The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It states the rights and liberties of these individuals regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It also guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
There are five different titles that make up the ADA but we will focus on Title four which impacts Internet services. The political climate has changed drastically within the last decade. More businesses are finding themselves at the receiving end of costly and damaging lawsuits due to their digital services. The definition of “disabled” has evolved and that has paved the way for protections to expand into digital territory as web and mobile applications become more of a necessity in our day-to-day lives. Basically, this means that all digital aspects need to be accessible to people with hearing, vision or physical impairments.
The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. So making your digital services ADA Compliant would make it easier for people to access, navigate and understand the information on your platforms. Why become ADA compliant? There are a variety of reasons for doing so. First, most businesses today are required by law to be ADA compliant. Currently, any business that provides a service to the general public should have an ADA compliant web presence. Second, we as human beings have the moral and ethical duty to look out and care for one another; especially those who do not have the same luxuries and liberties. We may not have the power to heal disabilities but we do have the power to do some good. Businesses have the opportunity to effortlessly make the lives of people that much easier and with today’s technology.
There are also a few benefits of becoming compliant. First, they are not easy to fall victim to lawsuits over negligence or discrimination. Second, they gain the respect and admiration from the public. When you take into consideration all groups of people who might want to access your products or services, people will take notice of that and applaud your integrity; Microsoft came out with the Adaptive Controller for Xbox gamers who are physically impaired. Third, you increase your target audience by being more inclusive. Fourth, you increase your SEO efforts as more and more search engines look for information that is more accessible. Finally, your website can actually turn out to be more visually pleasing. The goal of making a website simpler does not mean you have to sacrifice creativity.
The majority of companies who do not have an ADA compliant website do so because it is assumed the process takes up a lot of time and money. All you need to have is a dedicated, motivated team. With today’s technology, designing accessible yet beautiful websites has never been easier. Some key accessibility areas include making sure the text meets a minimum contrast ratio with the background, making sure anyone can navigate the entire website using only a keyboard as well as allowing screen reader software to navigate the site and also ensuring that the site can handle scaling issues up to 200%.
A more comprehensive list of guidelines and rules to abide by can be found here. To help test your digital services for ADA compliance, check out the SiteImprove Chrome Extention or the WAVE Accessibility Tool. You’ll also need to conduct some manual tests using screen reader software and keyboard only navigation.
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