The importance of The American Disabilities Act (ADA) in the eCommerce and IT vertical has become prevalent and super critical with the 2010 amendment of the ADA act. Organizations have started realizing the opportunity of compliance and the consequences of non-compliance.

Let’s first understand on what’s the core purpose of ADA and later let’s focus on how this might have an impact in the way we look at business.

ADA was initially amended in 1990 to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and also ensuring equal opportunity for all. Furthermore, the ADA Standards for Accessible Design was published in September 2010. These standards state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities. And hence business groups are also trying to align themselves to comply with standards.

What is Disability?

The ADA defines a person with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.”

Here physical impairment could be visual (blindness, low vision, and color blindness), muscular issues, Parkinson’s disease, hearing impairment, epileptic seizures etc… Mental impairment could be dyslexia, problem solving, cognitive disabilities etc.

ADA Compliance

What is Accessibility (a11y)?

With respect to eCommerce, Accessibility – also referred to as a11y (Just that there are 11 characters between ‘a’ and ‘y’) plays a key role in aligning business groups towards ADA compliance.

a11y refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. With responsive designs (rendering on Tablets/Mobiles and other form factors), the need for a11y becomes super critical for people with disabilities.

Magento ADA compliance

Why should we be ADA compliant?

First and foremost reason is that we have the social responsibility to build products and provide services for everyone in our ecosystem to have convenient access to everything. And for business groups, this would definitely increase their brand value.

Statistics say that 1 in 5 Americans are disabled (Source: Wikipedia). And business groups can also look at the opportunity in capitalizing this segment of people and hence increasing business for the organization.

why ada


And the last reason why organizations need to be compliant is because failure to comply with ADA might attract fines/law suits filed against organizations. Furthermore, government also provides incentives for businesses to be ADA compliant. Qualifying businesses may claim a credit of up to 50 percent of eligible access expenditures like communications, interpreters, and other auxiliary aids that exceed $250 but do not exceed $10,250(Source: ADA website)

Is there any deadline by when the business need to be ADA compliant?

There aren’t any clear guidelines with respect to the timeframe when websites need to be ADA compliant. However, it is advisable to be ADA compliant earlier rather than later not just because of the regulation or the lawsuits, but more because we are obliged to provide access to resources for everyone in our ecosystem and show respect for our fellow friends.

And, this is the attribute which people around us really appreciate and hence enabling the organization to stand out uniquely. And subsequently the brand value (intangible) and business (tangible) also increases.

ADA Compliance

What would take us to being ADA compliant?

ADA compliance might not be rocket science where we might have to change things drastically/overnight. We had done some research across multiple websites in various categories. We will put down the critical ones which were missed in most websites.

  1. First things first: Align to the basic coding standards like having the “ID”s unique, having appropriate naming conventions etc.
  2. Keep looking at things from the perspective of a person who is disabled. For instance
    • Think of someone using a magnifier (or zooming in web browsers) to read text: will the text get rendered properly for him; will he still be able to click on an image and the clickable portion is also aligned.
    • Think of someone who has low vision (or) someone who is color blind: will he be able to see the text if the contrast between foreground and background are not prominently distinct. ADA recommends Contrast ratio to be maintained at 4.5:1 for standard text, or 3:1 for larger text.
  3. The most common issue across most websites was that web elements (images, text box, checkbox or any item within a website) do not have alternate text. Think of a situation where a blind person is trying to access the website and when he clicks on any image and the screen reader just reads “image” and does not tell anything about the image. Doesn’t it look annoying for the end user here?
    Giving a good alternative text is an art and it becomes super critical in today’s world as it also improves your SEO ratings. This link walks you through giving a good alternative text.
  4. “Skip to main Content” option should be available which helps the user to navigate to the required tabs with minimal navigation. Refer the below video.
  5. All functionalities should be accessible from keyboard. For instance, if the website has scripts embedded in it, provisions for accessing them from Keyboard should be possible.
  6. Captions need to be mentioned for all multimedia files.
  7. Explicit error messages are to be displayed to all users. Rather than having “Form submission is wrong”, it is better to have a more specific error message like “The age should be more than 18”.
  8. All tables should have appropriate column and row headings associated with it and it should be tagged to the appropriate header tags.
  9. For redirection to other sources (Like PDFs), there should be a link for PDF installer software.
  10. Headers to be appropriately tagged to heading tags (eg. h1) rather than just making it bold.
  11. The required form fields should be tagged as “Required”. A blind user might not be able to see the “*” symbols as the other users can see.
  12. All documents should have proper titles associated with it.Accessibility_Checks
  13. Sitemap to be tagged to all appropriate pages.
  14. The fonts that are used, needs to be available across all platforms (like MAC, Windows etc.).
  15. Having an accessibility guide could help the persons with disabilities to understand the accessibility features and how to play around with them.
  16. Provide a way for visitors to request accessible information or services by posting a telephone number or email address on your home page. Establish procedures that ensure a quick response to users with disabilities who are trying to obtain information or services in this way.
  17. Periodically enlist disability groups to test your pages for ease of use; use the feedback they provide to increase the accessibility of your website.

Will I be ADA compliant if I follow the above list?

The above list is just the start. It gives us the idea on the most common ADA compliant issues (this covers most of it though!), there are other parameters also which needs to be satisfied to be ADA compliant.

To know more, the below check list could help.

Some useful tools:

Thanks to the Images & Video Sources

Accessibility: Proven, easy integration into design and development workflows from Robert Jolly

Web Reg “Do Over?”: DOJ Withdraws Title II Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Issues Supplemental Advanced Notice Seeking Further Comments – NC State University – NC State University IT Accessibility

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