The American Disabilities Act (ADA), has not been amended to include websites and mobile apps, but that hasn't stopped a flood of lawsuits. According to a Usablenet study, the total number of digital accessibility cases rose by 20% in 2020! Title III is the section of the ADA that lawsuits point to when alleging that a website discriminates against those with disabilities. We have included Title III of the ADA below.
"The purpose of this part is to implement title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12181–12189), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA Amendments Act) (Public Law 110–325, 122 Stat. 3553 (2008)), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by covered public accommodations and requires places of public accommodation and commercial facilities to be designed, constructed, and altered in compliance with the accessibility standards established by this part."
It's a misconception that the ADA makes a clear stand on digital accessibility issues. Title III doesn't specifically address websites or mobile apps. The debate centers around whether or not the term "public accommodation" should include websites and mobile apps.
Despite the Department of Justice failing to codify digital accessibility in the ADA, it has "taken the position that Title III covers access to Web sites of public accommodations." The DOJ has also released website accessibility guidelines (although they are quite dated), and a 2018 letter from the Attorney General stated that "the Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations' websites over 20 years ago."
With the DOJ's stance on the issue in writing and lawsuits on the rise, it's time to consider investing in user experience for people with disabilities. Ensuring that your website is ADA-compliant not only allows you to reach a larger audience but it can also give you an SEO boost too. Here’s how being ADA compliant boosts your SEO:
Title tags are a fundamental part of SEO. They inform the reader and search engines of the information the page contains. Title tags do not appear on websites but they do appear on the search engine results page (SERP) and on your web browser tab. These tags should be written in a way that conveys what the page talks about and be as specific as possible. This is the most reliable way to have your target audience find you and click on your website.
Title tags help screen reader users to use a computer comfortably. If you include a specific title tag, the screen reader will read it aloud and it will immediately clue the user in on the subject of the content. The title tag must be as honest and as accurate as possible to reflect the page content.
Title tags also have significant SEO value! They help catch Google users' eye like email subject lines and are crucial for matching your user’s intent when entering a query into the search bar.
Many confuse alt-text with captions. While they are similar, a caption is clearly visible and usually located under an image. Alt-text is not visible on the site’s front-end; instead, it is a written alternative to a page’s visual aspects ( jpeg, .png, and .gif files). An image's alt-text describes the image and is located in the site’s backend.
Alt-text is useful for users with disabilities who are using a screen-reader to access your webpage. The screen reader will read the alt-text aloud to help the visually impaired user understand the image and its relationship to the content.
The SEO benefit of alt-text is that it provides search engine crawlers with additional context as well. Because the search engine crawlers have a heightened understanding of the image and the web page as a whole, your chances of ranking in Google Image results increase.
While responsive design has been around since the late 2000s, it has gained even more prominence over the last few years. At its core, responsive design is about adapting to screen size. Responsive design is also about where your logo is positioned, how navigable your site is if it is easily readable, and how quickly it loads.
Search engines prioritize websites that provide a functional user experience. Since responsive design puts the user at the center of its design, it often results in improvements for the visually impaired as well.
Improving your website structure for accessibility purposes improves the overall user experience and makes it easier for search engine crawlers to "read" your web pages. Search engine crawlers and assistive technology comb through websites in a similar fashion creating this synergy.
Headings, page regions, and labeling regions are a few of the elements that can be tweaked to improve your website structure. You want to create a shallow structure where users can quickly click to any page of your website. We have all used websites where you go down a rabbit hole and you might even lose a page. It's not the best user experience to say the least. Creating a logical and hierarchical structure for your website will ensure that a wide audience can easily navigate your website and that your pages are indexed.
As lawsuits continue to be filed, pressure will grow for governments to take a clear stance. The UN has already declared internet access a human right. Based on trends and public and government sentiment, we believe that there will be increased accessibility compliance requirements in the near future. Your business can either be proactive or reactive. We believe you should be proactive, but you have to stay within your budget.
You should start by familiarizing yourself with content accessibility guidelines like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ACAG), and WordPress Accessibility Coding Standards. Familiarizing yourself with the communities that struggle to access the internet and the assistive devices they use will go a long way when evaluating your website for accessibility.
Once you feel like you know the basics, talk to your web team about performing an audit. If the team isn't confident about the project, you may want to bring in outside help. After the audit, you will have a good idea of the scope of the project. Your website might be highly inaccessible or just need some touching up. If you use WordPress, accessibility-ready themes are available and are an affordable option. You can also look into different accessibility WordPress plugins.
Aiming for "ADA compliance" will improve user experience for a variety of users, boost your online visibility, and demonstrate your commitment to those with disabilities. Carbon Digital is a marketing agency offering digital marketing and business development solutions that can help you maximize your potential and stand out from the competition. Our services include app development, branding, conversion rate optimization, search engine optimization, web design and development, and many more. Contact us today for a consultation!