your users make this effort a no-brainer. 

If you haven’t started already, I recommend starting today. If you have any questions about how to get started, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.
 
Web Development

 

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