Is Your Website ADA/WCAG Compliant?

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a station General Manager asking if his website was ADA compliant.  We have very high coding standards, so I was intrigued by the question and did some research.  Chances are that you did not know that your website should be reviewed often for how accessible it is for the disabled.

What is ADA?

ADA compliance refers to meeting the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design. This act covers the accessibility of electronic and information technology, like the Internet and its websites, versus physical locations.

Amazon, Hershey’s, and The Wall Street Journal have all been named in lawsuits related to website accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In 2018, more than 2000 website accessibility lawsuits (a 177% increase from 2017) were filed, emphasizing the increased importance and focus on ADA compliance.

Who does ADA compliance affect?

Almost every business needs to follow ADA, which applies to the following organizations:

  • State and local government agencies
  • Private employers with 15 or more employees
  • Companies operating for the public’s benefit (one of radio’s biggest marketing points)

Even if ADA doesn’t apply to your station/company (say you employ 10 team members), you should still make ADA compliance a part of your operations. You want to provide everyone, whether online or offline, with the same experience and level of accessibility.  Yes, this applies to your website(s) and mobile apps as well.  ADA compliance includes electronic and information technology, like websites. If ADA applies to your business and you operate a site for your company, you must make your website accessible to everyone.

What if my website isn’t ADA compliant?

A non-compliant website is a problem.  If your website fails to meet ADA standards, you risk lawsuits and hefty fines. First-time violations, for example, can receive a $55,000-$75,000 fine, while repeat violations come with a $150,000 fine.  You cannot afford to ignore ADA compliance.  Even if your business can afford the fines that come with non-compliance, you cannot afford the damage it might have to your brand.

What is WCAG?

Similar to ADA, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations; but will not address every user need for people with these disabilities. These guidelines address the accessibility of web content on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Following these guidelines will also often make Web content more usable to users in general.

WCAG focuses on four fundamental principles, which break down into actionable items:

  • Perceivable: Everyone that visits your website should have the means to perceive all its information, like text, images, and video, whether directly or through an alternative option, like a transcript for a video.
  • Operable: All website visitors should have the ability to navigate your site and use its features. For example, no one should have issues using your main navigation, search bar, or additional tools, like a calculator.
  • Understandable: No one should have difficulty understanding your website and its content. Adding instructions for how to use a tool, for instance, helps everyone take advantage of your site and its features.
  • Robust: An ADA-compliant website must provide all site visitors with the same experience. For example, if you create a video transcript, that transcript should include the entire video versus bits and pieces.

Who’s Responsible for ADA/WCAG Compliance?

The answer to this is “everyone” associated with the website, from the coders (us) to the content providers (you).  Skyrocket Radio will begin an overall audit of our coding to ensure it is in compliance with these directives.  Your content authors must start doing things to ensure ADA/WCAG compliance from the content perspective.

What Can You Do to Ensure ADA/WCAG Compliance?

Your content authors should start following these steps right now.

  • Add alt text to your images, audio, videos, and controls (buttons).
    For images, this can be easily be done when each is uploaded.  Ensure the alt and description tags vividly depict the image, not simply echo the file name (ie “Man in a wheelchair reading a laptop.” rather than “accessible”).  Having accurate alt text is important not only because it enables screen reading software, such as NVDA or JAWS, to describe images to visually impaired users, but also because it enables search engines to display images based on written descriptions and to display search results more accurately.
  • Provide easy-to-access transcripts for audio and video content.
  • Include captions on all website videos.
  • Disable auto-play for audio and video.
  • Do not use images of text unless absolutely necessary (logo).  For example, a slider slide should contain clickable text outside the image (lower third).
  • Ensure your pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period (flashing banner ads).
  • There must be a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between all text and background.
  • Ensure that the purpose of each link should be clear based on its anchor text.  It’s better to put “Click to download the Radio Guide” rather than simply “Click here”.

How to check if your website is ADA compliant

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains an extensive list of web accessibility evaluation tools. If you want to check your site for ADA compliance, you can find a tool here that will work. Most of these are single-page tests though, but you can apply results to the entire website.  You can also check for specific ADA compliance issues, like color contrast, with programs dedicated to these issues.

By testing your website for ADA and WCAG compliance and making the necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your site is accessible to everyone. To learn more about ADA compliance for websites, read the ADA’s website accessibility best practices tool kit. Although they’re best practices for state and local governments, businesses may find them useful too.

Skyrocket Radio aims to do our part to ensure your website contains ADA/WCAG compliant coding.  It’s up to your team to ensure compliance from a content perspective.  Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns about your website compliance testing.

Jim Sherwood serves as chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects.