Person using a laptop to illustrate accessibility on websites

When you create a website, you’re creating it for an audience. But what happens when a portion of your audience can’t access information due to a disability? 

A visually-impaired customer sued Domino’s because their website made it difficult for him to order a pizza. Amazon was sued for not including alternative text (alt-text) on images, so visually-impaired people using screen-readers didn’t know what was in the graphic. Hulu was sued by the National Association of the Deaf for not providing captions in their video content.

When most people think of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), wheelchair ramps, braille  signs, and equal employment come to mind. But lawsuits are on the rise for websites due to unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities. Nearly 25 million people in America have vision loss and 11 million are hard of hearing or deaf.

When the ADA law passed in 1990, the World Wide Web was an infant, a few of our Rare Birds weren’t born yet, and Minesweeper, JezzBall, and Chip’s Challenge helped pass the time (go ahead, be nostalgic and YouTube them, we’ll wait). Because the internet was in its formative years, ADA didn’t apply to it yet. Since then, the law has been revised (most recently in 2017), requiring all businesses to provide an accessible website experience for people with disabilities.

So what does this mean for you? If you’re thinking your site doesn’t have enough content or traffic to worry about this, the reality is that the majority of websites are at risk of being sued for ADA non-compliance. The good news? You can make your website ADA compliant when you work with a team of developers, SEO pros, and designers who can implement the changes correctly and efficiently. Below, we’ve put together a quick list of accessibility FAQ’s so you can start thinking through your own website and any potential improvements you may need to make. 

How can I test my site for ADA compliance?

Type your website address into the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, or install the WAVE Chrome or Firefox Extension so you can easily view any errors or alerts while navigating your site. 

What does my website need to be ADA compliant?

A few common compliance issues we’ve seen deal with images, links, and design. For someone that’s visually impaired, those alternative text descriptions need to be there for each visual image they may have trouble viewing. For a person using a screen reader, linking words like “here” doesn’t tell them where they’ll be directed once they click. In this case, highlighting more descriptive parts of the sentence can solve this, like linking the entire sentence: “Learn how to design a logo here.” Design issues often center around the visuals in color contrasting—if there’s not enough contrast between text and the background behind it, you’re likely not in compliance. Other problems can be diagnosed using accessibility evaluation tools. 

Will the design of my website need to change to comply with ADA laws?

It depends. Like we mentioned, some fixes could be as easy as improving the contrast between foreground and background elements. On the other hand, if your website is heavy on images (like an eCommerce business), you could be in for an Alt-text all-nighter.

ADA compliance laws have shifted the way we think here at Rare Bird from the outset of a project. Alysia Legler, one of Rare Bird’s graphic designers, said “It’s made me more thoughtful in the beginning stages of branding. As I’m designing websites and picking brand colors, I’m now taking that extra step to make sure the color palette is ADA compliant before the design is even created.”

When do I need to make my website ADA compliant?

Answer: NOW. Be proactive and take the time to run an accessibility audit on your site. Reach out to Rare Bird Modern Marketing—our experts are happy to help guide you through the steps to making your website accessible and inclusive for every user. 

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