ADA Website Accessibility Requirements and Guidelines

Last updated:
  • “ADA website accessibility” generally refers to making your website, mobile apps, or digital properties accessible to users with disabilities. 
  • While web accessibility is not specifically mandated in the ADA, courts have interpreted it applies to websites and other digital experiences.
  • The best practice for ADA website accessibility is to make your website conform with WCAG 2.1 AA standards for accessibility . 
  • Achieving ADA website accessibility compliance typically includes using a combination of automated scans, manual  testing, and incorporating mandatory web accessibility training within your organization. 
  • Lastly, engaging with a web accessibility company like eSSENTIAL Accessibility can help ensure you conform withWCAG requirements, complying with ADA website accessibility. 

As litigation surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) website accessibility has soared in recent years, the term ‘ADA website compliance‘ has become commonplace.

ADA guidelines for web accessibility

But  ADA website accessibility compliance is tricky. Because the ADA was signed into law before the Internet went mainstream, the law itself doesn’t specifically reference website accessibility.  However, court rulings consistently favor accessibility, interpreting that the ADA does, in fact, apply to the digital world. And a best practice for ADA website compliance is to make your website conform to WCAG 2.1 AA standards.

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. 2.1 is the current version. AA refers to the conformance level that is most commonly required in legislation, not only in the United States but across the globe.

See also  Why WCAG Compliance Doesn't Exist

WCAG 2.1 AA includes more than 50 technical standards to improve the accessibility of your website, or mobile app. Conforming with WCAG will make you compliant with the ADA, achieving what’s often referred to as “ADA website accessibility.” 

Legal Precedence

Recent rulings point to WCAG as the gold standard for website accessibility. Additionally, certain international laws require WCAG conformance. Among them, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the AODA, the European Accessibility Act and others.

Why do we recommend WCAG 2.1 AA?

While conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA certainly makes your website or app robust in terms of accessibility, there are 12 additional success criteria included in WCAG 2.1 AA.

What’s of particular importance is that a handful of WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria address mobile accessibility. And as mobile usage continues to explode, it’s best to incorporate specific standards related to mobile interactions.

See also  6 Strategies for ADA Compliance in the Workplace

Also, it’s worth mentioning that most lawsuits now reference WCAG 2.1 AA.

Must-Have WCAG 2.1 Checklist

Download our Must-Have WCAG 2.1 Checklist to find out the 50 items you need to check off for WCAG 2.1 AA conformance.

See also  DOJ releases formal guidance: ADA requires web accessibility

Best Practices for ADA Website Accessibility

What exactly do you need to do to meet “ADA website accessibility” requirements?

Here are some of the best practices:

  • Hire a reputable independent third party to manually audit your website at regularly scheduled intervals (annually at a minimum)
  • Engage in user testing by individuals with disabilities
  • Utilize automated scans and continually monitor your website for accessibility issues
  • Incorporate mandatory web accessibility training for all individuals who contribute to your digital operations
  • Invite feedback and provide for customer assistance for those who have disabilities
  • Form a web accessibility committee and appoint a coordinator to that committee
  • Adopt and publish an outwardly facing digital accessibility policy or statement (plaintiffs’ lawyers specifically note an absence of a policy)
  • Request a statement of WCAG conformance from your third-party consultant or agency

See also  Accessibility for People with Astigmatism

What Organizations are Required to Comply with The ADA?

In addition to state and local governments (Title II), the ADA also applies to the public sector in its mention of places of public accommodation (Title III).  Per the ADA, places of Public Accommodation include:

(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging;

(B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;

See also  Here's How to Boost the Value of a VPAT

(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of entertainment;

(D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;

(E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;

(F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;

(G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;

(H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;

(I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;

See also  W3C Makes It Official: WCAG 2.1 is Ready

(J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;

(K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and

(L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation. 

Why is ADA Compliance so Critical?

Accessibility and inclusion are human rights. It is estimated there are more than one billion people globally living with a disability. Ensuring they have equal access to online information is a moral obligation, in addition to a legal one. 

See also  The ADA: 4 Basic Facts that Financial Institutions May Not Know

See also  Looking at Your Organization’s Website From the Perspective of People With Disabilities

How Can Digital Accessibility Make A Difference?

More than  4.57 billion people are active Internet users. In the U.S. alone, consumers spent an estimated $517.36 billion online.

These statistics are especially important when you consider the potential spending power of people with disabilities – an estimated $490 billion in the U.S.. An inaccessible internet can exclude these individuals and their spending power.  

Additionally, 69 percent of customers with disabilities will instantly leave the site if it does not meet their accessibility needs. Another 80 percent of customers with disabilities have stated that they will spend more time and money on a website that has improved accessibility features.

Following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), will ensure an online experience is accessible to all users. 

Discover an Innovative Solution to Web Accessibility

eSSENTIAL Accessibility is proud to offer a comprehensive Accessibility-as-a-Service solution to help organizations conform with the latest WCAG guidelines and comply with ADA website accessibility requirements.

Request a demo today.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

What to do next

We can help you meet WCAG standards and maintain ADA and AODA compliance:

  1. Connect with us today to learn more about our comprehensive approach to digital accessibility, including our automated and manual auditing capabilities and extensive range of managed services.
  2. Visit our resources section to download free white papers and webinars, and find our newest blogs on industry trends.
  3. Connect with us to continue the conversation on Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

Subscribe for Updates