Those in business are quite familiar with compliance. Whether you are starting a business or have been running your business for a few decades, there are always various forms of compliance that you must adhere to. For those with a website (which should be every business), you’ve probably heard about ADA compliance. If you’re not sure what that is or if you comply, you may need to look into an ADA compliance audit.
Audits can be scary, but they are necessary to find and resolve potential issues before they develop into real problems.
Today, we’re going to be diving into the specifics of what an ADA compliance audit entails and help you decide if your website needs one.
What is the ADA?
The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This piece of legislature was published all the way back in 1990 by the Department of Justice. It’s quite lengthy and has been updated regularly since its inception over three decades ago. If you’re interested in reading the full text, you can check out the ADA’s website here.
But what does an old piece of legislation have to do with your website?
In 2010, ADA regulations were updated in what was called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. They were updated in 2012, 2014, and most recently in 2018. These standards explicitly state that electronic and information technology must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
These standards apply to all commercial and public entities which, in this case, include your internet properties. Specific guidelines are still being debated but that does not mean websites can forgo compliance until everything is resolved.
The DOJ states that website discrimination will not be tolerated and those that don’t follow compliance will face legal repercussions, such as fines.
What exactly does it mean to make your website accessible to everyone? The ADA covers all people with disabilities. That ranges from those hard of hearing to those with low-vision users.
Broadly speaking, it means having items like screen readers that can voice your content to those with low visibility. It could also mean having text-zoom options, keyboard navigation, alt-image tags, and even closed captioning options for video content. These tools are called assistive technologies.
These tools give users with disabilities the ability to easily and effectively navigate your website.
ADA Lawsuits are Real (and expensive) Risks
You might be thinking that your business is safe from any penalties and lawsuits ‘could never happen’. In fact, the lawsuits related to ADA have increased within the last three years, including a 177% increase from 2017 to 2018.
Some big-name businesses have been hit with ADA lawsuits, such as Domino’s, Target, Amazon, Apple, Burger King, Nike, Netflix, Rolex, and the NBA’s official website. These big corporations and enterprises bring in millions of dollars every day to fight a lawsuit. Can your business afford to be drawn into a lawsuit?
Many of the websites hit have been large, eCommerce websites that receive thousands if not millions of visitors each day.
Many businesses named in the lawsuits have tried to claim mootness, but the vast majority of those have been denied and the lawsuit has proceeded.
Making a Second Website
Instead of paying a lawsuit, businesses have tried to rapidly design and develop a new website. Making a brand new website takes time, money, and resources away from other projects. While a lawsuit may be costly, making a new or second website can just be as costly and even more time-consuming.
ADA Compliance Audit Steps
So, how do you avoid all of those issues? How do you avoid the lawsuits and the scramble to design a completely new website?
You perform an ADA compliance audit, also known as a web accessibility audit. This can be part of a digital audit or its own independent thing. The overall goal is to make your website accessible that not only adheres to all guidelines but gives your users a better overall experience.
ADA website audits can be performed manually, but they are time-consuming, difficult, and an underqualified individual may make mistakes.
A qualified expert, on the other hand, can examine your website before presenting their findings. But what goes into an audit?
It’s not necessary to go through every single page on a website (some eCommerce sites may take years), but instead, each section will have a few pages presented as samples to verify compliance. Those samples will be taken and evaluated closely.
Through the examination of each page, violations will be listed out. All in all, 38 different levels of criteria must be examined. These range from everything like code reviews to website layout.
Any areas that are violations will be laid out in a report. Any areas where you already comply usually won’t be included in a report.
An ADA compliance audit report can be quite extensive, depending on the number of violations or issues found on your website. What are you likely to find in the report?
You might need to update your code or completely rewrite it to meet the necessary guidelines. This may have to be performed in-house or through a third party with custom programming experience.
Your site structure may be inhibiting people from clearly navigating around your site. You might need to overhaul your site structure, put your content into silos, or reorganize your primary pages.
You don’t want to repeat an ADA audit year after year. You want to find the violations, fix the violations, and test to make sure you’re adhering to standards. To protect yourself from further issues, a solid report will have any necessary training or suggestions on how you can maintain ADA compliance in the future.
What are the Benefits of an ADA Website Audit?
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of an audit, what are the actual benefits? What does ADA compliant mean for websites?
Minimized Legal Risk
As a business, you want to make sure your legal risk is as close to zero as possible. While there are some uncontrollable things out there, you can take control of your website with an audit. Making sure your website is ADA compliant means you won’t have to worry about any lawsuits or legal issues.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is optimizing your website so it appears at the top of search results.
The best SEO practices and ADA compliance go hand-in-hand.
- Header tags assure that page descriptions are easy to recognize and read. They also tell Google what your page is about.
- Atl-tags on images tell users with disabilities what the image is about. They can also help with image SEO.
- Closed captions and video transcripts help those hard of hearing understand a video. They will also help with your on-page SEO and video SEO.
- Link anchor text tells users what the page they’re clicking on is about. Anchor texts are also vital for your in-linking policy.
Better User Experience
Quite simply, adhering to ADA compliance guidelines means you’re going to be making a better user experience for everyone.
Take the idea of video transcripts. Someone may want to watch your video but is unable or they may not be a native English speaker. Having a transcript at the bottom is going to ensure they understand your video. If they like it, they’re more likely to share it with colleagues or others they know.
If you make sure and put alt-tags on various images, you can show what an image is if it doesn’t load. We’ve all had slow internet connections and sometimes images get left behind. Making sure they have alt-texts is vital for all users.
Making your website accessible to those with disabilities is going to increase your target audience. You’re giving everyone the ability to use your website and all of its functions. You never know who might visit your website, but poor functionality can immediately turn them away.
We Can Help Make Your Website ADA Compliant
Here at Atiba, we offer ADA compliance audits. We know that for your business to succeed, you need to look and feel as professional as possible. We can help optimize your site for all users while also improving your SEO and overall visibility.
If you’re looking to make your site ADA compliant, reach out to us today for your project quote! We look forward to hearing from you.