By testing your website for ADA and WCAG compliance and making the necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your site is accessible to everyone. To learn more about ADA compliance for websites, read the ADA's website accessibility best practices tool kit. Although they're best practices for state and local governments, businesses may find them useful too.
Visual: Use a screen reader to help you navigate the site. Users who are blind must be able to understand any element on the site where they land and if it contains functionality such as a link. Several ways to emulate this are to close your eyes or turn your monitor around and navigate the site using the keyboard. If, you as a tester, land on an element and a screen reader cannot make sense of what the element is, that is an issue of ADA compliance. For users with poor vision or colorblindness, testers have to make sure colors are distinguishable, and these can include background colors, link colors, font colors, etc. Screen magnifiers are a great way to test for poor visibility. There is a great tool known as Color Oracle that can emulate what a user with colorblindness sees on the screen. If colors can’t be distinguishable, that is an issue of ADA compliance. Make sure text alternatives are provided to images that convey information (look at the alt tag on the code).
While the ADA regulations don't mention websites, the U.S. Department of Justice frequently cites recommendations such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and 2.1 created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international group that helps create and promote web standards. The WCAG highlight different criteria for making websites more accessible to people with disabilities, such as including captions for audio content and using high-contrast color schemes.
A critical and often overlooked component of ensuring success is comprehensive and ongoing staff training. Covered entities may have established good policies, but if front line staff are not aware of them or do not know how to implement them, problems can arise. Covered entities should teach staff about the ADA's requirements for communicating effectively with people who have communication disabilities. Many local disability organizations, including Centers for Independent Living, conduct ADA trainings in their communities. The Department’s ADA Information Line can provide local contact information for these organizations.
Motor/Mobility: Voice recognition software, touch screens, head/mouth wands, special switches, keyboard overlays, one-handed keyboards, oversized mouse or trackball are some of the tools a user with limited mobility may use, but for testers, all you’ll need is a traditional keyboard to test. Ensure that there is a logical tab order (left to right, top to bottom) and provide logical and standard keyboard commands. Tab through the site and visually see if the tabbing order is logical (usually known as OnFocus). If an element is skipped or the tabbing order doesn’t make sense to you as a tester, that could possibly be an issue of ADA compliance.
Once you have identified issues that you need to resolve, you need to evaluate if this is something your internal staff can fix by updating content or you need to get your website developer/vendor involved. Regardless how to approach this phase, your objective should be to comply with all 61 guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to become either AA or AAA level compliant.
Technology is changing, and many website designers are using creative and innovative ways to present web-based materials. These changes may involve new and different access problems and solutions for people with disabilities. This Chapter discusses just a few of the most common ways in which websites can pose barriers to access for people with disabilities. By using the resources listed at the end of this Chapter, you can learn to identify and address other barriers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces regulations covering telecommunication services. Title IV of the ADA covers telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services that allow people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.
A. The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. In the school (K-12) context and in similar settings, the school or similar entity may need to provide some assistance to enable a particular student to handle his or her service animal. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the person's disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Automated testing is the first step toward determining if your website is accessible to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, switch controls, and others. The free testing tools on this website will give you an idea of whether your website is compliant with laws like Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. If you find you have many violations, Level Access has experts that can help you reduce your legal risk.
The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.
One thing to check is that your website includes alternative text (aka alt text) for each image. Alt text is a word or phrase that describes an image for those with a visual impairment. Having accurate alt text is important not only because it enables screen reading software, such as NVDA or JAWS, to describe images to visually impaired users, but also because it enables search engines to display images based on written descriptions and to display search results more accurately. This type of testing can be tedious to do manually, so consider using an automated system to find potential violations and issues faster. The W3C has a list of web accessibility evaluation tools.
WCAG guidelines break accessibility issues down into three levels. Level A issues are the most urgent and include problems that can severely limit a disabled visitor’s ability to navigate or use the website. Level AA issues tend to be more rooted in functionality, addressing areas where improvement is needed to give disabled users the full experience of a site. (Level AA is considered the target standard for most commercial websites.) Level AAA issues are the highest standard, fine-tuning and expanding on issues identified as Level A and AA. While it is an excellent goal, full Level AAA compliance is likely beyond the reach of most websites.
Covered entities are required to provide aids and services unless doing so would result in an “undue burden,” which is defined as significant difficulty or expense. If a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, the entity must provide another effective aid or service, if possible, that would not result in an undue burden. Determining what constitutes an undue burden will vary from entity to entity and sometimes from one year to the next. The impact of changing economic conditions on the resources available to an entity may also be taken into consideration in making this determination.
Another important consideration is that the ADA does not allow businesses to simply provide an alternative such as a phone number. Lastly, include accessibility issues as part of your website and mobile strategy. When new technologies are implemented or pages added, part of the process should include the implications for persons with disabilities.
The fastest, most certain way to be sure your website is in compliance is to contact a qualified web design agency and have them perform an audit of all your online properties. Make sure you interview the agency thoroughly first, as not all agencies are up to speed on ADA website compliance rules. A qualified web design firm will be able to identify any violations of ADA Website Compliance and outline a plan for updating your online content and properties.
Our team of experienced experts utilizes knowledge and proprietary technology to provide extensive detailed reports on what compliance issues exist on your entity’s website and PDFs. If you have a trusted developer to work on your website and PDFs, you can have them make the needed updates and changes. Don’t have a developer? ADA Site Compliance offers a custom, managed compliance solution for entities of all sizes. Our in-house developers will analyze, remediate and monitor your site’s ADA compliance for you.
The first step would be to review ADA compliance requirements and document how your current website measures up. You can run free test by visiting WAVE Web Accessibility Tool Website to see if you have errors regarding website accessibility. This is an online report that will show errors and alerts, and some of them you must test manually to confirm if they are an actual error or not. For example, if it shows an issue with all posted PDFs, you would have to check each PDF individually to see if it is indeed non-compliant.
Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. was a case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. The defendant argued that as a vessel flying the flag of a foreign nation it was exempt from the requirements of the ADA. This argument was accepted by a federal court in Florida and, subsequently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower courts on the basis that Norwegian Cruise Lines was a business headquartered in the United States whose clients were predominantly Americans and, more importantly, operated out of port facilities throughout the United States.