Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in the United States on July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities and is meant to ensure disabled US citizens, regardless of a specific disability, are provided with the same opportunities as non-disabled citizens.

If you operate in one of the 12 categories of public accommodation (as categorized by the ADA), which includes just about every business that provides goods or services to the public, your business is required by the ADA to make certain modifications to serve disabled customers and keep your business accessible to all.

Historically, ADA requirements have been associated with issues related to the physical accessibility of a business’s facilities by disabled persons. You’ve likely witnessed common ADA requirements being addressed by businesses in the form of handicap-accessible parking, wheel-chair ramps, elevators, etc. As reliance on websites continues to grow, so too have concerns about the accessibility of websites for disabled people.

Why Should I Care About the ADA & My Business Website’s Accessibility?

While ADA focus has traditionally been on facilities, digital accessibility concerns are growing rapidly in importance. Reading the tea leaves, it likely won’t be long before site issues that prevent a disabled person from being able to engage with a business website like everyone else become a focus of ADA enforcement.

In fact, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, website accessibility is not a new concern of the ADA or the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ actually assumed the position that ADA applies to web content too all the way back in the late 1900’s (love wording it that way) - in 1996! Realistically, it’s probably only a matter of time before ADA requirements related to website accessibility are enforced with fines and other penalties to ensure accessibility guidelines are met.

What Makes Website Accessibility Concerns So Important Now?

The Covid pandemic led to many communities in the US experiencing strict restrictions that forced businesses to adjust the way they interact with customers, to a profound degree. With brick-and-mortar interactions becoming a less, or in some cases a completely non-viable way means of continuing to conduct business, websites became a primary means of engaging prospective customers. The volume of businesses moving online continues to increase at a rapid pace, driving greater customer reliance on websites and further solidifying the need for sites to meet ADA requirements and best-practices.

As restrictions are loosened and life returns to a more normal state, brick-and-mortar interactions will undoubtedly rebound to some extent, but the shift towards digital sales and customer engagement has been profound, and is unlikely to revert back to pre-Covid behaviors entirely. As such, smart business owners will move towards an ADA-compliant website in the near future to protect their business legally and civilly, and to ensure they’re viewed as good stewards of the online community.

Accessibility Is Great, but Is It a Requirement?

Regardless of whether you own a business or not, you’re likely familiar with reserved parking spots for people with disabilities, wheelchair ramps, elevators, and other popular workplace implementations that arose from the ADA, but what about the internet? Does ADA impact your business website? Are you beholden to certain accessibility requirements to make your website usable by people with disabilities?

According to Title III of the ADA, businesses that are open to the public are “required to provide full and equal enjoyment of their goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to people with disabilities”. These businesses must also “take steps to provide appropriate communication aids and services”.

While enforcement has not caught up to policy quite yet, the fact remains that the ADA and DOJ have identified explicitly that website accessibility is a requirement, and not simply best-practice.

As such, responsible site owners and webmasters will adopt accessibility as a required component of website development in the near future.

Website Accessibility Checklist

If you’d like to audit your website for accessibility issues, we’ve provided the below resources to assist.

Auto-Detect Accessibility Apps

These tools will run an automated accessibility check of your website. Not all issues identified will apply to all websites, but these tools can be used to quickly gauge how much work may be necessary for your site to be considered ADA compliant.

SiteImprove Accessibility Hub
WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool

We recommend performing a manual audit of your site before using the above tools, as they work better for verifying the successful implementation of all necessary site corrections. Of course, if you do not have the technical expertise, development experience, or time to perform a manual check, the apps above should suffice for a general understanding of the current accessibility of your site.

Website Accessibility Checklist - Downloadable

We’ve created a simple PDF checklist that you can download and use to perform a manual accessibility audit of your site, free of charge. Once you’ve completed the audit and made any necessary corrections, we recommend using one of the automated apps above to verify all issues have been addressed. The checklist has been simplified to the greatest extent possible, but a basic level of website development knowledge is necessary to address all items.

At SEO Idaho™, we strive to make the websites we build fast, secure, simple-to-use, visually appealing, and marketing focused. We’re also dedicated to ensuring our builds are ADA compliant for those clients who fall under one of the 12 categories of business that must comply with ADA policies. For assistance with making your site ADA compliant, feel free to contact the website design and development experts at SEO Idaho™ online or give us a call at (208) 759-0777.