Accessible Website Design
Accessible websites are a thing — a big thing. For those of you who don’t know, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) represents this standard. It is often associated with many physical locations and accommodations that businesses must adopt so that people with disabilities can see their websites. This is why ADA-compliant website design is gaining momentum, and why everyone should learn more about it.
Some of the questions you might have at this point include:
- Is my website accessible to all visitors?
- What does an accessible and WCAG compliant website cost?
- What does an accessible website look like?
- Are there any clear regulations and ADA requirements for websites?
- How can one develop an accessible and inclusive website?
What Is ADA Compliance?
As we said before, ADA is an act which passed in 1990. It basically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures that everyone has the same rights and opportunities when looking at a website.
So, ADA compliant websites need to be present in all sectors, whether managed by public institutions or private entities that are open to the public. In 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design was passed. With this, the law requires all electronic and information technology entities (like websites) to be accessible for people with disabilities such as vision impairment and hearing loss.
ADA Compliant Website Checklist: Are There Any Guidelines?
Despite the fact that there are still no clear rules as to designing an ADA accessible website, businesses should still provide an accessible virtual presence that accommodates all users with disabilities.
Now, the rule states that:
- If you are a business benefiting the public
- If you are a local, state, or government agency
- If you are a private employer with 15 or more employees
You simply must have an ADA compliant website that adheres with all ADA regulations.
As some attorneys note, “there is no federal direction” on how to make your website ADA compliant. However, what we know and are set as a legal requirement is the WCAG set of rules, explained below.
WCAG (Guidelines) For People with Disabilities
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are not a legal requirement yet, but a common reference point for all businesses that are looking to improve their digital accessibility. In that manner, there are currently three versions of WCAG (1.0, 2.0 and 2.1).
While the WCAG Version 2.0 replaced the WCAG Version 1.0, the brand new 2.1 Version is basically an extension of the former. There are three levels of conformance, including A (bare minimum level of accessibility), AA (target level of accessibility meeting legal requirements) and AAA (exceeds accessibility requirements).
Under the latest WCAG Version 2.1 guidelines, we can see that in order to have an ADA compliance website design, your website needs to be:
- Perceivable – The content on your site should offer alternatives to text (usually audio ones) or assistive technology, helping vision-impaired individuals.
- Operable – This guideline is set in terms of navigation, making sure that disabled people can access your website and content with various keyboard options.
- Understandable – Your content should be easy to understand, readable and predictable, with some input assistance if needed.
- Robust – Essentially, you need to have content that is read by various devices and platforms (especially ones for people who use assistive technologies).
If you are able to meet all of these standards, it is safe to say that you have passed all the ADA guidelines for websites that are present now. More importantly, your website will be accessible to people with vision/hearing disabilities and/or cognitive, language or learning disabilities.
What do ADA compliance requirements say about websites?
Known as a complicated and often consuming story, the relationship between ADA and websites does not explicitly address online compliance. Title III of the ADA requires that every owner, lessor, or operator of a “place of public accommodation” provide equal access to all people who are meeting ADA standards for disability — and this now includes websites.
How to Design an ADA Compliant Website?
Knowing that the ADA requirements for websites are not as easy to follow as they sound, every business should be open to new opportunities and professionals in the field of ADA compliance website design — such as Devine Solutions Group.
For many, common sense indicates that a website should have certain technologies like audio (for vision-impaired users) where voice reads the text on the screen back to the web visitor.
There are requirements for federal websites, and they are also expected to be present for all private websites owned by individuals or businesses.
Below, we share some of the common methods businesses can use to ensure their website is accessible, and people with disabilities can read their web content.
ADA Compliant Website Checklist
- Alt tags for all images and other files – Alt tags are words which allow users with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of some content that they are unable to view. They describe the objects in an image or video and the purpose they serve on the website.
- Proper markup techniques for structuring content – Elements such as the correct heading tags and HTML for ordered and unordered list can also help you get an ADA compliant website. The content should always be presented in a meaningful order and sequence, and it must read properly.
- Element color – The use of one color should be avoided, and there must be a color contrast ratio of at least 4:5:1 between the text and background.
- Element size – Like color, your elements and text need to come in different sizes – text must support resizing up to 200% without causing problems for people trying to read it.
- Text transcripts for audio/video content – ADA compliant websites have text transcripts that help hearing-impaired users understand the content otherwise inaccessible to them.
- Language on-site – You should make it clear what language your site is written. This helps users who utilize text readers to translate better or hear the text present on your website.
- Alternatives for input errors – The ADA requirements for websites suggest that users can encounter input errors because of their need to navigate the website differently. It would be best if you learned how to design an ADA compliant website and offer recommendations to your visitors in such cases.
- Consistency in layout – Your website layout should be consistent. This means that all of your menus, inks and buttons should be organized so that they are clearly moved away from one another and easily navigated throughout the site.
