The accrescent relationship between technology and compliance has brought significant changes to the business industry. Evolving market conditions, entry of new players, innovative technologies, and customer needs all play pivotal roles than ever before as requirements continue to grow and expand to create new demands of compliance functions.
Recent trends show that businesses in the US spend an average of $10,000 per employee on regulatory costs. This is primarily because of the high expenses tied with compliance audits, which are usually performed one or more times each year.
Even though these statistics show the business industry’s continuous dedication towards compliance, there is still a myriad of organizations in the US who have yet to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a civil rights law that bans discrimination based on disability.
A recent report by UsableNet revealed that there were 2,285 web-related ADA lawsuits in 2018, which is a 181 percent increase from 2017. The exponential growth can be attributed to the lack of more transparent rules about website accessibility.
Unlike most government regulations that have to do with accessibility within a physical space, the ADA also covers access to technology, including mobile applications and websites. In short, business websites should provide ease of accessibility to people who have disabilities that hinder their capacity to receive information.
While there are no clear ADA regulations that spell out precisely what a compliant website is, businesses with at least 15 full-time employees and operates for 20 or more weeks in a given year are covered by the law. Other than that, ADA compliance also covers businesses that fall into the category of public accommodation, which includes public transportation, banks, and hotels.
In other words, the entirety of the ADA compliance law applies from physical locations to digital accommodations. Technically speaking, ADA classifies the level of compliance to three degrees.
Among the most common level of compliance used by businesses are medium-level or AA, which are rules that every organization should follow. Other degrees include the A and the AAA compliance levels, which are regulations that businesses must and may follow.
Failure to make your business ADA website compliant could lead to potential loss of customers, bad press, and eventually lasting reputational damage to your brand. According to experts, ADA website lawsuits are generally settled between the amounts of $10,000 to $20,000. However, this would change if the defendants decide to fight the case in court, in which the costs can rise significantly.
On the flip side, adhering to ADA regulations not only bolsters your reputation but also increases your target market. It is worth noting that there are approximately 40 million US individuals who have some disability. By broadening your reach and tapping into these markets, organizations can find innovative ways to sell their services and increase their bottom line without putting so much marketing effort.
Moreover, it also enhances your search engine optimization strategies because part of being ADA compliance is using screen readers who help web crawlers to recognize your website. By putting excellent efforts on video transcripts, meta-tagging, and alternative image texts, your organization can diversify your audience and open up new demographics.
However, organizations should be aware that system auditing tools can only recognize 26 percent of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) issues because the de facto standard is subjective and can be interpreted. WCAG also acknowledges that it is unreasonable to come up with a website that provides complete accessibility to individuals with disabilities.
This is why it does not have level AAA compliance to be required as the general policy for a website to be ADA compliant. In simplest terms, ADA defines accessibility of a website as a process of ensuring that people who suffer from hearing or visual impairments and those who must navigate by voice can still have meaningful engagements with the content on your website.
As an alternative for regulatory guidance, business owners are encouraged to examine the regulations that manage websites of federal websites and related case laws to gain a complete understanding of ADA website compliance. While there are glaring risks related to the uncertainly of creating an accessible website ahead of regulatory guidance, doing so could help protect organizations once regulations are established.
Essential Steps in Achieving ADA Website Compliance
WCAG has extensive guidelines that could very well apply to attain fundamental and recommended web content accessibility to achieve ADA website compliance. Outlined below are essential steps that an organization can take to ensure that their websites can be accessed by people with disabilities effectively.
1. Create a Consistent and Organized Layout
The website layout should be consistent enough as it displays the overall outlook of the website and reflects the work nature of the organization. By maintaining consistency on website layout and design, a visitor can easily navigate the site without feeling that they have landed upon a different website since the main elements stay the same.
Business websites should have a consistent color scheme to reinforce their brand identity. Studies indicate that people react more positively to a sense of harmony and are willing to trust a company with an organized business website.
Besides making your website easy to use and simple, consistent, and organized layout also trims down the development time, thus, saving you money in the long run. Nevertheless, effective web design depends on a plethora of factors from the excellent use of fonts through the correct use of tabs.
In most cases, web creators trying to meet ADA website standards ensure that the menu, buttons, and links are organized in a manner that is easily navigated throughout the site. This is usually done by delineating each aspect to make sure that the visitor can systematically navigate to the content they need.
