The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against people with mental and/or physical disabilities.
The ADA was initially signed into law to address and enforce three main issues nationwide:
- Equal employment opportunity standards
- Equal access to state and local government services (i.e. public transportation and public housing)
- Equal access to public accommodations and commercial facilities (i.e. grocery stores, hotels, etc.)
The Standards for Accessible Design were added to the ADA in 2010, and over the past decade the regulations laid out within this addendum have been legally interpreted to encompass website accessibility.
So Why Is ADA Website Compliance So Important?
While businesses obviously want to avoid the potential legal ramifications and fines associated with having a non-ADA compliant website, the other reasons for making websites accessible to all are more important as a whole.
United States Disability Statistics
- 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability
- 26 percent (one in 4) of adults in the United States have some type of disability
- Over 4.5% of Americans are blind or have a serious vision impairment
If you aren’t personally living with a disability, there’s a good chance you know at least one person who is. It’s easy for those of us not living with a disability to take a lot for granted.
For just a moment, think about the millions of people whose disabilities prevent them from being able to access and experience the things that you can access and experience without a second thought.
ADA Website Compliance Guidelines
Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) lay out the best ways to make your website content accessible to people with disabilities. The W3C WAI works with individuals and organizations internationally in a cooperative effort to make browsing the web a user-friendly experience for everyone. Considering the growing rate at which people consume their information via internet, this is an extremely important cause.
The WCAG breaks down their guidelines under four main principles.
Information and user interface must be:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make it easier to use inputs other than keyboard.
- Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
- Users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)
Some Thoughts From a Member of the W3C WAI
For an inside perspective into why website accessibility is so important, I reached out to Shawn Henry of the W3C WAI. As the WAI Outreach Coordinator, Chair of the WAI Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), and Chair of the WAI Interest Group, she is deeply involved in the effort to make the internet fully accessible to people with disabilities.
When asked what she personally wanted to point out in regards to website accessibility, Shawn responded, “One of the biggest hurdles that I think we face is awareness and understanding. I hope that everyone involved in technology will learn the basics of digital accessibility. A place to start is reading the W3C WAI’s Introduction to Web Accessibility.
For those working directly on projects, I encourage them to read and follow guidance from Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility.”
Shawn Henry started contributing to the W3C WAI as an “invited expert” working with the EOWG in early 2002 and joined the W3C staff in February of 2003.
Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
If you’re worried that your website may not be ADA compliant, the Electric Bricks team is here to help. Contact us for a free website evaluation and we’ll work with you to ensure that your website is accessible to all.