If you are still unsure of how you can make your website ADA compliant, you can consult with an attorney who specializes in disability law or get an ADA compliant website quote from Devine Solutions Group.
For businesses that are ready to make these changes to their websites, reading the ADA requirements for businesses, and detailed guidelines is necessary.
‘What If I Don’t Design an ADA Accessible Website?’
Businesses without ADA compliant websites will be put in the “failure to comply” category, which means that they could receive lawsuits moving forward. Some sources say that depending on the state, a fine for this can reach a sum of up to $50,000.
Reports show that from 2017/2018, the number of lawsuits for ADA website compliance increased by 177%, and there have been more than 2,258 filed in 2018 alone which is up from the 814 in 2017. Even though New York and Florida are dubbed as the busiest jurisdictions for cases like these, even fourteen other states are making the charts, including Texas, California, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Illinois,
However, the most important point here is that without ADA compliance for websites, businesses may lose on a lot of customers. Furthermore, ADA compliant websites are indexed and crawled by search engines in an easier way, pushing their position up in the rankings and getting the entire content in front of every user.
Don’t Fall in A Trap: Complying with ADA Means Complying with The Law
Since ADA is a new act that was brought to users by the public, complying it means complying with the law. In times when a lot of companies see this form of compliance as a trend, our most honest advice is to note waste your money buying any plugin, add-on or anything automatic as a solution to making your website accessible.
Instead, you should focus on the core design and changing it from scratch. No subscription in the world can make the text look ADA compliant and no plugin or add-on can dramatically change its design or elements.
It is up to you to figure out and ask “is my website ADA compliant” before seeing what to do.
We can provide a free ADA compliance audit for your website.
Frequently Asked Questions
ADA website compliance affects businesses with at least 15 full-time employees operating for
20 or more weeks every year. This is what Title I of the ADA regulations show, while Title III
says that all businesses that fall into the category of "public accommodation" (hotels, banks,
healthcare institutions, educational organizations, public transportation) are required to comply.
If your business falls under either of these categories, you should see if your Website is
There is a set of guidelines known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that
encompass a massive checklist, forming the basis for ADA compliance. Under them, the
Website should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. In other words, all tests
should be readable; all functionalities must be available from a keyboard, text alternatives must
be placed for non-text content, seeing and hearing content should both be options, and more.
For the full WCAG list, visit this link.
There are two ways: manual and automatic. If you decide to do manual testing, you should
begin by reviewing your Website's design, testing the colors you are using with a tool that
assesses the color contrast ratio, then moving on to the functionality and aligning with the
WCAG standards. An easier way for sure is the automatic test – visit this page and enter your
URL to test your Website.
Not necessarily. While many are tempted to do things right, a complete redesign could result in
lost rankings and customers. Instead, you can contact an ADA web design company and hire
WCAG web designers who are versed in making a website fully ADA compliant.
If a person with a disability claims that they cannot access your Website, you might endure legal
fees, a possible settlement, an issue with public relations, and then have to rebuild your Website
from scratch so that it is ADA compliant.
The cost of making your Website ADA compliant depends on the existing design of your
Website and some of its functionalities. However, the average price of making your Website
WCAG accessible starts from $3,000 and can reach $6,000 for the most complicated changes.
Our ADA Website Design Services are significantly less expensive than these costs.
Disabled individuals who cannot view the information properly on your Website can file a lawsuit
on that basis. They can say that your Website was incompatible with their screen readers
(devices that convert text to audio) if they have hearing loss, for example. This violates ADA as
an Act and puts you at risk of not being compliant with the ADA website standards.
Yes, you can be sued. If your Website is not ADA compliant, you will lose a case on the merits
in court. This is why it is essential to educate yourself on the Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines (WCAG) as the international standard of ensuring that your Website is accessible to
All businesses with more than 15 employees and one’s offering public services are subject to
ADA compliance. Small business managers must ensure compliance to avoid any legal
Believe it or not, 18% of Americans have some form of disability, according to the US
Department of Justice. This translates to a group of more than 50 million people. Under ADA,
every business is required to make efforts and accommodate these customers.
Explore Our Affordable Website Design Services
At Devine Solutions Group, we completely understand how important ADA website compliance is. We also know that there is absolutely no reason for you to spend money on toolbars, plugins and add-ons that are not guaranteed to produce ADA compliant websites.
Instead, our California digital agency has its own state versions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which are already available for many clients. While some of you may see ADA as a loophole in the law, the smartest decision you can do is take advantage of it and make your website ADA compliant before it is too late.
In the end, we are listing the six biggest reasons why your website should be ADA compliant:
Get a FREE Website Accessibility Test
Not sure if your business website is ADA compliant? No worries. Fill the form and we`ll get back to you with a detailed report within 24 hours.