The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, require that state and local governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities, or would impose an undue burden.
What does ADA website compliance mean?
ADA compliance means that local governments are required, and expected, to ensure all their digital content is accessible by citizens with visual, auditory, and other physical limitations and disabilities. As an organization that serves citizens, it's essential to offer an accessible website, and one that provides equitable access to news, information, and local resources.
In this article, we're going to show you how to be ADA compliant and provide accessible experiences to your visitors. When it comes to this topic, there are two terms used interchangeably: ADA website compliance and website accessibility.
For websites to be ADA compliant, they need to be accessible.
Quick Guide: ADA Compliance Checklist for Your Website
- Step #1: Ensure Content has Appropriate Headings and Titles
- Step #2: Use Text and Font to Benefit the Users
- Step #3: Populate Tables
- Step #4: Identify Visuals with Alternate Text
- Step #5: Use Color Contrast
- Step #6: Websites Need to be Navigable
- Step #7: Don't Use PDFs
- Step #8: Enhance Your Multi-Media
- Step #9: Include "Skip Navigation" at the Top of Your Pages
The first step to ensuring compliance is to evaluate your website using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The criteria are categorized according to three levels, providing successively greater degrees of accessibility:
1. Level A (minimum) - The most basic web accessibility features. Sets a minimum level of accessibility, but does not generally achieve broad accessibility for many situations.
2. Level AA (mid-range) - Deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users.
3. Level AAA (highest) - The highest level of web accessibility. It is often not possible to satisfy all Level AAA success criteria for some content types.
Websites must be optimized to work in conjunction with assistive technology. Poorly designed websites can create barriers for disabled citizens, limiting, or completely inhibiting, their ability to obtain all available information from your local government website.
In addition, local governments must understand that a website serves as the gateway to their communities. Understand that accessibility prudence:
- Impacts 19% of your citizens
- Increases site traffic
- Improves search engine optimization (SEO)
- Is a legal best practice
Top 9 Tips for Achieving ADA Compliance and Create Healthy Designed Websites
- 1. Headings and Titles
- Ensure all content uses relevant headers.
- Title all pages so that they relate to the page's content
- Use citizen-facing wording rather than internal terminology
- 2. Text and Font
Color alone can't be used to differentiate information. Instead use:
- Bold and italic text
- Use bulleted lists
- Feature areas or modules in your CMS
- Have a high-contrast color scheme
Avoid dense paragraphs of text
- 3. Tables
Since tables are for data and not page layouts, be sure to populate tables with a column header and cell information.
- 4. Visuals
- Always include alternative (alt) text
- Pay attention to the descriptive details such as the non-image visual
- All visuals need alt text, not just photos, so be sure to add alt text with icons, buttons, banners, logos, sketches, etc.
- Any visual element that conveys a message should have alt text
If there is no text to identify the image, a blind person’s screen reader could not identify the image. The user would not have any way of knowing if the image is a logo, link to another page or simply a stock photo.
Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms that people need. Examples of other forms include large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language.
- 5. Color
- Use contrasting colors to differentiate text from the background for colorblind users.
- Color cannot be the only means to convey information.
- Color contrast ratio: All text must have a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 against its background.
- 6. Navigation
- Websites should be navigable by both keyboard and keyboard equivalents
- Keep information in a consistent location
- Understand that if a user cannot find it he or she will assume it doesn’t exist
- Consistency helps users find information faster
- Screen readers move from top to bottom
- 7. Don’t Use PDFs
- Image-based formats are challenging to the visually impaired because they cannot be read by screen readers or text enlargement programs.
- 8. Enhance Your Multi-Media
Make images and video more accessible by adding audio descriptions to images, including the narration of changes in setting, gesturing, and other details. In addition, add text captions for the deaf.
- 9. Include “Skip Navigation” at the Top of Your Pages
People using screen readers can get directly to the content
Let's break it down further into Level A and Level AA compliance to determine if your website currently meets the accessibility requirements.
Level A - ADA Compliance Checklist
- Images have alternative text that can be read by screen reader software
- Video content includes captions
- Video or audio-only content is accompanied by a text transcript or description
- Links that are provided to media players are required to view content
- Headings are presented in a logical order
- Make sure “b” and “i” tags are replaced with “strong” and “em”
- There are not empty links or heading tags
- Presentation does not rely solely on color
- Automatically-played audio does not occur and can be stopped
- The keyboard can be used to navigate the site
- A keyboard can be used to navigate the site
- Keyboard focus is never stuck on one particular page elements
- Time limits provide notifications to the user
- Automatically scrolling or blinking content can be stopped
- No strobe effects or rapidly flashing colors occur on the site
- Skip navigation functionality allows keyboard users to access content quickly
- Page titles clearly and succinctly describe the page content
- Buttons and links are clearly and logically named
- The language of each page is identified in code
- Elements receiving focus do not change the content in a substantial way
- Invalid form input is identified to the user
- Forms have labels and legends that can be read by screen reader software
- There are no major validation errors
Level AA - ADA Compliance Checklist
- Live video or audio content includes captions
- Contrast ratio between text and page backgrounds is at least 4.5-to-1
- Text on pages can be resized to 200% while still maintaining form
- Images are not used where text can achieve the same purpose
- Pages on the site can be accessed in multiple ways
- Keyboard focus is visible and clear
- The language of content is identified in code with any language changes
- Menus and buttons are used consistently regardless of the user’s location in the site
- Users are given suggestions on how to solve input errors
- An error prevention technique is used whenever the user is entering sensitive data
- Underlined text that does not provide a link is removed
- Redundant links on the same page are eliminated or minimized
Updating your website to become ADA compliant is a process. And the Americans with Disabilities Act is a strict law not to be taken lightly.
CivicPlus will assess your current website, and assist with a redesign that will ensure all citizens share equitable access to content, and that you and your staff have the training and knowledge needed to maintain a compliant website moving forward.