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What Is ADA Compliance? (And What Does ADA Compliance Mean for Your Website?)
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What Is ADA Compliance? (And What Does ADA Compliance Mean for Your Website?)

What is ADA compliance?

ADA compliance refers to the adherence of websites and digital content to the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring equal access and usability for individuals with disabilities.

What is ADA compliance? ADA compliance makes your website accessible to all users and refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. Non-compliance with the ADA can result in fines ranging from $55,000-$150,000, along with lawsuits from affected users.

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Keep reading to learn more about ADA compliance’s meaning, plus:

If you already know ADA compliance’s definition and want help becoming compliant, ask WebFX! WebFX offers ADA compliance services, which make your website compliant with ADA, Section 508, WCAG, and more. Contact us online today to learn more!

What is ADA compliance?

ADA compliance refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, which states that all electronic and information technology (like websites) must be accessible to people with disabilities.

Who needs to follow ADA requirements?

Now that you know ADA compliance’s meaning, you’re probably wondering whether it applies to you.

Organizations that need to adhere to ADA requirements include:

  • State and local government agencies
  • Businesses open to the public

Common examples of affected businesses include:

  • Retail stores
  • Banks
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor offices
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters

Since ADA encompasses electronic and information technology, like the Internet and websites, ADA compliance impacts almost all businesses and webmasters. In most cases, sites (and their designs) aren’t intentionally ignoring ADA requirements.

Even if ADA compliance doesn’t apply to you, creating a site that everyone can use is still important.

How to check your website for ADA compliance

You check your website for ADA compliance in a few ways, including the following:

  • A web accessibility tool like WAVE
  • A web accessibility plugin, like for WordPress sites
  • A professional audit
  • A manual audit

For many businesses, WAVE offers the most cost- and time-effective method. Like most companies, your site has opportunities to make itself more accessible and aligned with ADA compliance standards.

What happens if your website isn’t ADA compliant?

If your website isn’t ADA accessible, you are liable for the following:

  • First-time violation: $55,000 – $75,000 fine
  • Repeat violations: $150,000 fine

Federally funded organizations can also lose their funding, whether it’s a first-time or repeat violation.

Besides fines, a lawsuit could also be filed against your company if people with disabilities cannot access or use your site. Even if your business didn’t intend to discriminate or exclude people with disabilities from visiting or using your website, you could pay thousands of dollars in lawsuits.

Companies that have already been named in lawsuits include:

  • Amazon
  • Hershey’s
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Rite Aid
  • H&R Block
  • Teachers Test Prep

Just because your business isn’t a well-known brand doesn’t mean you won’t be named in a lawsuit. Protect your brand now by investing the time and resources into becoming ADA compliant and delivering a site everyone can access.

What are the ADA compliant website requirements?

The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t released official ADA compliance guidelines, like “maintain XYZ contrast ratio.” Its requirement is for online programs, services, and goods to be accessible to people with disabilities.

To reach that requirement, it recommends using the following standards and guidelines as a reference:

Keep reading to learn how to follow these resources next!

How to make your website ADA compliant

Learn how to make your website ADA compliant using WCAG and Section 508 below!

When it comes to making your website ADA compliant, the go-to recommendation revolves around the WCAG 2.0 guidelines — including for Section 508 Standards. This resource outlines several recommendations or goals for making your website ADA accessible to users across the U.S.

How to meet ADA compliance

The core principles that guide WCAG include the following:

  • Perceivable: You want users to be able to perceive all the information that appears on your site, like text, images, video, and more. Even if a user can’t see your website’s text or listen to your website’s video, you need to provide an alternative.
  • Operable: You want users to have the capability to navigate your site and use all its features. Any user, for example, should have the means to use your main navigation and any site tools, like calculators.
  • Understandable: You want users to have the means to understand your website content. That means users can understand your site’s text, images, videos, and tools. For example, your site may include instructions for using a feature, like a calculator or a contact form.
  • Robust: You want users to have the ability to receive the same experience, even if using assistive technologies. For example, people reading your content versus those using a voice reader should get the same content even if it’s delivered differently.

