Not having an ADA-compliant website opens your business to litigation, financial liabilities, and damaged brand reputation. The ADA is a strict liability law, meaning home builders cannot excuse away non-compliance for violations. In short, you can’t claim you didn’t know or you’re working on complying.
Here’s everything home builders need to know to make sure their websites are ADA-compliant.
What is ADA compliance?
The ADA, which passed in 1990, ensures that people with disabilities have the same access and rights as people without disabilities. It requires private and public businesses to provide reasonable accommodations and access for people with disabilities.
It’s important to note that while there is no explicit mention of website accessibility in the ADA (because it passed in the pre-Internet era), attorneys have interpreted Title III’s phrase of ‘places of public accommodation’ to include websites.
ADA website compliance or website accessibility?
These two terms are often used interchangeably but they are different. ADA compliance based on how well you are following the rules. Website accessibility is about how well people with disabilities are able to access your website.
Even though there isn’t a federally mandated set of rules for businesses to follow for ADA compliance, home builders must still make sure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG Website Compliance Standards
While the ADA doesn’t have set guidelines for compliance, the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) has become the de facto standard for digital accessibility. The WCAG 2.1 standards make sure your website meets four basic principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
- Perceivable: content is presented in a way that is that all users are able to perceive all the information on your website (usually in reference to sight, sound, and touch). This can be accomplished by having text alternatives for non-text content (like images) and providing captions and image descriptions for video.
- Operable: the website is easy to navigate and operable by all users. Most common options include keyboard accessibility, giving users enough time to read and use content before changing, provide help with navigation and finding content, and not using content that can cause seizures.
- Understandable: content and operation of the interface is easy to understand. Some ways this can be achieved include making text readable and understandable, making it appear and work in predictable ways, and provide ways to avoid and correct mistakes.
- Robust: content can be understood by different assistive devices and platforms, including future devices. That means as assistive technologies evolve, website content should remain accessible.
How do I make my website ADA-compliant?
Creating a website that’s accessible to people with disabilities, whether they are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or need to use their voice to navigate, can be done in many different ways.
Here are some common ways to address accessibility issues with your website:
- Create alt tags for images, videos, and audio files so users can read or hear descriptions of the content.
- Create subtitles and text transcripts for video and audio content.
- Identify the website’s language in the header code so users who use text readers can identify and function correctly.
- Provide alternatives and suggestions when users encounter an issue so they can better navigate to the content they need.
- Create a consistent and organized layout so it’s easier to navigate through the entire website.
How do I know if my website is compliant?
Unless your website was specifically designed and built to be ADA-compliant and accessible, chances are your website is not. Creating an accessible website takes time and effort. You can verify the accessibility by testing it with automated tools but don’t rely solely on automated scans to audit your website’s accessibility. Automated tools typically detect a small percentage of WCAG issues. Instead, rely on WCAG experts to conduct manual testing and manual user testing with assistive devices on your website. This comprehensive audit will result in a report that outlines any violations and ways to fix them.
Once you have your comprehensive audit, an experienced team of designers, developers, and content strategists can break down and implement the appropriate solutions to any identified issues. This is not going to be a quick or inexpensive fix! Be wary of any agency or tool that claims instant accessibility compliance. There simply isn’t a toolbar, overlay, widget, plugin, or app that can make your website accessible in moments. It’s worth investing the proper time to do this correctly to save you from expensive lawsuits later.
It’s important to note that you should avoid creating a separate “accessible” or “assistive” website. People with disabilities are entitled to the same accommodations and experience the general public receives.
ADA website maintenance
When you’re updating your website, be sure to include ADA website maintenance as well. Periodic accessibility audits should be performed to ensure compliance standards are continually met and to address new issues.
ADA compliance may appear overwhelming, but knowing this can be accomplished in phases makes it feel a little less daunting. Partnering with trusted experts in the industry can make navigating this road feel more manageable.