2020 has seen a surge of “from-home” activities especially working and learning. This means that a huge number of people access websites every day. While some people find this new normal convenient, the same can’t be said for people who have disabilities.
Persons with disabilities are currently struggling to understand a number of websites, let alone navigate through them. This is where the ADA or the American Disabilities Act may help them.
What is ADA?
The ADA, also known as the American Disabilities Act, was passed 30 years ago on July 26th, 1990. The purpose of this law is to provide equal access to public accommodation to persons with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination when accessing public and private spaces especially when those private spaces are associated with the government and its services. For example, universities who grant federal loans to students are required to abide by the ADA.
A few years ago, ADA was understood to be for physical establishments. However, with the internet being a necessity to almost everyone, ADA’s guidelines have extended to websites and web content.
The irony of the American Disabilities Act is that there is no standard given as to how websites should be. There is no base design or organization for businesses to follow. Nonetheless, businesses follow the guidelines found in WCAG as their basis for creating ADA-compliant sites.
The WCAG or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to serve as a reference point for the ADA. It is currently on its second version wherein it is more inclusive of different types of websites and services offered on the Web.
The WCAG 2.1 Guidelines
As mentioned earlier, the WCAG is on its second version. It’s called ‘WCAG 2.1’ and not 2.0 because the former serves as an extension of 2.0. In the 2.1 guidelines, there are three levels of compliance, namely, A, AA, and AAA. A stands for the bare minimum level of accessibility, AA for target level of accessibility that meets legal requirements, and AAA for those exceeding the accessibility requirements.
There are four principles the WCAG 2.1 follows: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).
There are alternatives to seeing and reading texts. Instead of having the text as the only medium for navigating and understanding the content, there is an audio or assistive technology that is available.
The site can be used through controls in a keyboard or an alternative device. All contents and actions should be able to be controlled through hand-held devices.
All content, even if discusses complicated topics, is easy to understand. Similar to being perceivable, content should have input assistance available.
The website and its contents should be compatible to third-party technologies offering assistive services. It should be accessible and easily understandable in other devices, be they desktops, mobile phones, and other devices.
Ways to be ADA-compliant
There are many simple ways to make a website compliant with ADA’s rules. Here are some of them:
- Make the layout user-friendly and organized
How the site is organized affects how users will understand the content. Make sure that links and buttons are recognizable and are placed in relevant sections. Links should not be small and floating. If there are other objects on the webpage, they should all be organized in an easy-to-understand layout.
- Provide transcripts for audio and video content
All audio and video content should have transcripts either underneath the content. Avoid asking to download the transcripts.
- Indicate alternatives to navigate the website
The website should be able to give recommendations to users on how best to use the site. Texts can be complemented with audio technology or button commands.
- Avoid using color to indicate signs and actions
To make it easier for visually-impaired people, sites should never rely on color to show that a field is required or that it is something important. Not only are colors confusing for color-blind people, they are also hard to use and navigate. Instead, place them as text and create assistive controls along with them.
- Use proper font formatting
While this sounds basic, how the texts are formatted plays a huge role in the accessibility of the site. For example, no text should be in gray even if it’s to indicate that the link was clicked. Hyperlinks should also describe what it does. This means that ‘Click here’ links are misleading and not ADA-compliant.
For more guidelines, go to adasitecompliance.com for the complete list.