When considering the look and content of the website for your business, you probably thought about organization, color schemes, appearance, what services and products to list, and so on… but you probably didn’t think about accessibility and how your website functions for people with disabilities.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990 – before the internet became a crucial part of daily life – the courts have repeatedly ruled that websites are also public spaces that fall under the jurisdiction of the ADA and therefore require compliance.
What is ADA Compliance?
Specifically, the ADA states in Title III that:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.
Since the internet is a crucial part of modern, everyday life – and people with disabilities might be more reliant on it for shopping and booking service appointments – website accessibility is a must.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, United States law has been less clear about what qualifies as compliant and non-compliant. Lawsuits for non-compliance, as a result, have been on the rise and in some states (like New York) that can lead to substantial penalties and financial losses for those defeated in court. Major companies like Domino’s, Target, Amazon, Netflix, Reebok, Estee Lauder, the NBA, Bed Bath and Beyond, Ace Hardware, and Patagonia have been sued for ADA non-compliance.
Small and medium-sized companies have also been sued. In fact, some lawyers have been specializing in suing these more modest sized companies and winning. Don’t let your website be one of them.
Why Should You Design for Accessibility?
In addition to avoiding lawsuits and penalties for not complying with the ADA, two other reasons make accessible graphic design and website accessibility a smart choice for any website. First, it can help you gain and retain customers.
People with visual, auditory, speech, mobility, or other types of disabilities are a significant portion of the U.S. population – and growing due to long COVID. About one in four people (or 26 percent of Americans) have some degree of disability, according to the CDC. If that sounds high, you need to realize that many people have “invisible disabilities” such as partial sight, partial hearing loss, or a neurological condition (like epilepsy) which isn’t readily noticeable by outsiders.
The National Federation for the Blind reports that more than 7.3 million Americans have some degree of visual impairment. That doesn’t include color blindness – which affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. The U.S. Census reports more than 9 million people with partial or complete hearing loss. Older Americans frequently develop partial hearing loss or low vision. Why exclude potential customers by having an inaccessible website design?
Second, accessible website design can ensure good design in general. Thankfully, websites with garish or blinking designs went out in the early 2000s. But bad color combinations and websites with poor contrast still exist… as do websites with videos auto-playing at full sound. Accessible design can encourage better choices which a majority of visitors will like.
What Is Accessible Web Design?
Accessible website design ensures that visitors with disabilities can successfully navigate, comprehend, and interact with your website – either directly or through using adaptable devices. For example, if the bulk of the “text” on your website is actually text on or rendered as a graphic image and that image has no alt text to compensate… then the design isn’t accessible because someone with a visual disability can’t use a screen reader to process your content.
What Are Examples of Website Accessibility?
- Make sure website text is legible.
That means text with a good contrast compared to the background. Not the skinny, pale gray fonts on a white background that were trendy for a few years. A 14-18 point font size for body text is also a good choice.
- Use “live text”.
That means text that can be processed by voice assistants and screen readers, as well as easily resizable text.
- Alt text is a must.
Have alt text for all images on your website and ensure that the alt text also includes any text that is on an image. Screen readers can’t process graphic text, but they can read alt text.
- Make links standout.
Links should be underlined. Also make them bold and use a different color for them than the regular text color.
- Inversion check.
Many people with low vision use high contrast settings, color inversion, or dark mode. Dark mode is also becoming increasingly popular for people who deal with eye strain from excessive screen time. What makes it complicated is that each of those setting options will translate your website design differently. So, check what your website looks like in each version and correct for problems.
For example, if your website is normally black text on a white background and links in dark blue, the dark mode version might be white text on a black background – which is easier to read – but that dark blue color for linked text might be difficult (or impossible) to distinguish from the dark background.
That same normal combination on an inverted mode could turn the blue links orange. That might be more legible, but sometimes people have a reason or need to use one mode over another – or their device only does one mode. You need to consider the possible ways your website design changes in those adaptive modes.
- Caption it.
Use captions on videos. If you use or make GIFs, use captions on those too. Not only will people with hearing loss benefit from this but people in loud places, out in public spaces, etc. will also be able to follow the video by reading the captions.
- Avoid long content blocks.
Instead of giant blocks of text, use smaller paragraphs. Not only will that be more visually appearing and seem less “dense”, but those with cognitive impairments may process the content better that way.
- Organize your content.
This is good for user experience in general, as well as for those with cognitive disabilities. Content that has a logical, clear progression is easier for everyone to comprehend.
- Easy-to-click links.
Don’t put multiple CTAs too close to each other. Make it clear where one link ends, the other begins, and keep space between them. That will make them easier to click – whether it’s for someone with wide fingers, a mobility issue (like a hand tremor), or people using a tool to tap the screen.
- Portrait and landscape.
Make sure your website can be viewed both ways. Wheelchair users may have their phone or tablet mounted for easy access – especially if they use a voice synthesizer. Many mounting devices default to holding the phone or tablet in landscape mode.
These examples are just an overview of common accessibility considerations. For a more thorough explanation of website accessibility, refer to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines.
How Do You Know If Your Website Is Accessible?
As noted above, many factors are involved in creating an accessible website design. Similarly, you want to evaluate your website design for accessibility in several ways. Start with free website checkers that can provide an accessibility score for your site.
Free tests that evaluate how your website looks to people who are colorblind also exist. This free contrast finder can also be helpful when creating an accessible graphic design.
As previously mentioned, check what your website looks like in different modes and on devices including a desktop, laptop, tablets, and devices that use Android and iPhones operating systems. Also make sure to check it in dark mode, inverted, and high contrast mode. Some Apple devices also have a “smart invert” option.
Make sure your website can be expanded in size instead of being locked to specific dimensions. Check what it looks like at 200% and 400% magnification as well. If it is unreadable that way (or can’t be enlarged or magnified), that can be an ADA violation.
Call Efferent Media for Accessible Website Design
Let Efferent Media create an accessible website design that will attract new customers and make your website accessible. No matter your service, product or industry, Efferent Media can create a website design that creates a great first impression and converts leads. Contact us today.