Make It Right: The Value of an ADA-Compliant Website
Accessibility means meeting the needs of everyone in your business audience, including those with disabilities. By making a few adjustments to your website and other digital mediums, you eliminate audience barriers and avoid potential legal complications. An ADA-compliant website is a necessity for every company — as your agency partner, we’re here to explain the why and how behind accessible marketing.
Why does accessible marketing matter?
Accessibility standards open doors for your company, acting as a substantial source of security, positive perception and economic growth. Generally, accessibility concerns boil down to three factors.
- Legality. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require businesses to keep digital platforms equitable and accessible. If you fail to comply with established standards under these pieces of legislation, you may be subject to a lawsuit.
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. A lack of accessible marketing could be considered discriminatory, which may create feelings of distrust and anger among your consumers. You want your audience to perceive you as inclusive, authentic and equitable in all aspects of your marketing strategy. By dedicating time to the creation of an ADA-compliant website, you are actively crafting a positive public image for your brand.
- Opportunity. One billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. If your website is inaccessible, you’re missing out on business from a large portion of the world market. It’s in your company’s best interest to be accessible to all.
How do you create an ADA-compliant website?
ADA compliance relies on recommendations from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — an internationally recognized guide released by W3C. Their accessible marketing standards revolve around four principles:
1. Perceivable. All audience members should be able to perceive your content without losing its meaning. Most of the time, this means making it easier for users to see and hear content across digital platforms. Perceivable content may involve:
- Providing text alternatives for multimedia content such as transcripts.
- Providing captions, audio descriptions, sign language interpretation or other options.
- Creating presentation options capable of translating to assistive technology.
2. Operable. Users should be able to traverse your website quickly and easily, regardless of their ability. An ADA-compliant website interface must:
- Give users ample time to read content.
- Allow for all functionality to be accessible through the keyboard, such as the ability to use arrow keys to navigate form elements.
- Help users find content easily — for example, ensure there is more than one way to locate a web page.
3. Understandable. The content and user interface should be easy to understand. Accessible marketing will play into user intuition by:
- Making text legible.
- Making content consistent and predictable.
- Explaining errors and helping users correct them.
4. Robust. Content must be robust enough for assistive technologies to interpret it. Your website must maximize compatibility with current and future technologies — this may mean maintenance as technology evolves with new or revised accessible features.
What are the levels of ADA compliance?
You must strive to feature all four principles of accessible marketing without impacting the functionality or tone of your site. However, implementation is not a one size fits all approach — rather, there are three levels of conformance for an ADA-compliant website that fit the needs of different groups.
WCAG Level A is the most basic level of ADA conformance. Features involved are easy to implement without impacting your site’s structure. For example, Level A would require you to provide captions for non-text media such as videos on your site. However, this level may not be enough to meet the needs of all users — or appease those in the legal sphere.
WCAG Level AA is often considered a good standard for accessibility. Features involved are more comprehensive and may impact your site structure. For example, Level AA would require you to provide synchronized captions for live audio content. This level is the official standard for an ADA-compliant website in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and India.
WCAG Level AAA is the most comprehensive standard for accessible marketing. It involves strict benchmarks and is generally considered the ultimate goal for web developers. For example, Level AAA would require that you provide sign language interpretation for pre-recorded audio and alternative media that conveys the same message for live content.
At Paradigm, our web developers strive to reach the highest level of compliance for each client. We tailor functionality and other features to fit your audience’s needs and protect you from legal action. Regardless of the state of your site, our team brings you up to the latest accessible marketing standards established by WCAG.
How do I know if I’m compliant?
The first step toward an ADA-compliant website is partnering with a web development firm to perform a website audit. Web developers analyze your website for potential flaws and identify steps toward remediation. They spot things you may miss internally, such as error codes or design that does not adhere to color contrast standards.
Without a tried-and-true accessible marketing partner, your business may face challenges legally. Paradigm has over 25 years of experience in web development and compliance — contact our team to create an ADA-compliant website up to 2023 standards.