The web is part of our daily lives, personally and professionally. That makes accessibility for all even more important. Small business owners need to make sure they know about ADA website compliance in 2021.
Lawsuits dealing with business websites and ADA compliance are on the rise. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) does not formally outline what needs to be done to ensure accessibility. But the common best practice is to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
WCAG 2.1. lists about 50 things a business can do to ensure its website or mobile app is compliant. We discussed several of these in greater detail in a recent blog: Tips to Make a Website ADA Compliant.
Building on the specifics of that article, this discussion focuses on best practices to ensure ADA website compliance overall. Your business can take actions such as:
- Have a third-party audit done
- Test website with persons with disabilities
- Monitor continually for accessibility issues
- Add web accessibility training for all personnel involved in digital operations
- Adopt and publish a digital accessibility policy
Have a Third-Party Audit Done
Automated accessibility scans are available, but they don’t catch everything. In fact, web accessibility consultant Kris Rivenburgh wrote, “they can only flag about 1/4 of accessibility issues in WCAG 2.1 AA.”
A third-party audit, done manually by an accessibility expert, will review URLs and screens of each page of your website. They will check pages against the success criteria outlined in the WCAG, examining code, looking at the layout, testing forms, checking site functionality with or without a mouse, and more.
The audit should provide your business with a thorough list of issues from each page along with suggested fixes. It can also provide a report that prioritizes the severity of the issues. That way, you’ll know what to address in what order.
Test Website With Persons With Disabilities
Inviting feedback from those with disabilities will help you extend your business website to all. First, it is the right thing to do. But, considering the spending power of people with disabilities is an estimated $490 billion in the U.S., it’s also smart business.
In one 2019 study by Click Away Pound, 69% of disabled people with access needs said they “click away” from sites with barriers. Some 83% said they limit their shopping to websites they know are barrier-free.
To be truly effective, you will need to test the website with individuals with various disabilities. People with cognitive, aging, or learning disabilities will also have different reactions to the site than people with color blindness. As digital inclusion expert Becky Gibson has written, “People with different abilities will have various strengths and weaknesses. Part of accessibility testing is finding and reporting all errors.”
Monitor Continually for Accessibility Issues
In the Click Away Pound survey, the top reported website issues, ranked in order, were:
- Crowded pages with too much content
- ReCAPTCHA tests
- Poor link information and navigation
- Filling in forms
- Poor legibility (color contrast and text layout)
- Distracting moving images and graphics
- Poor keyboard access
- Poor screenreader access
The importance of these issues can be minimized by those who do not have access needs. Your business might establish a practice of monitoring accessibility issues on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. This can help you make sure no new site design changes hurt website accessibility. Auto-scanning software can also help generate reports on your website accessibility issues.
Add Web Accessibility Training
Any of your business employees who work with the website should be trained in web accessibility, who it applies to and what situations it involves. They need to understand the WCAG and how developers and designers can implement accessibility. They can also learn how to check web pages for accessibility issues and what improvements to make.
Essentially there are four key criteria for accessibility, according to the W3, the group behind the WCAG. The website must have content that is:
- Perceivable — Users “must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses)”
- Operable —Users “must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)”
- Understandable — Users “must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)”
- Robust — Users “must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)”
Adopt and Publish a Digital Accessibility Policy
Essential Accessibility “strongly recommends” publishing an outward-facing digital accessibility policy. That’s because the absence of such a policy has been used as evidence of non-compliance in past legal actions.
The W3 offers a simple policy example: “ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring that its website is accessible to people with disabilities. All the pages on our website will meet W3C WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1, Level AA conformance. Report any issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.” The organization also provides an example ADA compliance policy template.
Ensure ADA Website Compliance
ADA website compliance demonstrates that your business values accessibility for all. Understanding potential barriers, and identifying issues on your site, can help your business make necessary changes to be inclusive and provide equal access to the all-important content on your site.