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How to Make Your Website Accessible to Everyone (And Where to Get Started)

Expert advice on how to ensure your website is up to scratch with ADA compliance

ADA website compliance is something that most companies take for granted until they are embroiled in a messy lawsuit.

Since its signing into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990, ADA has been leveraged by Americans with a Disability community to champion for their rights to access the same quality of products and services as every other American.

And, as of 2018, if any part of your digital assets, including your websites, apps or software, isn’t accessible to individuals with a disability, then your company is flouting Section 508 of ADA Title III, and therefore can be slapped with a lawsuit.

How Important is ADA Website Compliance?

According to Digital Authority Partners, website accessibility isn’t just a matter of avoiding an ADA lawsuit. Compliance can also do wonders for nearly every aspect of your business. Considering that Americans with disabilities number more than 40 million, it’s simply the right and ethical thing to do.

On the other hand, ADA website non-compliance comes with dire consequences. You risk losing business not just from the ADA community, but also federal, municipal, and state agencies. Of course, friends, family, and colleagues of people with disability will likely give a cold shoulder to your company and its products/services.

Remember it’s also mandated by the law, and the number of ADA lawsuits keep rising year in year out. For instance, in the first half of 2018 alone, there were more than 1053 ADA lawsuits, most of which targeted big corporations, as well as healthcare organizations.

No matter how you look at it, ADA compliance is something that healthcare executives should keep top of their mind. After all, your healthcare organization’s reputation and financial health are on the line. And the last thing you want is to join the likes of WellPoint, Inc., HCA Holding, Inc., Tenet Healthcare, and CAC Florida Medical Centers, 4 healthcare companies that have already been slapped with lawsuits for failing to complying with ADA compliance for healthcare websites.

Where to Get Started?

You might think making your website accessible to everyone is difficult. It isn’t. Even better, the Department of Justice (DoJ), which is the body tasked with overseeing ADA website compliance laws, has made the whole process a little clear. The first step to full-on accessibility is to understand what makes a website ADA compliant.

And, we’ve broken down the entire process of making your website ADA compliant into 5 easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1. Get Familiar with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

It all starts with getting to know the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These are website accessibility standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Recognized by DoJ as the gold standard for ADA website accessibility, these guidelines clearly tell you how a compliant website should look, feel, and behave like. It also brings together recommendations for uploading/editing videos & images, formatting text, adjusting menu items, and tweaking the actual site code to allow for better accessibility. Call them the “one for all, and all for one” rules of website accessibility.

At this point, you might want to sit down with your whole team, brainstorm, and review all the core directives of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It’s a great way to start on the right foot and find ways on how to implement the WCAG in a bid to bring your website to ADA compliance.

What does WCAG say? The clear message carried by WCAG 2.0/2.1 is that your website should be easy and hassle-free to use and navigate for everyone, particularly persons with disabilities. More specifically:

  • All graphics, images, and videos found on your website should be edited in a manner that they’ll not induce seizures
  • All menu options, buttons, and other top-level items should be clearly labeled for easy navigation.
  • The site color should provide a strong contrast to help users with visual disability tell between the background and foreground.
  • All non-text content like graphics, videos, and images should come with alternative text options such as closed-captions, alt texts, etc.
  • Ensure that the code and format behind your website are easily accessible via screen readers and other reader devices.
  • Avoid disappearing instructions and provide users with ample time when it comes to timed processes like automatic slides, pop-ups, and so forth.
  • Overall, your website should behave in a predictable manner, as well as come with a consistent format.

Step 2. Top-Down Vetting of your Website Code

When it comes to assessing your website accessibility, it’s crucial to begin by taking a more incisive look at your actual website code. Clean it up and ensure that the code is in compliance with appropriate guidelines under the WCAG 2.0. More crucially, remove extraneous or duplicate characters, nest site elements according to WCAG specs, add start & end tags to all website elements, and stay on top the website UI/UX.

Step 3. Test your Website Accessibility

Once you have tweaked your website code to ensure that it’s up to par with WCAG, it’s high time you test it with web accessibility testing tools. That’s where W3C comes in handy. You can find a list of W3C approved website accessibility testing tools here.

Step 4. Reach out to an ADA Website Compliance Agency

The chances are good that you have plenty on your plate, especially if you’re a healthcare organization. That’s why you need to bring on board a reputable ADA compliance agency with a good track record of delivery. The agency with take a closer look at your website and evaluate its state of compliance. What’s even better is that they have the tools, the expertise, and the specialists who’ll take your website accessibility to a whole new level.

Step 5. Keep Abreast of Changes/Trends in ADA Website Compliance

ADA website accessibility is an ongoing thing. After all, you’ll keep populating your website with fresh content, which must also be compliant. More importantly, stay informed when it comes to niche-specific ADA compliance trends and news. If a healthcare organization in your niche is slapped with an ADA lawsuit, make sure to know all the nitty-gritty of the case. It’s all about staying ahead of the ADA website compliance curve.

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