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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- First things first: Align to the basic coding standards like having the “ID”s unique, having appropriate naming conventions etc.
- Keep looking at things from the perspective of a person who is disabled. For instance
- 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.
- “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.
- 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.
- Captions need to be mentioned for all multimedia files.
- 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”.
- All tables should have appropriate column and row headings associated with it and it should be tagged to the appropriate header tags.
- For redirection to other sources (Like PDFs), there should be a link for PDF installer software.
- Headers to be appropriately tagged to heading tags (eg. h1) rather than just making it bold.
- 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.
- All documents should have proper titles associated with it.
- Sitemap to be tagged to all appropriate pages.
- The fonts that are used, needs to be available across all platforms (like MAC, Windows etc.).
- Having an accessibility guide could help the persons with disabilities to understand the accessibility features and how to play around with them.
- 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.
- 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. https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html
Some useful tools:
- To check for ADA compliance on website
- Contrast Analyzer
- Screen reader for PC
Thanks to the Images & Video Sources
https://youtu.be/Qjn0dymxuJk – NC State University – NC State University IT Accessibility