In recent years, lawmakers and regulators have been enacting an increasing number of local and global regulations that organizations need to adhere to in the wake of massive corporate scandals. At present, there are roughly 250 unique security frameworks used worldwide, which is suited to fit a wide variety of sectors and businesses.
Regulatory compliance helps organizations protect their resources and reputation from staying competitive in the cutthroat business environment. Additionally, a tailored compliance program also enables businesses to target risk areas, which is essential in navigating the pitfalls without imposing unnecessary restrictions.
Despite the prevailing significance of compliance, some organizations still fail to follow industry regulations. According to a Globalscape survey, non-compliance costs businesses more than $4 million on average in revenue losses.
FMP Global further added that non-compliance costs more than twice the price of maintaining compliance. This is because non-compliance can result in severe and devastating commercial consequences with the rising of ethical expectations and regulatory scrutiny.
In short, ensuring that your organization is compliant with local and international standards should be a part of the daily activities to minimize risk and enhance your return on investments in a digitally-driven business landscape. Perhaps one of the most popular laws that tackle digital accessibility is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
ADA Compliance Basics
In general, ADA caters to providing people with disabilities with similar opportunities as anyone else. This includes requiring public businesses to ensure that their environment, products, and services accommodate individuals with disabilities.
As the internet becomes a place of business, regulators now require organizations to ensure that their apps and websites achieve compliance and cater to individuals that have problems that affect their vision, physical, and hearing capacities. While the ADA itself is not specific about web compliance, the objective is for businesses to provide the same level of accessibility online that people with disabilities are guaranteed with the law offline.
Technically, a business website is required to comply with ADA website requirements if it can be classified as state or local government organizations or are funded by the government. Moreover, organizations with a physical location that exists to serve the public should also follow ADA compliant website requirements.
This includes theaters, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, hotels, or even doctor offices. Private organizations with more than 14 full-time employees are covered by ADA website compliance standards as well.
An organization that is unable to establish an ADA compliant web presence can put itself in danger of lawsuits, damage to brand reputation, financial losses, and, eventually, the loss of trust from customers. Industry experts estimate that ADA website compliance lawsuits are usually settled between the ranges of $10,000 to $20,000.
Other than that, it could also lead to significant profit losses counting that people with disabilities atone for 15 percent of the population. In most cases, ADA lawsuits filed in federal courts target popular retailers like Domino’s Pizza LLC for its lack of accommodation for disabled customers. Further reports from the National Law Review added that ADA website litigation is likely to increase in the coming months.
Another report revealed that 2,285 web-related ADA lawsuits were filed in 2018, which is more than a 180 percent increase from the previous year. This is because of a lack of clear standards on what comprises website accessibility.
Nevertheless, ADA uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a guide to determine whether a website adheres to compliance regulations. As per WCAG, the levels of compliance are divided into three categories, with the medium-level or AA being the most commonly used for businesses.
Other compliance levels include A and AAA, which are standards that the organization must and may follow, respectively. Compliance levels have specific differences, particularly regarding its color contrast, with each level having a higher contrast minimum for each text.
Moreover, these compliance levels are also categorized based on their ability to provide successively more significant degrees of accessibility.
- Level A – It is the most basic web accessibility features. These websites provide persons with disabilities minimum access level but do not usually achieve extensive for many situations.
- Level AA – It deals with the most common and most significant barriers for disabled web users. Organizations who are seeking to achieve this level must add sign language interpretation and put captions on videos. They should make audio descriptions available for video content and use form fields and elements related adequately to user data input.
- Level AAA – This is considered as the highest level of web accessibility. It includes every requirement in Level A and Level AA compliance plus provide visitors an alternative option for live video and provide explanations for any abbreviations. Organizations seeking to reach this compliance level should also provide answers for complex words and tell users where they are on the page.
Nevertheless, ADA website compliance is open to interpretation and subjective, which is why it does not require level AAA as the general policy. What is more, WCAG also acknowledges that it is virtually impossible to create a website that is 100 percent accessible.
As another option for regulatory guidance, organizational leaders are also encouraged to assess the regulations that supervise federal websites and related case regulations to achieve a complete understanding of ADA website compliance.
Although there are blatant threats related to the ambivalence of developing an accessible website ahead of regulatory guidance, ensuring compliance safeguards companies from various regulations.
Additionally, ADA also requires websites to be optimized to work in conjunction with assistive technology. This is because poorly-designed sites can establish barriers for disabled citizens by limiting or completely inhibiting their ability to acquire all data available.
Outlined below is an ADA website compliance checklist that summarizes the tasks and questions to measure the level of compliance of a specific website. Review your site for ADA compliance by completing the following list to avoid hefty penalties and bad press.
