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ADA Compliance Checklist for Websites

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Summary: Here’s a primer on ADA compliance and accessibility criteria for websites, and an easily digestible checklist for website owners to make sure their websites are compliant.

Website owners are required by law to make their websites compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

Failing to conform to the ADA doesn’t just put businesses at risk of potential fines and lawsuits, but effectively shuts out millions of individuals with disabilities from accessing the content and services of their websites.

Here’s a primer on ADA compliance and accessibility criteria for websites, and an easily digestible checklist for website owners to make sure their websites are compliant.

Computer monitor showing internet browser with the United States Department of Justice seal

What Is ADA Compliance?

The ADA ensures people with disabilities are protected from discrimination, including in “places of public accommodation.” Even though the ADA doesn’t specifically mention websites or digital accessibility, the Department of Justice (DOJ) considers the internet a place of public accommodation, and recently issued guidance confirming that the ADA applies to web accessibility.

ADA compliance means that any business open to the public is required to make their online content and services accessible to people who rely on assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to navigate the internet. Unfortunately, many businesses often don’t learn about ADA compliance until they are served a lawsuit or legal demand letter.

Why should your website be ADA-compliant?

People with disabilities comprise 26% of the U.S. adult population and over one billion people worldwide, so the decision to ensure accessibility to online content and services is first of all one of inclusivity and ethics. 

Investing in accessibility also brings other benefits, including reducing the legal risk of an ADA-related lawsuit, improving your search optimization and overall user experience, strengthening your brand, and reaching a consumer audience with billions in spending power.

Following WCAG accessibility criteria

Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most commonly used framework to measure a website’s level of accessibility, often referenced as a legal benchmark in ADA-related lawsuits. 

To make it easy for you to start checking your website for the most common accessibility issues, we’ve simplified WCAG accessibility criteria into a handy checklist below. Covering these bases is a critical first step to ADA compliance.

ADA compliance checklist with orange checkmarks

ADA Compliance Checklist for Websites

  1. Make it easier for people with low vision or color blindness to separate foreground from background content by using sufficient color contrast.
  2. Add text alternatives in images and buttons using simple, descriptive language to convey purpose.
  3. For videos, include transcripts or synchronized captions that identify speakers.
  4. Use logical and intuitive navigation order of links, form elements, etc. to help users find content and determine where they are.
  5. Create accessible online forms with labels, clear instructions, error alerts, and keyboard-only access. 
  6. Refrain from using fast strobing lights in your web design, as they are known to cause seizures or physical reactions.
  7. Make sure people can use a browser tool to increase text size and zoom in. 
  8. Use page headings that clearly and properly indicate the hierarchy of information on a page.
  9. For people with disabilities who don’t use a mouse to navigate web content, make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  10. Help users avoid and correct mistakes, such as identifying input errors on forms.
  11. Provide users with a way to report accessibility issues, so they can be fixed. 
Purple A11y icon with an orange gears and a magnifying glass

Beyond WCAG: Best Practices to Stay ADA-compliant

While website accessibility and ADA compliance go hand in hand, they are not the same. Beyond taking steps to make a website more accessible, businesses must employ best practices to reduce the risk of being sued – and penalized – for ADA non-compliance. In addition to the checklist above, here are a few best practices to help you achieve and maintain compliance.

Have an ongoing plan for accessibility

With every new blog post, style adjustment, and other website change, there’s an opportunity for a website to become inaccessible. That’s why a one-time accessibility audit is insufficient and you need to put in place an ongoing method to monitor and fix emergent accessibility issues. 

To make ongoing accessibility feasible and sustainable, AudioEye employs active monitoring technology that tests a website for new accessibility issues with each new visitor, giving you a real-time analysis of your website’s accessibility. 

Have a comprehensive approach to accessibility in your organization

Automated tools that check for compliance issues often miss coding errors. In order to catch and resolve all accessibility issues, organizations need a more comprehensive approach that deploys both intelligent, automated compliance software and certified human experts. 

AudioEye’s holistic approach combines our patented AI technology and a team of certified accessibility experts to provide companies with web accessibility evaluation tools, manual testing and remediation, live and ongoing monitoring, QA evaluation, accessibility reporting, webpage personalization tools, training resources, and more.

Provide an accessibility statement

An accessibility statement is a written declaration of your commitment to accessibility that also provides information about your content, including the accessibility standard applied in your operations (such as WCAG) and contact information in case users encounter accessibility issues. It is also advisable to include any known accessibility limitations of your website, the measures taken by your organization to ensure accessibility, the environments in which the content has been tested, and references to applicable national or local laws and policies. 

Consider accessibility at the beginning

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought and should start in the website design and content creation process. Following inclusive design principles to build in compliance from the ground up means you won’t have any costly surprises. Given their expert knowledge and life experience, actively involving people with disabilities at all stages of the development process will help you understand how they access digital content and detect accessibility problems overlooked by others. 

Ready to test your website for accessibility and compliance?

AudioEye gives you real-time insights into the accessibility issues on your website to help you create inclusive, barrier-free content for all your audiences, regardless of their ability. Begin your path to website accessibility compliance by testing a webpage with the Website Accessibility Checker.

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