In just the past few years, ADA compliance has really started to rear its head when it comes to websites. Companies throughout the United States (especially financial institutions) have been sued for lack of ADA compliance on their websites, which can usually be attributed to a few problems that are easy to fix.
ADA compliance, specifically under the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, is something that is expected to be codified by the Department of Justice this year. Divided into three compliance levels, WCAG 2.0 is still not actual law or regulation; however, these requirements do make for a better web experience for users that are differently-abled and are frequently cited in lawsuits. Online WCAG 2.0 checklists are available from several sources to help business owners better understand the requirements.
In this post, we will be discussing:
- ADA and SEO
- Online Tools
- Challenges with ADA Compliance Audits
- Strategies for Success with ADA Compliance
ADA and SEO
The good news for your business and website is that ADA and good SEO really aren’t that far apart. Many of the Level A (base ADA compliance level) requirements actually parallel good SEO techniques and practices, such as including labels on all navigation elements in code, or including “alt-tag” values on images. Most of these practices are in place so that if someone who is visually impaired visits your businesses’ website, their screen reader application has the ability to literally read every element of the page to them, including instructions on what will happen if they click on a given element, like a menu item or image.
SEO and ADA part ways in some of the more advanced elements, especially around menus and navigation. The team at GRIT has observed menus and navigation elements as being one of the primary items that cause ADA compliance issues on websites — something most free online ADA audit tools don’t catch as a problem.
That said, it is important to note that just having your boxes checked in regard to good SEO doesn’t mean you’re remotely near the mark on even WCAG 2.0 Level A ADA compliance.
Online Tools for ADA Compliance
There are some great online tools to help businesses evaluate their websites for ADA compliance, but they are often difficult to understand, relying on the business owner to then take action either themselves, or through a 3rd party website developer, like GRIT.
One of the most popular free online tools for ADA audits is WAVE. While WAVE provides a great online tool and even a free Chrome Browser Extension, this tool is only as good as the people using it, and only analyzes one webpage at a time.
Challenges with ADA Compliance Audits
It’s worth mentioning that these free tools often overlook some issues. On several occasions while auditing websites, the GRIT team has observed custom elements created by plugins in WordPress (like fancy menus for example that don’t load as page elements) are often ignored by the WAVE system. If those menus can’t be tabbed to by using the keyboard, or opened with the keyboard, then your website has a compliance issue that this free tool will have completely overlooked, which leaves you and your business in the uncomfortable situation of having compliance issues and not even knowing about them, until it’s too late.
Strategies for ADA Compliance Success
The best thing that you can do with ADA compliance is to get started with an audit. Free or paid, these audits can at least give you a baseline understanding of how bad the problem might be, and what must be done to fix it.
And yes, sometimes the solution may be building a new website. Why? This can be the result of the issues being so severe, or inherent to the system upon which your site is built, that it’s actually less expensive in the long run to invest in an updated website.
In many cases, a digital marketing agency like GRIT can perform a full site audit and present you with a comprehensive plan to remediate any ADA compliance issues present on your website. The plan may include a new website, but quite often with just a few hours of work, an existing website can be brought into compliance by our skilled team of web designers and digital marketing specialists.
If you’re ready to make sure you’re not behind the eight ball with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, contact GRIT today for an estimate.