As organizations around the world scramble to bring their sites into compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), focus on other, preexisting accessibility regulations has also intensified. The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most visible and complicated pieces of accessibility legislation. Let’s look at some of the ins and outs of what an ADA compliant website means today. Or, if you're interested in seeing the nitty-gritty details of your site's accessibility, request a free website audit report using the form on this page.
A language picker at the top of the page. When users select a new language, the page is reloaded with all text translated. The lang attribute on the element also changes to reflect the new language, so screen readers will pronounce the text correctly. This is a very cool feature, and makes the site accessible to millions of people who would otherwise be excluded due to language. However, it's a little buggy. Selecting some of the languages (e.g., " Slovenčina") does not result in translated text on the home page, but does result in a changed lang attribute, so screen readers that support the selected language will pronounce the English text using the new language's speech engine, which is not likely to be intelligible.
The ADA statute identifies who is a person with a disability, who has obligations under the ADA, general non-discrimination requirements and other basic obligations. It delegates fleshing out those obligations to federal agencies. The agencies issue regulations and design standards. The regulations have the details on the rights of people with disabilities and responsibilities of employers, state and local governments, transportation providers, businesses and non-profit organizations. The design standards specify how many entrances need to be accessible, how many toilet rooms and the design for those elements. To know what the ADA requires, you need to read the law, regulations and design standards.
People with disabilities are all around us. They live in every country and often experience life in a very different manner than those individuals who don’t have emotional, mental, or physical disabilities. In fact, 15 percent of the global population is classified as disabled. Of this 15 percent, an estimated 190 million people experience significant disabilities.¹
Penn in particular nearly made the cut because I really like their keyboard accessibility. It amazes me how few sites provide visible indication of keyboard focus, when it's incredibly simple to achieve (just add a style for a:focus in your style sheet). Penn did this, and consequently it's very easy for sighted keyboard users to keep track of their position as they tab through the page. They also included a keyboard-accessible dropdown menu. However, there are some dynamic features on the Penn home page that really need ARIA markup for full accessibility. They also have a few contrast problems, most notably their slideshow navigation, which is red-on-red:
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
This past September marked the first time a judge ruled that the ADA applies even to businesses without a physical location. Scribd, an e-book subscription service is considered to provide "a place of public accommodation." Their services are not accessible to blind persons because they cannot be read with a screen reader. The judge reasoned, "Now that the Internet plays such a critical role in the personal and professional lives of Americans, excluding disabled persons from access to covered entities that use it as their principal means of reaching the public would defeat the purpose of this important civil rights legislation."
WordPress themes designed with accessibility in mind tend to be easier to use and clearer to navigate than their contemporaries. While you may have specific goals in mind like ADA compliance or WCAG 2.0 standards to pass, rest assured that you won’t have to sacrifice on design quality. You’ll likely find a theme with a higher standard of design by searching for templates with these requirements.
Courts have taken essentially the following position on the issue of whether websites are places of public accommodation: Website accessibility fulfills the spirit of the ADA by lowering the barriers for people with disabilities to participate in business and commerce. As such, commercial websites need to comply with ADA regulations. Judges have reached this conclusion in several high-profile cases, such as the National Federation of the Blind’s lawsuit against the Scribd digital library. As a result of this case, Scribd agreed to redesign its website to work with screen reader software by the end of 2017.
Complying with ADA provisions will cost you time, money, and human effort. Based on the audit results, you will know accurately the amount of time, human effort, and money you need to invest in compliance. Armed with these facts, you can start budgeting for the above three forms of cost—time, money, and human effort. This will require a clear roadmap.
Meanwhile, the Justice Dept. enforcement team is doing cramdowns over web sites and mobile apps. For example, PeaPod grocery delivery service, which Vu assisted when the Justice Dept. gave them a hard time. In addition, H&R Block was sued by the National Federation of the Blind and the Justice Dept. became a plaintiff in the case — H&R Block complied.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces regulations covering telecommunication services. Title IV of the ADA covers telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities. It requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services that allow people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.