Think You Have an ADA-Compliant Website? Think Again.

illustration of a desktop computer with a checkmark on it and a wheelchair symbol to the right of the screen

Why ADA Compliance Matters for Website Design

When it comes to web design, there’s a lot to consider, from the tone of voice used in the copy, to the overall website design and user experience (UX). You want to make sure your site is visually pleasing and easy to use, while also conveying your brand’s message, values, and benefits.

One thing most businesses in Kansas City aren’t thinking about, though, is how accessible their website is.

Wait, what?

You’re probably thinking, Well, it lives on the worldwide web, so isn’t it accessible to, like, everyone?

While it’s true that anyone can find you online (especially if you’ve invested in search engine optimization for your business), we’re not talking about that kind of accessibility.

We’re talking about accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What is ADA compliance?

digital illustration of a desktop computer with various accessibility icons on the screenYou’ve no doubt heard of the ADA, which was initially introduced in 1990. A groundbreaking piece of legislation for its time, the ADA continues to be the prime governance over all things related to making goods and services accessible to people of all abilities.

We’ll spare you the nitty-gritty legal jargon of the entire 50-something page law, but in its essence, the ADA outlines requirements that every business must meet in order to make their establishment, products, and/or services usable and accessible to anyone with differing abilities, whether those be physical, mental, behavioral, or a combination of any of these.

Does my website have to be ADA compliant?

As society has evolved and technology becomes a larger part of our lives, so, too, has the law evolved. While the original law doesn’t specifically talk about websites (how could they, not even a decade removed from the internet’s inception?), the Department of Justice – the governing body that enforces the ADA – has time and again upheld that websites do qualify as “places of public accommodation.”

In other words, yes, websites are required by law to be ADA compliant. Which probably leads you to your next thought…

Ok, so how do I make sure my website follows ADA guidelines?

We’re glad you asked. Let us introduce you to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG (no, we didn’t just sneeze).

What is WCAG, and how does it fit in?

digital illustration of a desktop computer, a tablet, and a smartphone, each with a different accessibility icon on the screenFirst introduced in 1999, WCAG is a set of standards created with the goal of unifying web content accessibility across the globe. Although WCAG is utilized internationally, it’s considered the gold standard for acceptable levels of accessibility in the United States, and is frequently cited by plaintiffs in litigation (more on that in a minute).

To put it simply, WCAG isn’t technically the law – the ADA is – but it is a widely-accepted collection of guidelines that gives you a place to start when you’re ready to take ADA compliance seriously (which you should). (Source)

While you can certainly tackle ADA compliance for your website by yourself, be warned: WCAG has several different versions and compliance tiers, all of which go into pretty extensive detail and require moderate to advanced knowledge of web coding and multimedia file types. 

If this isn’t you, fear not. Any reputable website design agency in Kansas City (ahem, hi!) can help you navigate the terrain. Whether you need to update your existing website to get it up to snuff, or you’re interested in a completely new small business website design project, our team of experts is here to help!

Can I use website accessibility overlays?

smartphone screenshot of a standard website accessibility pluginAnother great question.

The short answer? No (an emphatic no, at that).

With more and more talk of website accessibility over the last five or so years, many savvy entrepreneurs have set out to deliver so-called “one-stop-shop” solutions to make business’ sites ADA compliant with the click of a button. You’ve probably encountered an increasing number of websites that have buttons or icons floating on the page that you can click on to supposedly make the site compliant.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.

There’s no plugin, widget, or application that can make a website fully ADA compliant under WCAG standards. Quite the opposite, actually. There’s not a single automated software solution (emphasis on the word “automated”) currently on the market that can detect more than about 30 percent of WCAG issues. That leaves at least 70 percent of WCAG issues unaddressed – and a very non-compliant website.

And remember when we mentioned litigation? Even more importantly than the above points, various courts (both at the state and federal levels) have ruled that these overlay solutions are not sufficient and don’t get a website to WCAG 2.0 AA or higher (the current baseline tier for accessibility). In fact, just last year, 250 companies with websites that utilized some sort of accessibility plugin still had lawsuits brought against them for having sites that weren’t ADA compliant. (Source) Yikes. You don’t want to be part of that statistic.

So how CAN I make my site ADA compliant?

Man, you’re just full of great questions!

Another short answer: hire an expert.

Here at iFocus, we not only have a team of awesome copywriters, designers, and developers that make up our website development team, but we also have an extensive checklist of WCAG 2.0 AA standards that we make sure each of the sites we build adhere to. You can rest easy knowing your site is truly accessible to all according to today’s modern standards.

Plus, an ongoing partnership with us for small business search engine optimization or website maintenance means we’ll have our eyes and hands on your website every single month, making sure it stays up-to-date as standards and best practices change – and they do, a lot.

Regardless of your digital marketing strategies and ideas, you need a website that looks great, sells your business, and can be accessed by all. 

Start taking ADA compliance for your website seriously by talking to iFocus, a digital marketing agency near you. We can’t wait to hear about your goals.

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