Similar to most compliance issues, non-compliance with ADA can turn into a massive problem if ignored for too long. That’s why it’s time to take action before it’s too late.
There are three things all website owners should act on immediately to ensure their site complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.)
Step One: Do A Thorough Evaluation
Begin with an analysis of your current website to see where it stands. There’s no other way to chart a course of action without knowing the issues you need to address.
Luckily, tools exist that make this evaluation easier. You can check one page at a time using the Wave Web Accessibility tool. Wave will analyze your page to give you suggestions to improve accessibility for all visitors. Although not comprehensive, it’s a free utility that provides you with an idea of how much work your site needs in order to achieve compliance.
If you need to check password-protected or internal pages, Wave also has a Firefox and Chrome extension which can provide a report on any page of your site.
Perhaps you are more comfortable having someone else handle the evaluation? Not everyone is familiar with using online reports, and many won’t be sure exactly what they need to do to fix the issues. If that’s the position you’re in, a solutions provider is the right answer.
A comprehensive checklist helps to guide the next steps in achieving ADA compliance. A detailed list shows all of the requirements to direct your organization during the process.
Step Two: Ready Your Game Plan
You’ll need to put a few critical items in place to unleash a winning ADA compliance strategy.
First, decide who’s doing the work. Keep in mind this type of project is going to take time and resources. Further, it requires proficiency and technical skills. If you currently have a team member with the requisite expertise and spare time, that’s always an option. You may alternatively choose to have an experienced third-party handle the work instead.
Either way, you’ll need to make some decisions. Do you want to make changes to the live site, or do you prefer to make adjustments offline and replace the initial web design later? Those are crucial choices, and if you feel like you’re in over your head, it might be time to pass the baton to third-party ADA compliance specialists.
You may even debate whether it’s time to invest in new website design. If your current one is outdated and needs many improvements, it may be time to tackle the issue with a brand new site. If this is the case, it’s an ideal time to make additional changes since you’re starting a page by page improvement campaign. If you’re already working on the site, it could be time for updated content and fresh ADA compliant images. Tweaking SEO helps round out the campaign until you have a compliant, winning website that meets the needs of all visitors.
Step Three: Review All Your Published Content
If you maintain a video-rich website, you’ll want to pay careful attention to the ADA rules about graphics.
Beware of publishing video content that flashes or flickers. That type of video or graphic image is dangerous because it could cause seizures in specific individuals. Remove that risk entirely by carefully reviewing all video assets on your site. If you find a media asset that is questionable, consider removing it for good measure.
Graphics are a significant concern because of the need for accurate labeling to achieve ADA compliance. It’s not uncommon for websites to supply inaccurate or missing information on their image files. In ADA compliance terms, this degrades the experience for users with eyesight issues who rely heavily on the information written in the descriptions to understand the context of the image.
Website owners who wish to achieve ADA compliance will need to label all website images accurately. For a smaller website, this may be a trivial task, but for large sites with articles or corporate sites with tons of pages, it can quickly become overwhelming. It may be necessary to edit every file by hand to enter a complete and accurate description.
The alt tag is also critical in ADA compliance. This issue may be more problematic than you first think because many websites have thousands of pictures. It’s crucial to follow all of the best practices to achieve optimal ADA compliance.
You may consider reengineering every aspect of your visual and digital assets at this stage of the game. It’s sometimes easier to create new pages with new images that are ADA compliant from the beginning.
Develop the Proper Mindset to Achieve ADA Compliance
People with disabilities must be able to use your website. Thinking of their needs requires taking a 360-degree view of accessibility issues. Most corporate website designs are elegant and beautiful, but how many will withstand the scrutiny of an ADA compliance test?
Your organization may already have a compliance officer, or you may be outsourcing the work to third parties. Both are acceptable solutions, as long as steps are followed, and website improvements meet ADA standards. Failure to do so could result in costly lawsuits and fines.
In the early stages of the ADA compliance rollout, only large websites were the target of lawsuits. However, the legal profession moves fast and undoubtedly will target well-off companies that maintain (or fail to support) ADA accessibility regulations. In the United States, that means that access must be simple to use and functional for visitors.
If you prefer personalized and experienced service, contact us now. Our staff understands the technical and legal requirements to achieve ADA compliance and are happy to assist you during the process.