The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a far-reaching civil rights law, ensuring that people with disabilities – an estimated 19 percent of the United States population – are not discriminated against as they participate in society.
What Is ADA Compliance?
The ADA requires organizations, among other things, to provide their goods and services in a way that is accessible and doesn’t shut out individuals who happen to have disabilities.
But if you’re not very familiar with the needs of this population, it can be daunting to figure out whether you’re complying with the law.
That’s why it’s a good idea to review and refer to the ADA compliance guidelines that have already been compiled.
When your business or organization follows established guidelines to ensure that you’re meeting the ADA requirements, it doesn’t only make a difference for people with disabilities. It’s also in your own best interests.
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, people with disabilities represent a huge potential market that is largely untapped, even today.
So, if your customers or clients with disabilities recognize the steps you’ve taken to be inclusive of their needs, they’ll be more inclined to give you their business. That’s why we’re confident in suggesting you can make ADA compliance guidelines work for you!
ADA Compliance Checklist
If a building, a piece of equipment, a technology, or even a business policy or hiring practice is “ADA compliant,” that means it’s fully conformant with the ADA, equally available to and usable by everyone whether or not they happen to have a disability.
That’s fair, right? We’re sure you’d agree.
But having good intentions doesn’t go far enough – and it won’t satisfy the law. Wanting to comply with the ADA and knowing how to comply with the ADA are two different things.
How To Comply With ADA Disability Guidelines?
Fortunately, you don’t need to navigate a steep learning curve, as there are many resources, compliance checklists and consulting firms that can help your organization or business meet ADA standards. Let’s discuss a few examples.
The United States Access Board is an independent federal agency that specializes in developing guidelines and standards for accessible design.
Its guidelines address areas like buildings, public transportation, and information technology, providing exact specifications such as measurements of hallways, or slopes of ramps.
These guidelines, many of them specifically designated as ADA compliance guidelines, are collected together onto a website for anyone to view.
The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice also provides ADA Standards for Accessible Design for many aspects of the built environment, from curb cuts to bathrooms to amusement park rides! This ADA compliance website has a guide available.1
Some ADA compliance guidelines are created by private entities. For instance, Adobe Systems, Inc., which produces Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader, has created a list of ADA guidelines for PDF documents. (There’s also a built-in accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat DC, with a Full Check tool.)
ADA Standards For Accessible Design – Websites
Up to now, the U.S. Department of Justice has not produced a set of ADA standards for websites, even though guidelines for ADA compliance in other areas are available. Yet the department has acknowledged that inaccessible websites continue to prevent many people with disabilities from accessing the same services and programs as everyone else.
It’s not always for a lack of goodwill.
It’s often for a lack of technical expertise. When you see three steps in front of a main entrance, the accessibility barrier is in plain sight, and pretty obvious to everyone. You don’t need any special training to realize that a person using a wheelchair might have difficulty entering that front door.
But when the form for submitting a payment online automatically times out after a certain period of inactivity, it may not occur to you – unless you yourself have accessibility expertise – that this could be a major barrier for someone who takes longer to type because of a disability. Thus, ADA compliance guidelines for the web can be exceedingly helpful.
There is, in fact, a thorough set of web accessibility guidelines called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These are produced collaboratively by the international World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has been fielding requests for an ADA-specific set of accessibility standards that would enable organizations to ensure their websites are in compliance with this law.
Thus, the department is currently considering adding specific technical requirements for websites to the ADA itself. In the meantime, though, adhering to WCAG 2.0 is the best way to ensure a website meets the needs of people with disabilities.
Consultants Can Help You Meet ADA Compliance Guidelines
As we’ve said above, it can be a challenge to spot accessibility barriers in technology when you don’t have the expertise.
How often do you consider that an online video demonstrating an innovative new product can’t be heard by people who are deaf? Or that not everyone can shake their smartphone or perform a complex swiping gesture to operate an app?
Qualified consultants can do full assessments and let you know how well you’re complying with the ADA. As they tend to specialize in different aspects of accessibility, you should carefully select a consultant who is well trained in the area you need assessed.
Whether it’s for your website, your mobile apps or your digital advertising campaigns, an ADA consultant can conduct an evaluation, produce an accessibility report and assist you with remediation solutions. Then you can be completely confident that you’re meeting ADA compliance guidelines.
Consider it a valuable investment.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a full-stack accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes integrating web accessibility evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Department of Justice, September 15, 2010.