Those principles translate into these actionable items for ADA compliant websites:

RuleAction Item
CaptionsFor all live video, provide captions. You can add captions to your live videos using software or professional services.
Audio descriptions Provide audio descriptions for all pre-recorded content. You can also add a link near the content that directs users to your audio description.
Contrast ratio Maintain a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and images of text. Exceptions include large text or images of large text, logotypes, or incidental text or images of text.
Text resizing Allow users to resize site text (without any assistive technology) up to 200%. The resize must not cause a loss of content or site functionality. This ADA compliance item does not apply to captions or images of text.
Images of text Avoid using images that feature mostly text to convey your content unless users can customize the image or the image is essential. If you want to use these kinds of images, like for pull quotes, substitute them using CSS, which can stylize text.
Navigation options Offer users more than one option for locating a page on your site, unless that page is the result or step in a process, like completing an online checkout. Adding an HTML sitemap, site search, and consistent navigation menu can help you accomplish this to-do.
Headings and labels Use headings or labels to describe the topic or purpose of content. Aim for descriptive and straightforward labels or headings. You should also label all site elements, like a pricing table or contact form.
Focus visible Anyone accessing your site with a keyboard should have the ability to see the keyboard focus indicator — or the outline that appears on a form field — on-site elements like links, form fields, and menus. Add this feature to your website with CSS.
LanguageFor any website content that isn’t in your default language, add a language attribute to the page. A site that uses English, for instance, may add a language attribute for a page with content in French.
Navigation consistency Provide a consistent navigation location and organization for users. Your navigation menu, for instance, should always appear in the same spot (like the left-hand side) and with the same menu items.
Identification consistency Site elements with the same function should have consistent identification. You can label and name these elements, for example, and use identical alt text for elements with the same purpose.
Error suggestion Offer users suggestions for fixing input errors, like the format of a phone number in a contact form. You can provide correction recommendations via text.
Error prevention Any pages that generate legal commitments or financial transactions, modify or delete user-controlled data, or submit user test responses must be reversible, checked for errors, and confirmed before submission. Create an order confirmation page, for example, or allow users to cancel orders within a specific period.

Need help becoming ADA compliant?

Becoming ADA compliant is important and time-consuming. That’s why businesses invest in ADA compliance services, like those from WebFX. With our services, your company can achieve ADA compliance instantly, thanks to our AI-powered system.

Request a free proposal today to learn more about our ADA compliance services now!


FAQs about ADA compliance

Looking to learn more about ADA compliance? Check out these FAQs:

What is ADA?

ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and is one of the most important accessibility laws in the U.S. because it prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment, public accommodations, transportation, and more.

Is ADA the same as Section 508?

No, ADA is not the same as Section 508, which is a federal accessibility law that applies to federal agencies and their technology, like telephones, websites, call centers, and more. Section 508, however, is recommended by the U.S. Justice Department as an ADA compliance resource.

Is ADA the same as WCAG?

ADA is not the same as WCAG, which are accessibility standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The U.S. Justice Department recommends WCAG as an ADA compliance resource and is the one used most often by businesses.

Is ADA compliance mandatory?

ADA compliance is mandatory for businesses open to the public and state and local government agencies. Even if your company is exempt from ADA standards, you should consider becoming ADA compliant because it makes your website accessible to all users.

What are some examples of ADA compliance?

Some examples of ADA compliance include:

  • Having video captions
  • Adding image alt text
  • Allowing keyword and mouse navigation
  • Using headings to break up website content

What are some examples of ADA non-compliance lawsuits?

Some examples of ADA non-compliance lawsuits include:

  • Rite Aid
  • Teachers Test Prep
  • H&R Block
  • Project Civic Access
  • Louisiana Tech
  • Nueces County, Texas

You can find more examples via the U.S. Department of Justice.

How much does reaching ADA compliance cost?

Costs for achieving ADA compliance vary, with ADA services typically costing $1500 to $5000. How much your business pays will depend on your website’s size, current compliance, timeline, service provider, and other factors.

Where can I learn more about becoming ADA compliant?

You can learn more about becoming ADA compliant with these resources:

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