If you’re a business owner or work in the public sector, then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the ADA or the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act.’ This act was brought into legislation in 1990 and was created to make it a requirement, as a business, to take steps to make their facilities and services accessible to those with disabilities. This includes people who have limited mobility, visual impairments, hearing difficulties, and other disabilities. The act traditionally covered physical locations and required these sites to be accessible to people with disabilities. This may include adding in ramps for wheelchair access and lifts, so that those with limited movement can fully access a building’s facilities. Braille is required on all important locations where something may need to be read. It’s another common and necessary addition that should be made to any building to comply properly.
Two key types of business are expected to comply with ADA regulations. The first fall under Title I and include any company that has over 15 full-time members of staff that are employed and open for business for more than 20 weeks each year. The second type of company covered by the act is termed ‘public accommodation’ and covers businesses such as banks and hotels.
In the 21st century, the act has been taken and applied to areas outside of the physical location of a business as the Internet has developed. Now that the majority of people use the Internet and company websites to find and consume information, the ADA has been used to make sure that websites also meet the standards of the act.
While the act has been used in several court cases, there are currently no specific guidelines on what a website needs to include to be compliant. This means that when building a website, some effort needs to be taken to ensure compliance and to avoid any legal action against you.
One option to become compliant is to use an ADA compliance tool, which helps to automate and guide what should be included on a website to ensure that the guidelines are being met. There are several top-line suggestions that should be covered as a minimum that these tools will look for.
The first is making sure that all images have alt tags included. These are tags that are added to images that describe what the image is. This is used for people with sight issues that use text to voice software to read a page on the Internet. If an alt tag isn’t used, important information may be missed by these users, which is in breach of the ADA.
The second recommendation is to transcribe any video and audio that appears on the website for those that are hard of hearing or deaf. There are several automated transcription services, but it’s recommended that this is done manually so that no detail is lost.