In the quarter century since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, its original intent still remains intact: Ban employment discrimination against the disabled and ensure equal access to commercial and government buildings.
However, what the ADA could not have predicted, was how much the technological landscape would change. Think about it. It’s 2019, and in the last 10 years alone we’ve been introduced to smartphones, iPads, podcasts, streaming and so much more.
In an ever-connected society, it’s more important than ever to ensure we all have equal access to websites and online services, especially as the internet becomes an increasingly integral tool in our daily lives.
But those fighting for disabled rights have made their concerns clear: Websites haven’t been doing their part in keeping content accessible. According to a report from the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, federal lawsuits ruling on web accessibility nearly tripled in 2018, with the trend continuing into 2019.
So how can your organization meet the needs of all online visitors—including those with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities—not to mention avoid potential lawsuits? Start by keeping your website accessible using the POUR principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. (Note: the bulleted items below are just a few example areas to be aware of; there are many more.)
Your website visitors must be able to perceive the information being presented to them. To remain perceivable:
- All images must have an “alt” attribute
- All input fields must have labels
- Videos must include captions
- Text must have enough contrast with the background
- Visitors must be able to resize web fonts if needed
Your website visitors must be able to operate the interface. To remain operable, your website:
- Should function with just the keyboard
- Should not require a mouse
- Must have “skip to” links (example: Skip to main content)
- Must have proper headings
- Must have proper page titles
Your website visitors must be able to understand the information being presented to them. To remain understandable:
- Add the language attribute to all web pages
- Specify when content in another language appears
- Make sure your visitors can find out the meaning of any abbreviation
- Put your navigation elements in the same place on each webpage
- Add proper error messages
Your website content must be robust enough that it can be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of assistive technologies, including screen readers. To remain robust:
- Make sure your website works
- If you build your own user components, make sure they work like the native html elements (buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, etc.)
Website Accessibility Resources
While implementing POUR accessibility principles is a great start, it’s not the end of the story. There are currently two main web accessibility standards that provide far more comprehensive guidelines for you to follow:
Section 508 is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG 2.1 requires specific techniques for compliance and is similar to Section 508, but on an international level. It’s also more current.
WCAG 2.1 builds on previous guidelines such as WCAG 1.0 and 2.0, expanding more on mobile accessibility. It was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which sets the main international standards for the World Wide Web and its accessibility.
Need Help With ADA Compliance?
Keeping your website in compliance can be tricky. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Rhythm works with many brands to ensure their websites provide better experiences for those with disabilities. Ready to join them? We can provide a detailed report of all known issues that require fixing in order to reach ADA compliance. So let’s talk!