Accessibility is never far from the minds of Web developers and designers, as we seek to make sites more usable for a wider audience using tools like accessiBe. But the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance is an important aspect of accessibility that many people don’t think about. The ADA states that all government sites must have proper compliance to qualify for any federal assistance regarding the web.
Imagine, if you will, a blind person who wants to apply for social security benefits online. If the site they are going to has images that describe the content and other images to make things look pretty- a screen reader won’t be able to find those images to read them. The blind person will only be able to look at the text- and if there isn’t any text, they will not be able to access the information on that page. The government has a few rules for websites that must adhere to ADA Compliance:
The site MUST have alt tags or long descriptions (for images) that describe the content of an image.
A link MUST have an “active” link- which means it has a unique destination URL that will take you to a page- not just a directory.
There MUST be descriptive text on every page (not just titles), and the text MUST NOT be placed in images.
These items can be done on any site, not just a government site. Imagine the disappointment of the blind person who has researched all of his/her options and chosen a specific social security benefits website that they can’t read because it doesn’t meet ADA Compliance. There are many other disabilities besides blindness that people deal with every day, from dyslexia to colorblindness. By having an ADA Compliant site, you are catering to more people who would like to access your information.
This is a very important issue- and a lot of non-profits work to make sure that the government has proper ADA Compliance. Focusing on making information available for everyone, regardless of disability or technology being used. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a great list of resources that include specific information about ADA Compliance, as well as what you need to know if you are proposing building an application for government use.
If you are building a site meant to be used by the public- it should meet ADA Compliance. If your web developer or designer can not tell you how to make sure your site meets ADA compliance, find someone who can before proceeding with development! It’s good business to be able to provide information for everyone on the web. Making a website ADA compliant is fairly simple and requires about an hour’s worth of effort on the part of your developer.
When researching ADA compliance, keep in mind that anyone can file a complaint against your website if they believe there are barriers for their ability to access information on your site. If someone does this, you can be fined thousands of dollars- so take the time to get it right and provide information for everyone. Remember that your website isn’t just a business tool anymore- it is a service too!