Ensure Excellent Website Presentation
The initial step to achieving ADA website compliance is to declutter the design and provide the users with a way to adjust the color and size of the text, images, and fonts. Make sure that the document has a clear and accurate description of the content of the page.
This includes ensuring all content like link anchor text, page titles, and headings are using content related to the page. In connection with page headings, ADA recommends utilizing the hierarchy of subheadings within the page content for consistency.
Using bulleted lists or even applying a high contrast color scheme is recommended as well, especially when you are trying to differentiate information. By doing so, organizational websites can avoid dense paragraphs of text and ensure that their data is delivered appropriately.
Avoid underlining any copy unless it is a link. Links in every paragraph should also use at least two unique markups to separate them. Adding coded labels to each field of your website forms can help as well, especially since they are usually hard for screen readers to process.
Always ensure that it provides clear instructions on making corrections. Using standard formats for the name, address, and date of birth can make the form easily readable for screen readers, which can be relatively helpful for your search engine optimization efforts.
Website developers should also make sure that the site has quality code for more straightforward navigation. Maintaining a consistent layout footer navigation, header, framework on each page is essential for congruity. While main pages can have unique layouts, web creators should ensure that the categories match and the product pages use the same design.
More than anything else, ADA encourages web developers to use larger fonts to help individuals with blurry vision and other issues. The text should also be readable when users decide to enlarge it.
The ADA rule for resizing is up to 200 percent of the original size. For good measure, all texts must have a color contrast ratio of 4:5:1 against the background for legibility.
Manage Alternative Content Effectively
There is a myriad of ways to handle alternative content to meet ADA requirements. This includes avoiding the use of an image of text rather than of the text. Nonetheless, charts with labels, infographics, branding, and logos are exceptions to this rule.
Each image should also feature a descriptive alt text, including every chart, logo, and infographic. Infographics and graphs may also require a descriptive caption to connect the alt text to the information in the image and ensure that the text reader software can read the descriptions of the picture.
For websites that host digital audios or videos on their website, ADA requires developers to provide text transcripts, which should be shown in the live text on the page. It should provide a concise and complete understanding of the audio and video to accommodate blind or deaf visitors.
Synced closed captioning is also needed for every video with audible sounds and voices. Extensive table data may require an accompanying text as well to ensure that the content in the table is adequately explained.
Alternatively, website developers can turn a large table of data into smaller ones for clarity. Furthermore, the spreadsheets, documents, PowerPoint presentations, and PDFs within the website should meet all accessibility standards.
Provide Users Control Over Their Experience
Website traffic is essential in creating new business opportunities. The first step to maximizing web traffic is to give your web visitors control over their experience with features like autoplay, pause, or even popups.
While popups are helpful with providing information like a time warning or instructions, using auto popups for exclusive offers, subscriptions, and commercial reasons can be head-scratching for users.
Allowing users the ability to assess and correct essential information before final submission is helpful as well in achieving ADA website compliance. This rule applies to schedule, financial, and personal information.
It is also important to note that autoplay for audios or videos within the website is not permitted. In short, web developers should allow users to pause content that refreshes and updates.
Moreover, the website should also feature adjustable time limits so that users can extend their stay on a particular page. The recommended time limit is up to eight times the original limit.
Assure Website Usability
Web developers should take into account that ADA compliance boils down on how easy it is for the individual with a disability to navigate their site. Putting options like a default language and a search function box makes it easier for visitors to stay or use the website and eventually make a purchase.
Adding a skip navigation link at the top left on every page is also imperative to let users skip links or headings, thus, enabling them to go right to the main content. More often than not, website owners have the option to make the skip navigation link visible or invisible.
The website should be in HTML format as well to make it easier for text-to-speech and identical applications to read. In most cases, an optical character recognition device cannot recognize or read PDFs.
Web creators should also make sure that the entire website is usable with a keyboard alone and has a sitemap on the homepage. Even though the sitemap can be attached anywhere on the homepage, adding it on the footer of every page of the site can do wonders for ADA website compliance.
The website should feature assistive technology like text readers or magnifiers, optical character readers, screen-reading software, text-to-speech services, and closed captioning. Above all, you should also provide top-notch customer support to make it easier to address concerns and help users submit feedback.
The importance of ADA website compliance should not be taken lightly, especially with the recent increase in compliance lawsuits. Individuals with disabilities have the legal right to equal access to your site.
Contact RSI Security today for an assessment and to learn how to make your website ADA compliant. Our experts will help you give your customers a superb online customer that translates to higher returns on investments for your business.