ADA compliance has shifted with technology. When the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was first enacted in 1990, it primarily focused on physical accessibility barriers, such as having a staircase instead of a ramp so a customer in a wheelchair could not access a business. Since 2010, the revised ADA includes the Standards for Accessible Design (Title II and Title III), which indirectly includes digital accessibility barriers. This means companies that do business online need to have digital information accessible to people with disabilities, in particular to those with vision and hearing impairments. An example of this is having a website designed so content and images can be read with assistive technology, such as a screen reader, that picks up on cues to decipher and read them to a person who is blind.
Unfortunately, companies that use a Content Management System (CMS) such as DNN often overlook building content strategies as well as development execution that adhere to digital accessibility standards (WCAG) and compliance of the ADA. This oversight can lead to serious consequences including a lawsuit if a person with a disability claims they cannot access a company website the same as the general public.
So what can companies using a CMS do to make sure they are meeting accessibility standards and ADA compliance?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) who is responsible for enforcing the ADA, suggests companies comply with the “World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Proactive planning and reviewing these guidelines is a first step. A quick reference to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements (success criteria) and techniques can be found here: How to Meet WCAG 2 (Quick Reference).
Some examples of what companies can do are:
- Use a web accessibility evaluation tool and audit the website.
- Design for user experience that has a logical well structured format and is not just for looks.
- Put together a style guide that adheres to the WCAG standards.
- Add Alt text/Alt attributes to every image so important illustrated concepts can be read by assistive technologies.
- Test color combinations with an online tool like Colorblind Web Page Filter so color blind users can still view the website. Combinations of blues and purples, for example, can be hard for some color blind readers to view.
- Ensure links are clearly identified and described by adding a text description of the link instead of just cutting and pasting the link or writing “click here” so screen readers can interpret them properly.
- Add transcripts, captions, and subtitles for all multimedia.
- Set up PDFs and Forms to be logical, keyboard accessible, and associate form labels with controls.
Companies can also review their website and download Mad’s ADA compliance checklist to ensure compliance and accessibility (Level A and Level AA) are being met.
But what about for larger or more complex websites?
Often times with larger or more complex websites, it’s not as easy as adding a simple title tag here or there. In these cases the next step to ensuring accessibility and compliance would be to hire an experienced web developer. Here at Mad, we apply a programmatic approach to these types of challenges. For example, if you have an e-commerce site with 1,000,000 products, one approach would be to programmatically inject alt tags for each photo based on the product name and photo number instead of manually going through and adding an alt tag for each photo on the website in a catalog of 1,000,000 products.
By having your DNN site ADA compliant and accessible to people with disabilities not only serves to avoid a lawsuit, but it is beneficial for several reasons. It shows that your company is socially responsible, increases your target audience, improves your reputation, and overall provides better website usability for everyone.
Compliance is no longer a nice to have feature. It is a fundamental requirement and a right for those who navigate digital experiences in non-traditional formats. Mad Development is not only committed to providing an accessible experience for our customers, we feel it’s important to raise awareness for all website owners to provide an experience that is accessible for all.