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avoiding ada lawsuits--making your website accessible
With the increased awareness for inclusion came the American with Disabilities Act or ADA which was launched in July 26, 1990. Over the years, it has undergone various updates to keep up with the changing social sphere. One of the more notable changes would be the regulations for the accessibility of websites for disabled individuals which every web owner is under the obligation to follow.
Penalty for Non-Compliance
Before we proceed any further with ADA-compliance however, what exactly would happen to you if you didn’t obey? While there’s no jail time involved, non-compliance gives the aggrieved party the ability to launch a civil lawsuit against you complete with the payment of damages in cash. Even with no jail time therefore, this is definitely the last thing you want.
ADA-compliance is a serious matter that all websites must follow if you want to avoid a lawsuit. More importantly, following the guidelines can actually help your business because it potentially expands your client pool. With disabled persons now able to access, understand, and order from your site – you can greatly increase your profit margin.
What Site Owners Can Do
As a web owner, there are many tweaks and changes that can be made to make your site more ADA-compliant.
Use Headings and Titles. Always make sure that your content is divided into smaller paragraphs with relevant headings and titles for each one. This makes it easier to read – and not just for persons with disabilities. It allows quick skimming through the content in order to find exactly what they want to know.
Go Beyond Colors. Changing the color of your font is one of the most common ways to create distinction among your content. But what if your site visitor is colorblind? Skip the color coding and opt for other styles for your content. Bold, Italic, or Underline would work just as well.
Offer Alternatives. Do not assume that one medium for communicating information is enough. If you have images, make sure there’s alternative text or a descriptive text for that image and vice versa. This will ensure that everyone perceives the content of your page. The same goes if you have video or audio only content.
Never use image-based text. PDF’s and image-based texts are strongly discouraged because they don’t translate to audio. Most persons with disabilities use a third-party app to read out the text on your website. Unfortunately, if they’re all images – then this becomes impossible.
Allow keyboard navigation. Skip navigation function helps those who navigate their PC’s exclusively through their keyboard. With this added feature, mouse-less users can go through your site’s content without any problem.
Proper naming. All links and buttons have names or descriptions for easier navigation. The last thing you want is for your guests to guess exactly where that link would be leading them to.
No strobe effects. This refers to flashing colors on the site that most people put in to create a more festive page. While it’s fine for most – you can’t really predict who would open your page. What if it’s someone who is prone to seizures or who has an eye sensitivity? This should be taken out of the website. The same goes for audio that automatically plays when you open a website.
Reader software friendly. If you must include tables or forms into your site, at least make them reader-software friendly. This will help people with low vision, dyslexia, or blindness to perceive exactly what’s on your website.
Do I have to Follow ALL the Guidelines?
This is where things get tough – the guidelines are extensive and evolving. Those mentioned above are just a small portion of the whole. In fact, there are three known “levels” or “grading” systems for ADA Compliance. There’s Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Each one is more complex than the last one, so you’ll have to start with the basics and build from there. The goal is to eventually reach Level AAA through consistent updates of your site.
Bringing in the Professionals
Meeting ADA guidelines requires technical skills and know-how about the relevant law. This is why it’s often better to seek out professional help through experts like ADASiteCompliance.com. This third-party service should be able to turn your company into an A, AA, or AAA compliant website with very little effort on your part. To test out the site, there’s also a need to run diagnostics and find errors in how the domain is programmed. This is something not all web owners can do effectively.