With over 1 billion people living with disabilities globally and 53 million in the United States, they are the largest minority group in the world. Creating an accessible website that addresses their needs is critical from an ethical and legal standpoint. Web accessibility also increases your online sales, while protecting companies against legal costs of non-compliance. This guide is designed to help increase web accessibility for all end users, including people with disabilities.
What is Web Accessibility?
Frequent website visitors have without question encountered a poor user experience. Common issues with UX range from slow loading time, to lack of font legibility and variety of sizes, along with difficult website navigation. People with disabilities are critical users to consider, often making their ability to navigate and interact with websites even more difficult.
Implementing best practices to ensure ADA web compliance allows organizations to create an inclusive user experience for individuals with disabilities and everyone. Features and functionality that make a website accessible to individuals with various disabilities or impairments include layout and design of content, ease of use with tools like keyboard navigation, inclusion of alt text for screen readers, and optimizing your UX with testing, automated assessment, and remediation.
By understanding the needs of individuals with disabilities, organizations achieve ADA web compliance and learn how to make a website accessible.
Disability Categories to Identify How to Make Your Website Accessible
Individuals with disabilities come with various needs. By defining the various types of disabilities, you can identify how to create an accessible website.
Visual – Includes total vision loss, lower levels of vision, and color-related conditions.
Hearing – Covers the full spectrum of ear-related conditions, including total hearing loss.
Neurological – Anything related to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
Cognitive – Applies to attention-related deficiencies, comprehension disorders, and deduction-based issues.
Motor – Relates to motor-control limitations, low-speed muscles, and inoperable hands.
Assistive technologies optimize content comprehension, navigation, and UX for every user. Implementing the right, cost-effective accessibility solution can help you meet web accessibility standards within budget, while remediating your accessibility violations. Organizations can enable web accessibility without reverse-engineering back-end code and front-end UX.
Web Compliance and Accessibility Standards
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in 2008. The WCAG’s purpose is to establish universal rules that ensure websites, digital devices, and content are accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines apply to textual, image-based, and sound-based elements, along with programming language (code) that establishes website functionality and visual UX elements.
WCAG 2.0 (established in 2008) and 2.1 (established in 2018) are the two iterations of WCAG that currently apply. All 2.0 mandates are in 2.1, and 2.1 also offers additional success standards. It’s also important to note that WCAG 2.1-compliant content also meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
The WCAG is the legal foundation for accessibility worldwide. For example, Title III of the ADA and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) adhere to WCAG level AA as a baseline requirement. Additionally, EN 301 549 (EU Web Accessibility Directive) doesn’t call out adherence to the WCAG but covers its required guidelines.
Here are the Three WCAG Success and Conformance Levels:
- Level A: The baseline level of accessibility compliance. Any site that doesn’t achieve Level A is considered 100% inaccessible.
- Level AA: Requires removing commonplace obstacles for those with various disabilities. AA is the top compliance tier needed to eliminate the most significant accessibility hurdles.
- Level AAA: This is WCAG’s accessibility pinnacle, which is more challenging to reach for most company websites. It’s the gold standard for accessibility but not necessarily required.
What Are The Four Principles of Accessibility?
Website information must be easy to perceive with at least one of your end users’ senses. An accessible website should implement content in a way that’s simple to understand. Perceivable web accessibility isn’t exclusive to individuals whose vision is not impaired. People with total blindness and lower vision who rely on screen readers, text to speech, or braille technologies should be able to access and process your site easily.
Meeting ADA web compliance standards means users should have frictionless access and engagement with the UI (User Interface). Every functionality element should allow for seamless interactivity, including UX and navigation, link selection, and operating video and audio components. Avoid the use or integration of content that obstructs user experience of people with disabilities.
Based on web accessibility guidelines, text and image-based content should be easy to understand. Intelligible and consistent site composition, design, and usability patterns that are intuitive to end users are critical examples of website accessibility that support an easy to understand UI.
Accessible website content should be easily interpreted and consumable by every user, including and especially those using assistive technology like screen readers. Integrating HTML enables assistive technologies without visual guidelines.
Web Accessibility Checklist for ADA Compliance
We created a web accessibility checklist to help you accommodate all end users, particularly those with disabilities. Use it as a guide to help you implement web accessibility and improve UX.
1. Create Alt Text for Website Images
Screen readers use alt text to provide audio descriptions of images for users with vision impairments. This feature also helps site visitors identify the content of images if they’ve turned image loading off due to slow connection speed. Compliant, concise, and straightforward alt text also boosts SEO performance.
2. Integrate Keyboard Navigation
Mouse or touch navigation can be challenging for people with motor disabilities or anyone with short-term impairments due to injuries, like a broken wrist or arm. Keyboard navigation helps by enabling site visitors to scan content and flow through a website’s content with ease using specific keys and strokes for commands.
