In 2018 it was estimated there were between 5,000 and 10,000 lawsuits filed against businesses, schools, universities and organizations for a failure to comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations for websites. Although ADA regulations were established almost 20 years ago, with emphasis on physical location accessibility – legal precedents have caused reason to include websites as public domain that should be accessible to all people regardless of ability.
As an agency whose bread and butter business is comprised of website design and development, we have already been deploying websites that comply with ADA regulations. At a minimum, websites are now required to adhere to Level A and Level AA compliance. To help understand the regulations, the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the web has outlined the guiding principles and degrees of compliance in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
To easily understand the requirements, there are two different ways that the World Wide Web Consortium have structured compliance regulations. The first being, the four guiding principles that summarize the type of accessibility. Then, each deliverable is categorized between the three degrees of compliance. The lowest, and most basic level is A, and the highest or complete level of compliance is Level AAA.
The Four guiding principles vs Levels of Compliance.
Levels of Compliance:
- Level A.
- Level AA.
- Level AAA.
Principle 1: Perceivable.
Can the user consume all website content?
This principle summarizes the deliverables that give text, audio, and visual alternatives to content so that people with aural or visual impairments can consume and comprehend information. This might include, providing the ability for the website to be viewed in large print, including transcripts for audio-only content, or captions for video-only content. For the highest level of compliance it’s required to record sign language interpretation for audio-content.
The guiding principle also states specific reasons for why the structure and colors of the website are accessible. For people who are color blind, certain colors should not be next to one another, as well as avoiding designs that utilize contrasting color to convey information. This requirement also requires all information has to be in text in order to work with assistive technologies.
Principle 2: Operable.
Can the user access all website content?
The operable guiding principle outlines that websites are fully accessible by assistive technologies in case the user cannot operate a mouse. Websites should include the ability to be navigated through the keyboard without any limitations to get through the entire website. This principle also required that there be enough time for all users to complete actions on site, so no content will be timed, hidden, paused or interrupted in anyway.
A distinct requirement for this principle is that there should not be any flashes on the website that might induce seizures.
Principle 3: Understandable.
Is information easy to interpret?
This principle is sometimes confused with perceivable. This guiding principal focuses, not on the presentation of information but the actual information itself. In the most simple form, this requirement states that the content should be easily understood by a secondary education level – and if there are words, phrases, idioms that are required for the website, there should be explanation of the meaning in a location onsite.
In addition to content, the user experience should operate in logical and predictable ways. Most of these requirements are considered industry best practices and are always a part of our website design and development process.
The last section of the principal outlines that there is appropriate assistance programmed into the website when input is required. For contact forms, surveys, and user logins, if there is a failure to submit correct information the website is required to alert the user that they need to provide information without hurdles.
Principle 4: Robust.
Can the website integrate with assistive technologies?
This requirement deals primarily with coding languages that pertain to start, end tags, and attributes in the source code of the website.
The ultimate goal of this principle is to ensure that the website can seamlessly function with assistive technologies, such as programs that read website text for blind users.
Level A Compliance.
This level of compliance typically deals with the most basic requirements for logical and intuitive design. All structural components and graphical layouts should be sequenced in a way that is easily digestible. Most requirements are already included in our website design and development process and are considered for all industries, best practices.
Level AA Compliance.
Level AA Compliance adds some complexity to the user interface such as the ability to resize text, and also requires subtitles for video content, which would require additional content from the client to implement on site.
Level AAA Compliance.
This level requires multiple versions of multimedia content featured on the website, and the ability to change interface elements like background colors and other strict design elements.