If you run a website, chances are you heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Companies large and small have built their presence on the web. From family-owned, mom and pop stores to billion-dollar corporations: it seems like every company has a website. The ADA is important because it requires businesses and nonprofits to provide equal access to their goods and services. This is crucial since brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce outlets largely drive the US economy.
When it comes to web business, not only nonprofits should follow ADA compliance rules. Companies also sell software, design websites for clients, or provide hosting services to other businesses. Not sure if your website follows ADA standards? There are tools like accessiBe website owners use to check ADA compliance. Keep on reading to find out if you need to make the necessary changes.
ADA Compliance Rule #1: Don’t use “skip navigation” links or other methods that provide access only to specific page content.
You either include all of your site’s pages in one website or create another subdomain (i.e., yoursite.coffeecompany.com). You can’t divide your website with a navigation link. This rule ensures all users have access to the most important content on your site, regardless of their disabilities.
However, you may use links to skip over repetitive elements like the header or footer. Here’s an example: if you include images or text following a common pattern throughout your site, you can use a link to skip directly to the main content. This is also important for search engines.
ADA Compliance Rule #2: Don’t use more than one type of non-standard navigation method at a time.
Common examples of non-standard navigation include menus built from dropdown lists and buttons that change color when clicked. The idea behind this rule is to help users with cognitive disabilities quickly identify the current navigational context. So, you are not allowed to use multiple types of non-standard navigation in your website at once because it could cause confusion.
However, if you only have one type of non-standard navigation on your site, there’s no problem. Here’s an example: if you use a non-standard form element as your primary navigation throughout your website, you don’t have to replace it with a standard mechanism.
ADA Compliance Rule #3: Label all of your web content so that users know what page they’re viewing.
There are two options for labeling pages on your website. You can either use text labels or visually-described images. Text is the most commonly used method, so be sure to place your page titles near the top of each webpage using a <h1> tag.
If you’re doing anything advanced with HTML, such as creating tables for layout purposes, make sure that it’s still possible to read the content using a screen reader without getting lost.
ADA Compliance Rule #4: Make sure all forms can be filled out from start to finish using only a keyboard.
Forms are important because they help users find information and complete transactions on your website. You should also use relevant labels for each field, which means you need to add a <label> and a for attribute to each form element. This is familiar to screen reader users who use the keyboard to interact with websites.
ADA Compliance Rule #5: Don’t use pop-ups.
You should avoid using pop-up windows because they are disruptive to users with disabilities. Screen reader software will stop reading the rest of the content on your site when a new window is activated, so your visitors won’t have any context for the information being displayed.