When building a website a lot of the focus goes to design, business needs and user experience. But beyond the things that are easily “seen” on a website, it is also important to think about less obvious needs, like ADA compliance. While it’s useful to consider compliance when building your website, it’s imperative that ADA solutions are monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure things are up to a standard that meets user needs.
ADA Compliance Basics
Unless you work very closely in the world of digital ADA compliance it can be a tricky thing. The ADA basic standards say that a website needs to be accessible to people who have disabilities, including hearing, vision or physical capabilities. These things range from using properly contrasting colors to readable fonts to alternate text for images.
The tricky part comes because of so many nuances to websites, and business needs, making it hard to know what does or doesn’t fit the standard.
Tools to Check Compliance
There are a myriad of digital tools out there to assist in checking and keeping your website compliant. These are a few we use for different aspects:
- WAVE: This application should be used on a regular basis. It provides a manual scanner plug-in on your browser that allows you to scan any website to check for compliance and callout where standards are missing. The benefit is that it simultaneously scans for errors while letting you evaluate the page yourself.
- JAWS: The acronym stands for Job Access With Speech, and is a screen reader which helps you view the website as someone with an impairment. This should also be done on a regular basis, but not necessarily as often as a manual scanner like WAVE.
- accessiBe: The benefit of a tool like this is that it works as an overlay to your current site. Basically it adds a button to the corner of your website that anyone can click on to help navigate according to their needs. When selected, the overlay will change your website to meet the settings chosen by the user. While this can be a benefit for companies who have restraints on their website updates, there are critics who say using it can make you a target for those looking to serve non-compliant lawsuits.
- Siteimprove or Pope Tech: Both of these tools work in similar ways. For monthly or annual fees they will automatically scan your site on an ongoing basis and alert you of any problems they come across. This is a great solution to keep an eye on a constantly-evolving website, but does not completely negate doing manual scans with tools like WAVE and JAWS.
Beyond checking that your website is up to ADA standards, having an accessibility statement on your site shows users that you care about accessibility and about them. It helps make your site more navigable as well.
A good accessibility statement should contain, at minimum, the following items:
- A commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities
- The accessibility standard applied, such as WCAG 2.1
- Contact information in case users encounter problems
In addition, we recommend the following information be included as well:
- Any known limitations, to avoid frustration of your users
- Measures taken by your organization to ensure accessibility
- Technical prerequisites, such as supported web browsers
- Environments in which the content has been tested to work
- References to applicable national or local laws and policies
When to Assess Compliance
Because websites are fluid, and can have small changes made all the time, most websites can’t be 100% compliant. The idea is to be as compliant as possible. This includes doing regular checks with the tools we listed above, and keeping communication lines open so that users can callout problems they may have.
When problems arise, either from user feedback or regular scans, a plan should be in place that allows updates to be made within a 60-day window. Taking these steps helps ensure your website is a complaint as it can be at any given time.