3. Offer Audio Transcripts
Transcripts of website audio helps individuals with hearing disabilities and impairments access information online, frequently used to document website audio and speech, sound excerpts, podcasts, videos, and anything related to audible content.
4. Web Accessibility Testing
Testing web accessibility for people with disabilities is an ideal practice to identify the level of your ADA web compliance. Use a test group that represents a spectrum of disabilities, from vision, to hearing, cognitive and motor impairments. This way you can gain a sense of how well your site meets web accessibility standards and requirements.
5. Conduct Accessibility Scans
Most websites undergo frequent content changes, requiring consistent accessibility and compliance monitoring. Periodic accessibility scans can identify and automate remediation of violations, providing invaluable peace of mind for companies on a legal level, while also optimizing UX.
6. Integrate Automated Audits
AI-powered web accessibility widgets can identify the compliance and accessibility issues of your site that require remediation. Using a reliable vendor for audits and blending them with a manually run audit is a best practice to ensure an accessible website.
The Legal Implications of Inaccessibility
While the ADA doesn’t explicitly call out website requirements, federal courts and agencies have established a solid legal precedent. In 2020, 3,500 cases were filed against companies that didn’t meet web accessibility standards, with 74% of claims filed against organizations with eCommerce storefronts. From SMBs to large-scale operations, companies of all sizes could be at risk for web accessibility lawsuits, and smaller organizations with fewer resources often feel the greatest impact of legal implications.
How Does Web Accessibility Help Everyone?
Implementing cost-effect assistive technology and web accessibility solutions will help by the potential legal costs of websites that have not implemented a concrete web accessibility initiative. Take the first step and get familiar with WCAG web accessibility guidelines for foundational tips to develop a website that’s accessible to everyone, lowering risk of legal cost and issues while creating an inclusive UX for anyone on your site.
An Accessible Website is a Wise Business Strategy
Supporting a web accessibility initiative is a strategic and intelligent business decision. ADA web compliance increases sales bottom line and revenue, especially true for online retailers and websites with eCommerce storefronts. Some insights about online buying shed even more light on why web accessibility is important:
- E-commerce sales in the U.S. reached roughly $5.2 trillion in 2021
- They’re projected to reach $8.1 trillion by 2026
- 93% of users want E-commerce sites that are superior to physical stores
- 52% will pay more to locate what they want with a few clicks of a mouse
Making your site more accessible with cost-effective technologies can be a budget-friendly process. Your dev team can quickly implement daily website changes to accommodate a wide range of user needs. It’s easy to include transcripts and captions for the hearing impaired, (permanently or situationally), and remove them for people who don’t require them.
Meeting Web Accessibility Standards Helps Everyone
Surprisingly and conveniently, assistive technology tools designed for people with disabilities improve user experience for everyone. For example, the contrast tool on your phone simplifies reading and understanding content for people with vision impairments or disabilities, while also helping everyone else when they need it most. A sunny day and the glare of strong light can make it difficult to see the content on your mobile phone, but a contrast tool overcomes this issue.
Situational disabilities that prevent you from using your touchscreen, like a broken arm, can also be overcome with voice command technology, allowing users to interact verbally with your device while you’re recovering. While the tool was initially designed for people with motor impairments, it’s become equally useful and important to online users with temporary conditions.
Consider how anyone recovering from cataract surgery for up to 10 weeks can benefit from the use of a screen reader as it dictates the content of a webpage, even though the tool was initially designed for people with vision impairments.
UserWay’s Mission to Enable Web Accessibility
UserWay was founded to ensure the web and online digital experiences could be accessible to anyone and everyone, particularly people with disabilities. The UserWay Widget 4.0 has been implemented by millions of websites to optimize accessibility and provide inclusive user experiences, with the AI-powered solution helping meet ADA web compliance.
Answers to Common FAQs
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
An accessible website simplifies user experience for people with disabilities, helping ensure inclusion and consideration of the diverse backgrounds and needs of website visitors. Meeting web accessibility standards of the ADA and the WCAG also ensures your site is legally compliant, helping your organization avoid costly, unnecessary legal issues. Creating an accessible website ultimately enhances your online sales performance, particularly for organizations in the eCommerce niche.
What Features Make a Website Accessible?
With an AI-powered web accessibility solution, organizations can more readily meet ADA compliance guidelines with features like alt text, contrasting font, audio transcriptions, keyboard navigation, intuitive design and UI pathways. Plus running regular scans and audits will help maintain an accessible website.
Who Benefits from Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility inherently improves user experience for everyone, creating a win-win situation for both organizations and site visitors, particularly online users with disabilities. With inclusive design and content layout, companies simplify site navigation and drive seamless user interactivity, increasing engagement and sales bottom line.