How to Make a Website ADA Compliant

So how do you make a website ADA compliant? Well, of course we don’t know exactly how to do so under the law because the law doesn’t explicitly state how to make a website Ada compliant. But what I’ve got pulled up is my WCAG checklist and we are going to run through some of the important success criteria that would help make your website ADA compliant.

Best practice is to be fully conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The current present version is 2.1, soon it will be 2.2. But the point is that these are technical standards that are very expansive. There are several requirements under these standards, but conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is not necessarily needed to be Ada compliant. So there’s this gray area where it’s best practice just to be fully conformant. But before you get there, you can do other things to help make sure your website is more accessible and more likely to provide meaningful access under the American Disabilities Act.

So I’m going to run through some of the more important success criteria in making your website ADA compliant. When I say important, they’re all really important, but some are more fundamental to accessibility than others. And so one of these underpinnings to accessibility, web Accessibility, is alt text. So for any images you have any non text content. If it conveys meaning, you need to make sure there’s a text alternative to it. And this is very important because some people are using screen readers, they can’t visually see the images. So there needs to be a programmatic description of the image or the non text content so that screen reader users have access to it.

So that’s one way. And so reading down another success criterion 1.2.2 making sure that all video with sound has closed caption. That’s something that you need to have. Your videos need to have closed captions and I’m going to skip down. There is some overlap here, but these are just some of the more, as I said, fundamental. Think of these as the more fundamental success criteria to accessibility.

You want to make sure that you have good color contrast. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines says that there should be a 4.5 to one contrast ratio between regular text and background 3.1 for larger text. Larger text would be 14 point and bold or 18 point, but you don’t want to try. Where possible, you want to exceed these minimum thresholds. They’re just there as a baseline. But that’s really helpful, especially for people who have low vision. Having sufficient color contrast can help with text standing out.

Also, you want to make sure that the website is fully navigable and that there are no keyboard traps. And to me this is really one and the same success criterion, but it’s two. Under the web, Content Accessibility guidelines are separated, but making sure that if you don’t use a mouse, you should be able to fully navigate to and from all of the interactive elements on your website, you should be able to fully navigate the website and you should never be trapped at any point in time. So you want to make sure that that is possible to navigate your website fully by using just a keyboard. And so the way to do this is to not use a mouse, just use your keyboard and see if you can navigate through your website. And so there are several other success criteria going through here.

I’m not going to read through all of them. You will likely meet several success criteria just by the mere fact that you have a website. You’ve probably tried to have some optimization for SEO, or you’ve just put some of the correct structure in place just by good practices. So you will likely meet several of these success criteria already. Another very helpful way to make your website more navigable would be to make sure to have headings and labels and make sure they are descriptive. When you have headings, make sure they are structured hierarchically. So that would be heading one, heading two, then if there’s a sub, subheading heading three under the heading two, and then back to heading two, and so on. And so making sure that is in place.

Consistent navigation is something that you would likely have already, but it’s good to verify that you do. And then name, state, role and value is very important. So if you have any interactive elements, you want to make sure that if there’s an applicable name, state, role or value, that those can all automatically all be determined. So an example would be if you have a product and you can change the quantity of the product, that the quantity is able to be programmatically determined so that it’s not just visually adjusted, like someone is able to programmatically access, how much of the product quantity there is and when it changes, etc.

So those are some of the more important accessibility measures that you can take. And these are per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. And these are the authoritative standards. When it comes to web accessibility, again, it’s not a one to one with the Ada. So the American Disabilities Act doesn’t require these technical standards, but they are a best practice because if you are in conformance with these technical standards, then you have really met a high, high threshold. It’s not to say that there’s not more you can do for accessibility, but you’ve done a lot to ensure that your web asset is accessible.

And if you’re wondering about anything beyond a website, so like a mobile app, these same principles will apply. And it won’t be exactly the same success criteria because these are for web based assets. It’s the Web content Accessibility guidelines. But when you’re looking at other digital assets like software or anything else, the principles that are bedded within these success criteria apply anywhere. They apply universally, the W3C, their WAI. So the W3C is the Worldwide Web Consortium and the WAI is their Web Accessibility Initiative. So it’s an initiative under the W3C. They also have guidance on how to make mobile apps accessible. They’re not technical standards, but informally they have put out some really nice documentation to help you there. But there’s any number of authoritative sources where you can read material on accessibility. I like the Mozilla Network, so the Mozilla Development Network can also help you. But the W3C, they are the authoritative source for accessibility. So I like to start from there. And then if you do become fully conformant, then you can start thinking about ways to go beyond the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and their principles and making your website even more accessible. But a great start if you are conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. You have done an excellent job.

Very few websites are fully conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but it is doable. It’s something that you can do. You just have to put time and effort into it. Now, I’m reading off of my PDF checklist. I’m going to link to that below. There are many other success criteria. In fact, there are 50 success criteria under WCAG 2.1 AA. This is not to say that each and every one is similar to the other in that 1 may have be more technically complex than another. In fact, many are more technically complex than others. Others may be very simple to implement, but may take a significant amount of time to complete. And it is variable depending upon what is on your website, how complex your website is, how many pages your website is, how many different elements your website has. So for example, if your website has many different images, it is going to take you more time to add that many more alt text descriptions if those images are meaningful. So I’ve only covered a few, but that’s just because that’s the nature of this. It takes some time, investment of time, to understand these Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and also to understand how to make your website ADA compliant.

Now, when we talk about ADA compliance, we’re talking about really lawsuit prevention for most people, right? Most people are looking at the ADA in terms of I don’t want to be sued under the ADA. And so if that is the case, there are several success criteria that come up much more often in litigation than others. And it is very important to work on those first because there’s no sense in leaving ourselves exposed to litigation while we are working on accessibility. We might as well take care of the accessibility issues that are litigated the most often by the most active plaintiffs law firms. I have a course on that. I also have a course on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, so that you can start with these most litigated success criteria you can start there, you can learn how to find and fix in my course, you can find and fix those different issues, and I have them listed all by lessons and prioritized within those lessons. And then they also have strategy beyond that prioritization.

But then once you are finished with that, then you can go and learn about the full Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and really start to embody those principles. Because I will link to the W3C source documentation below. But what you will find if you go through that source documentation, it is very technical and unnecessarily. So in the sense that you don’t need to read through those guidelines. You can if you want to, but they’re just difficult to parse through. And so what I’ve done is I’ve summarized those and I’ve relayed the bulk of what you need to know in plain English. And if you feel like you need to know more, I’ve linked to all of those success criteria so that you can go look for them yourselves. So, in the description below, I will link to the checklist that I’ve had on the screen. And by the way, this checklist is just the different, it’s my WCAG 2.1 AA checklist. That’s what I’ve been displaying on the screen. I will link to the course, the WCAG course, where you can find all of the information. It’s the full guide, it’s got resources, it’s got video explanations from me on every single success criterion. And then I’ll also link to my ADA Compliance Course. That will dramatically reduce your risk. If you can go through all of the lessons and implement those lessons successfully, it will be very unlikely that you would be targeted in letting.