When 2020 started, very few people expected the world to change so rapidly. Everything has changed today, from the way we conduct business to how we educate our children. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that the web is an accessible place for everyone. Whether you’re a student taking an online class, or an employee logging into a work portal, accessibility issues have become more apparent. Students with special needs are not able to take full advantage of learning software due to non-accessible sites. Likewise, teachers and parents have become frustrated attempting to adapt to these same websites that are not as easy to interact with. These same struggles within our virtual classrooms even impact our online workspaces and plague so many other websites online.
This lack of accessibility is not due to a lack of technology, but rather a lack of awareness and implementation of accessible design practices.
Despite the fact that Title III of the American With Disabilities Act is designed to enforce accessibility in all aspects, many site owners do not even know they are in violation of ADA Compliance.
The good news is that the guidelines for websites have been worked on for over a decade! They are known as the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”, or WCAG for short! However, implementing WCAG could involve an entire site redesign to address things like the spacing of clickable elements, the color contrast between those elements, or even the size of fonts used throughout the website.
What is accessibility?
For a website to be accessible it must be designed in such a way that people with disabilities can use them. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in the 90s, protecting people with disabilities against discrimination in all aspects of life. The ADA does not explicitly mention websites although Title III, but it has been widely interpreted to include websites, as well as video games. However, since the ADA was signed into law in 1990, nobody could’ve predicted that websites would become such an important part of how we interact with businesses, schools, and even our government today. Despite this, courts all around the US expand Title III to include websites – even here in our home town of Orlando.
A More Inviting Web: WCAG
So how can we make sure that we meet ADA requirements if it was written in a pre-web world? Well, we would do so with WCAG of course!
WCAG Stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and it was designed by the W3C alongside other individuals and corporations around the world to meet ADA compliance. It is made for developers and individuals looking to conform to accessibility guidelines on their websites.
There are multiple levels to WCAG, each one becoming progressively more complex yet offering more accessibility. These Levels are A, AA, and AAA.
To be Level 1(A) compliant, there are 25 criteria that you have to follow to be eligible. These criteria are the easiest to meet and in fact, most websites already meet this level with little to no effort. Some of the requirements found at this level are:
- Making sure you do not identify an element solely by color.
- If audio is to play automatically on a website for more than 3 seconds then there must be a way to pause or stop said audio.
- Appropriate Meta titles and Descriptions.
- Image Alt Tags to aid screen readers describe the content to visitors.
While Level 1 (A) compliance is relatively easy to achieve, it does not mean your site meets the standards required to be ADA complaint.
Like a remote needs AA batteries to function, your site needs AA compliance to be accessible!
The next level is Level 2 (AA) is composed of 13 additional criteria on top of the 25 found in level 1(A). At this level, it is generally accepted as the minimum level required to meet ADA requirements. Some of these points are:
- Live Captions for audio recordings
- Content isn’t restricted to one orientation, meaning you should be able to use all website functionality regardless of landscape or portrait orientations.
- Text can be resized without the need for assistive technology up to 200% without affecting functionality.
- The contrast ratio between text and background is at least 4.5:1
- Use clear headings and labels
The third and final level is level 3 (AAA) which is made up of an extra 23 points for a total of 61 points. This is the hardest level to meet and is usually reserved for large corporations and government agencies. Some points are:
- All content can be operable through a keyboard with no exceptions
- No timing when it comes to interacting with content
- Abbreviations have to be able to be expanded or explained in the text.
- Provide sign language translations for videos
- Don’t use images of text(No Exceptions)
If you recently had a website designed, or are planning to have your site redesigned, be sure to ask your web developer what level of WCAG your site will be brought up to code with. If you are not up to code or have no expressed this prior to receiving a quote, expect an additional cost to meet the ADA compliance requirements your site desires. If your website designer is not familiar with these requirements, feel free to drop us a message and we can work with you to become compliant.
Why Should I Pay Attention to Accessibility guidelines?
It is always important to pay attention to accessibility guidelines. Providing accessibility for everyone, whether it is an office, a shop, or a website, is critical in part to creating an environment free of discrimination to those with disabilities.
While not everyone will face fines in court for a lack of accessibility on their website, there will be other penalties. Search engines like Google care a lot about serving websites that people can access easily. This means if a site doesn’t meet WCAG guidelines, a site’s rank in Google will begin to drop under those that do. Search engines like to see websites that provide “common sense” functionality. While image alt tags, headings, and navigation have been changed primarily to improve SEO, they have served first and foremost as tools to improve a site’s accessibility. Google cares about putting site visitors first, therefore, a website should make this it’s priority too.
My Website Spot believes that everybody deserves a fair and equal chance to enjoy the web. If you agree, and want to improve your site’s experiences for everyone, call (407) 499-3008 or message us today to learn more!