ADA Compliance for Websites

Learn the basics of ADA compliance for web, mobile, and other technology, and why you should be making digital accessibility a priority now.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all aspects of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. It is divided into 5 titles (or sections), each covering specific areas of public life.

When it comes to technology, we’re typically talking about ADA Title III.

If you have a physical location, Title III is what requires you to have accessible parking spaces or a wheelchair ramp. In the technology space, being ADA compliant means your website, mobile app, software, or other digital content is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Judges gavel in front of a monitor
ADA compliance for web and mobile

Does the ADA apply to websites and other technology?

Yes… and no. The ADA Title III requires that “places of public accommodations” be accessible to people with disabilities. The law was written before the digital versions of banking, shopping, and entertainment existed. There have been attempts to bring the text of the ADA up to date with modern technology, but those are currently on hold.

However, the absence of clear and specific regulations has not stopped a flood of demand letters from plaintiffs’ attorneys or stood in the way of a growing number of lawsuits and settlements under the ADA for inaccessible technology. You can read more about demand letters and settlements – how to avoid them and what to do if you find yourself on the receiving end – in the ADA Demand Letters & Settlements eBook.

Chat with a specialist about what recent ADA lawsuits mean for your business

How do people with disabilities use websites and mobile apps?

The answer: Assistive Technology (AT)

AT is a broad term referring to hardware or software that enables people with various disabilities to access technology, bridging the gap between a person’s abilities and the content they want to access. Some examples of commonly used AT by disability type include:

  • Blind: Screen readers, braille displays, and speech recognition software
  • Low Vision: Screen magnification, contrast adjustments, and other methods to personalize display
  • Mobility: keyboard-only navigation, speech recognition, eye tracking, and switch controls

You can learn more about how individuals with disabilities interact with web and mobile technology in the Understanding Assistive Technology article series.

people with different abilities using technology

What does it mean for a site to be “accessible”?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines require that a website be:

Perceivable: If someone cannot see, written content can be read by a screen reader. If someone cannot hear, audio content has captions.

Operable: If someone cannot use a mouse or touchpad, they can navigate by keyboard or by voice command software. If someone moves or reads slowly, they can request additional time to complete a task.

Understandable: If someone clicks on a navigation menu, it behaves like a navigation menu. If an error is made on a form, an error message points out the location of the error and suggests how to fix it.

Robust: The site is compatible with current assistive technology and is prepared to roll up to future iterations of AT.

Why should businesses invest in making their technology ADA Compliant?

It reduces legal risk. If you haven’t received a complaint yet it’s likely only a matter of time before you do. Proactive, documented efforts to make your technology accessible are the best defense against legal action.

It increases market reach. Estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans has a disability that affects their daily life. Technology is a big part of daily life.

It helps sell more products. If you sell technology B2B or B2G, having an accessibility conformance report will rank your product higher in the minds of your buyers, especially in highly regulated industries or the government.

It’s the right thing to do. Just as you’d remove physical barriers to your place of business, you should also remove digital barriers for people with disabilities.

It benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Accessibility best practices go hand-in-hand with better user experiences for everyone who interacts with your technology.

Read more about the Business Case for Accessibility

person with a magnifying glass over a mobile phone screen

How do I test my website for ADA compliance?

Free tools are a wonderful place to start! There are several free tools available that can give you a quick overview of your site’s compliance. Try webaccessibility.com to test up to six pages on your website for free.

Of course, you get what you pay for. But if you need to convince the person in charge of the budget that you have an accessibility problem, you can do that with the results of a free testing tool.

Next, you’ll want to contact an accessibility expert to do an audit. During the audit process, there will be automated and manual testing, as well as functional testing by people with disabilities.

After the audit, you’ll receive a report with your overall level of compliance and a list of accessibility issues that need remediation. Depending on your relationship with your vendor, they can provide training, help desk support, or even code side-by-side with your developers.

Request a free risk assessment (mini audit) of your website

Additional Resources

A wooden judge's gavel

ADA and the Internet: 2020 Legal Update

Webinar

Attorney Kristina Launey joined us for a review of the current ADA litigation landscape, recent appeals court decisions and what they mean for the future, and strategies for managing risk.

ADA Compliance for Websites and Mobile Devices

ADA Demand Letters & Settlements: What You Need to Know in 2020

Webinar

Learn what’s happening in web accessibility lawsuits now, how ADA demand letters work, practical steps you can take now to avoid receiving one, and how to tie that into an overall compliance strategy.

The 2020 State of Digital Accessibility Report

Report

The report shares the results of this year’s survey of nearly 1200 professionals in various roles across organizations of all sizes who shared a candid look into their accessibility programs.

Connect with an ADA Specialist Today!