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ADA compliance for your website.  Are you aware of the regulations regarding section 508 of the American Disabilities Act and its impact on your business website?
Poorly designed websites can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities, just as poorly designed buildings prevent some people with disabilities from entering. Access problems often occur because website designers mistakenly assume everyone sees and accesses a webpage similarly. This mistaken assumption can frustrate assistive technologies and their users. Accessible website design recognizes these differences and does not require people to see, hear, or use a standard mouse to access the information and services provided.

The start of a website lawsuit trend?

Winn-Dixie recently faced and lost an ADA compliance lawsuit for its website, and it made for some pretty sensational headlines. Website accessibility is a hot topic, so every case that goes wrong for someone will result in some pretty passionate headlines. But should you be worried? In short — maybe.
So let’s try to make ADA compliance, who needs to be worried, and what you can do about it as simple to understand as possible. Full disclosure — I am not your lawyer, and nothing here is legal advice.

What Does ADA Compliance Mean?

ADA is short for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The ADA, at least for Title III (private sector businesses), only applies to companies that employ 15 or more persons.
In January 2018, some new federal regulations will take effect. All federal institutions’ websites must meet AA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0 by this time. We’ll get into what that means a little later.

Why Is ADA Compliance Suddenly a Bigger Deal?

Legal precedent is changing; ADA compliance-related lawsuits are becoming more successful, and the courts are seeing more of them. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to private-sector businesses. Lately, those protections are more frequently expanding into digital territory as web and mobile applications become more necessary in our day-to-day lives.

Related: Why hire a professional website design company?

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Who Needs To Be Compliant?

The consensus right now is that any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA-compliant web presence.
“Public accommodation” could apply to most things depending on who is interpreting. Generally, however, this would refer to B2C, retail, or any business the general public should be able to use, understand, and access quickly.
The judgment against Winn-Dixie was determined after the courts felt the website was too heavily integrated with the physical store presence. This could have been prompted by placing their weekly ad on the website.

What Do I Need To Do To Be Compliant?

Why that’s simple? Just follow all 61 guidelines in WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level!
Sound scary? It’s not as bad as it seems. Your site probably already meets many of these rules, and it will not take a web developer very long to bring it up to par. However, depending on the situation, some items are much more challenging to fix.

  • The text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
  • Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tab index everywhere.
  • Your site should be navigable with screen reader software. This can be difficult to test and can involve some arduous fixes similar to what is necessary for keyboard navigation.
  • Your site must handle text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout issues. Once again, this may be more difficult to fix in some complex designs.

Related: What Factors Affect Your Chances of a Web Accessibility Lawsuit?

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How Do I Check All Of This?

A variety of software can be used to test for ADA compliance.

  • WAVE is a good start but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues.
  • Lighthouse from Google Developers can help generate a report on potential issues.
  • Manual testing for contrast ratio using this calculator.
  • Manual testing with screen reader software
  • Manual testing with keyboard-only navigation
  • Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is the most popular screen reader used by blind people. You can download a free trial for testing.
  • Web Accessibility is available as a WordPress plugin.

The automated tools will catch many simple issues, but manual testing is often required for nearly all websites to ensure you meet requirements.
Hopefully, this sheds a little light on the situation and what it means for your business. Or, if you’re a web developer, how to be proactive to help your clients.
(Excerpted from Hackernoon)

Related: Voice Search: What Is It & How Does It Work? 6 Practical Tips To Get You Started

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