The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important safeguard to civil rights because it assures something that can easily get neglected in day-to-day life: accessibility for everyone. Nowadays, we spend a lot of our waking hours on the internet and this virtual space is now recognized as a place of public accommodation covered by the ADA. Today, consider this checker as your brief guide to ensuring accessibility for any website you own.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Courts have increasingly been deciding in favor of complainants serving websites with ADA lawsuits, but if you read the law word for word, it doesn’t actually mention this virtual space. That is because the ADA was enacted before the first ever smartphone was even created. Needless to say, back in 1990 the world was an entirely different place and the lawmakers then had no way of foreseeing how popular the internet would become.
Like technology, the law continues to change and improve daily. Now, if you want to find out if your website is adhering to accessibility standards, the recognized reference is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is now on its 2.1 version. It was published in 2018 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Referring to their recommendations means that you will have to evaluate every single line of code or text on your website. This can be done either manually or via automated testing.
How to Check for Compliance
Strictly speaking, testing for accessibility adherence is no easy task. There are many types of disabilities to consider and there are possibly unpredictable situations that must be taken into account.
For websites that carry the bulk of a business’ operations like ecommerce websites, there are pages and pages and lines upon lines of code that must be checked for violations. In this situation, it would be best to go for automated testing using tools listed by the W3C. But if your website only has a few pages, you can reasonably go for a manual audit that you might even be able to do yourself.
Some important points for surety:
- Easy to Navigate
Accessibility is all about navigation. Test your website to see if it is keyboard-friendly for people who will not be able to use a computer mouse.
- Screen-Reader Compatible
Expect that there might be visitors to your pages who will make use of assistive technology. Images must be accompanied by alt text or word descriptions that can explain to the user what is being shown on the screen.
If your site has any videos, even videos that you have only linked to, make sure that these feature closed captioning for visitors with hearing impairments.
Those are only the tip of the iceberg. A hundred percent ADA compliance is probably impossible but we must strive for this ideal. As long as you are regularly checking for adherence and keeping an attentive ear for user feedback, this shows that you are willing to conform to the ADA and the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.