In short, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. The act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees that they have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. Those with disabilities should enjoy employment opportunities, access to purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs and services. (ADA.gov)
Ok, that’s sorta general, what is ADA really? Why is it important to my website?
Under the law, websites should be just as accessible as ATMs (ever notice the braille there), terminals, and other user interfaces. Not only should your site be accessible to all on a laptop or desktop but also on tablets and mobile phones. Failing ADA compliance creates poor and awkward experiences for people with physical disabilities. ADA compliance is simply assuring your website falls within a set of standards that allows access for all.
Remember, not everyone uses standard browsers like Chrome and Safari. There are many people in the world who use different types of devices and tools to access this information, such as text readers, audio scanners. Those tools and devices need special instructions to help translate or convey the information on the web page to the user.
Alright, so users who fall into the ADA group should be able to access the same info as everyone else. Got it. How does that affect my website right now?
If your website is not accessible according to the ADA (or Section 508 for government sites), you may be losing potential sales and traffic. But there’s something else that may get your attention immediately. Non-compliant websites may welcome potential litigation, known as “drive-by lawsuits”. A quick bit of Googling on the internet clearly shows the growth of ADA litigation over the last few years.
Well, I definitely don’t want to miss sales, create poor user experiences for anyone or face any sort of litigation. So what should I do now?
We’ve been asked this question many times over the years. The prudent first step before you dive into projects like this is to run an audit on your site. The results will give you a very clear sense of the work involved so you can budget properly and weigh the benefits. Who knows, you may find out that your site is already fairly compliant, especially if you are on a fairly progressive platform and used consistent coding practices.
That sounds logical. How much will this “audit” cost?
That will depend on your server setup and what type of platform your website uses. Each site configuration has different ramifications…and there are many architectures for e-commerce sites. In essence, the audit cost ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. We can help estimate your particular case.
Great, so I have an audit and it shows me places I need to “fix”. What then?
At this point, we can use the report to gauge the overall level of effort. Essentially, we’ll sit down with you and plot out a budget, some timelines, the deliverables and some expectation* management.
Perhaps the task list is so large that this approach is just not feasible for your company. At least, you’ll understand where you sit with ADA compliance and can plan to address it in the near future.
For others ADA compliance is a must, because your size, sales strategy, audience or legal counsel. We feel it should be a priority as well so we’re ready when you are to help you every step of the way.
*Expectation management: What has made ADA compliance a bit more complex is many ecommerce sites (and non-commercial ones as well) use third-party plugins (i.e. extensions) or technology that don’t follow or adhere to ADA compliance. This makes even the most open-sourced and well-documented platforms challenging.
Ok, I have a budget, the development is scheduled and everyone on the team understands what we are doing and why. What else should I know?
ADA compliance isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Compliance standards must be followed and evolve just as your website does. There are guidelines all website contributors must know to stay safe within the law. It is generally not burdensome but it does require some ecommerce managers to change their workflows. For example, loading images up to your ecommerce site will always need some alternative text (alt tags).
Besides obeying the law, ADA compliance has many benefits:
- May lead to more transactions
- Offers a better overall experience across browsers
- Provides digestible information for Google and other search engine results
- Helps you reach a wider audience
- Reduces likelihood of ADA litigation
- Gives you a competitive advantage
ADA Compliance References