ADA Website Compliance: Get Ahead Before You’re Behind

26 Feb

design

New ADA Regulations Could Affect Your Website Design Practices

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

For a long time, the only constant related to the web and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been confusion. Recent news and information floating around has caused many companies and web development firms to consider changes to website design and development practices to ensure compliance. Are we finally about to get clarity on the topic?

This topic has been discussed for years with many predictions of future actions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and proposed amendments to ADA guidelines. For years, government organizations, some publicly traded organizations, educational institutions, and other entities have been concerned with ensuring their websites are ADA compliant. The bulk of other industries and focuses have worried only about certain usability aspects. Now, industry professionals are predicting that everyone will soon be required to comply with the ADA or face the penalties associated with breaking the law.

At this point I feel compelled to include a disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer and nothing in this post or on this site constitutes legal advice. I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to rethinking how we build websites to ensure that all businesses, regardless of industry or sector are ADA compliant to the right standard.

Until now, many of us have followed the lead of Google in pushing for all image and video content to be labeled or marked up in a way that is friendly for the visually impaired by utilizing screen reading software. We have also emphasized rendering content in a user-friendly way for all sizes of screens and types of devices. And these have been great improvements—but we’re finding that they aren’t enough to meet the potential new standard.

While there has been a lot of talk and speculation about what the new standard will be and when it will be officially adopted, the consensus that I (and colleagues I’ve spoken with) have found is on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. That is a specific standard and level defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that works to define standards for the web. This level of ADA compliance would require a decent amount of work for a lot of existing websites. But when integrated into design and development processes for new websites, it won’t add too much extra effort in the long-run.

The two biggest challenges that I see for digital marketers are:

  1. Finding a way to get our sites ready for the potential April DOJ mandate
  2. Finding the budget to invest to update existing sites in a cost-effective way.

The more you read, the more uncertainty you’ll find regarding predictions for what is going to happen. Interestingly, the DOJ has chosen not to amend ADA guidelines in the past, but has taken enforcement action. Regardless of all of the speculation and confusion out there, the time is now to start considering where your web properties stand regarding ADA compliance and start determining how your organization will prepare for these new standards, whether they are officially adopted or left to be just guidelines.

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