This enables businesses to keep individuals with disabilities not only to stay on the website but also to make it easier for them to decide on whether to make a purchase or not. Through this process, organizations will not only be able to increase their bottom line but also fuel expansion and improve their growth rate.
2. Perform User Testing
Knowing how people with disabilities use your website is essential if you want to achieve higher user satisfaction. After all, a significant part of the answer can only be uncovered by talking to the users and watching them interact with your website.
One of the simplest and most effective ways of increasing your profitability and growth to your website is through performing user testing. By conducting a user test, website owners can detect usability issues at any phase of the product development cycle to enhance the overall user experience.
The testing process initially begins by defining your objectives, which may include flow efficiency, task duration, and error detection. Subsequently, your organization will choose a testing method that does meet not only your resources and testing facilities but also the most suitable in the current website development cycle.
Among the most common testing methods for ADA website compliance include individual in-depth interviews, card sorting, A/B testing, remote user testing, focus groups, and eye movement tracking. It is vital to create a solid test plan before choosing a testing process since some methods work better in different phases of the development cycle.
Furthermore, website owners should also develop task scenarios. It is important to remember that the way you ask users to complete tasks is essential to the success of the user testing procedure. This is because the purpose of user testing is not to direct users towards the finish line but instead give them sufficient information to complete the journey intuitively on their accord.
3. Use Suitable Accessibility Tools
The importance of accessibility is becoming more apparent as the internet, and the web has become essential components of life. Making sure that the network is accessible to everyone ensures that people with disabilities can actively participate in education, recreating, shopping, and health services online, thus, improving the life experience for all.
One of the most significant ways to ensure web accessibility is to use tools that develop text transcripts for audio and video content as well as create alt tags for all videos, images, and audio files. By expanding text transcripts, organizations can help hearing-impaired users to understand the content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
Moreover, alt tags also help users with disabilities to hear or read alternative descriptions of content they might not be able to view. Technically, these alt tags characterize the object itself and the purpose it serves on the site.
Aside from these tools, business owners can install keyboard navigation as well to make it easier for users to scan their websites without the use of a mouse. Usually, this is done by assigning a reliable indicator to each navigational item to help customers what page they are in as they continue to scan.
Alternatively, websites can include labels and inline messaging on their forms to make it easier for the screen readers to read and detect it. It can also inform users on whether they have filled something incorrectly or missed a field and provide the steps needed to fix it.
4. Find an ADA Consultant
Perhaps one of the best ways towards achieving ADA compliance is finding an ADA consultant like RSI Security to work with the framework or web platform you use. Ask about the effectiveness of their development workflow and how it can address accessibility.
More often than not, most platforms have a partner directory that assesses the accessibility of the site. The consultant will usually begin the assessment process by running an audit on your website to find out all the parts that do not achieve ADA compliance when it comes to web accessibility standards.
The full results of the evaluation will provide you with a complete picture of the work involved so you can set up your budget effectively and weigh on the benefits. The cost of compliance will typically depend on the server setup, the type of platform, and the tools involved.
Subsequently, the consultant will use these results to provide a report and gauge the level of effort needed to make your website ADA compliant. Good consultants will sit down with you and come up with a comprehensive budget as well as timelines, expectation management, and proposed deliverables to make the compliance process successful.
What is more, these consultants will also help you stay up-to-date on compliance standards after launching your website. While the tasks to remain within ADA guidelines are not burdensome, it does need some web managers to alter their workflows and ensure that it follows the best industry practices.
This is why it is essential to consider factors like qualifications, background, testimonials, and case studies when hiring an ADA consultant. Always make sure that the consultant has an extensive understanding of WCAG since accessibility goes way beyond adding the right text size, media, color, documents, and alt-text to images.
Other than that, organizations should also ensure that the chosen consultant understands their unique needs while getting their websites ADA compliant at the same time. Ideally, working with someone who has a wealth of experience in your industry can help take your website to greater heights as far as accessibility is concerned.
ADA website compliance brings a plethora of benefits as it gives organizations a competitive advantage, which could lead to more transactions and better overall experience across multiple browsers. Plus, it also provides digestible information to search engine results, which could help reach a wider audience and minimize the likelihood of paying ADA penalties.
Hiring an ADA consultant who is well-versed of the regulations and guidelines will also help you build a solid customer base and protect your organization in the long run. Would you like to know if your website is ADA compliant? Contact RSI Security today and get a complete audit of your website.