Website Accessibility

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being interpreted by courts to include websites as “places of public accommodation”. This means that a disabled person (visually or physically impaired) should be able to access, navigate, and use the content of your website. If your website is not accessible to people with disabilities, your company could be sued.

Steps to make your website Accessible / ADA compliant

Step 1. You should add an Accessibility Policy to your website to communicate to visitors that you’re striving for accessibility and give them a mechanism for submitting accessibility feedback so you can resolve any issues they experience prior to a lawsuit being filed. You can view an example accessibility policy here: https://wowie.co/website-accessibility-template/

Step 2. Add a free accessibility plugin to your site. These plugins can’t resolve all accessibility issues, but they are a quick step in the right direction. We recommend WP Accessibility.

Step 3. Work to make your website accessible according to WCAG Level AA standards. Unless you are very technical, you will most likely want to delegate this job to an experienced web developer.

What is website accessibility?

ADA lawsuits filed by year (2016-2019)Website Accessibility makes it possible for visually and physically disabled individuals to use your website. Visually impaired people use screen readers, among many other tools, to navigate a website. Physically impaired individuals, unable to use a mouse, may only use a keyboard, or another device, to navigate a website.

Is there a law requiring your website to be accessible?

No, there is not! However, courts are ruling in favor of plaintiffs, as the Supreme Court did with their decision against Domino’s Pizza. It’s a bit of a short circuit in the system. Courts are considering websites “places of public accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the ADA pre-dates the internet and provides no guidance on how a website should be made accessible, leaving business owners in a bit of a conundrum.

In The National Association of the Deaf vs. Netflix, the United States Department of Justice submitted a statement:  “The Department of Justice is currently developing regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA. The fact that the regulatory process is not yet complete in no way indicates that web services are not already covered by title III.”
Statement of Interest of the United States Department of Justice  (page 9)

So what are the rules?

ADA lawsuits by industry breakdown for 2019Courts are requiring businesses to be in compliance with Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act. This law requires federal agencies to make their electronic information accessible in accordance with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). There are 3 tiers of accessibility compliance outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):

  • “A” (Beginner)
  • “AA” (Intermediate)
  • “AAA” (Advanced)

Small businesses should comply with Level A (Beginner) and AA (Intermediate) guidelines. These are the accessibility standards most often referenced in court cases. Level AAA (Advanced) is typically reserved for organizations that specifically cater to disabled individuals.

66% of the world’s largest retailers have been affected by an ADA lawsuit. 60% of the top U.S. restaurant chains have been affected (Source). As a small organization, it is probably unlikely you will be targeted in the near future. However, there is no guarantee you won’t be affected:

“Just one blind activist sued 175 stores in 2 years. At first, she targeted big-name stores like Sephora, but then she filed a complaints against smaller businesses, like local shoe stores, bakeries, or caterers who have just a small store in a local mall.” Source

When does your website need to be ADA compliant?

There isn’t a set deadline for ADA compliance. Compliance and requirement details are being fleshed out by court rulings happening across the country. The general direction this is heading indicates all websites will need to be ADA compliant at some point in the future.

Website accessibility lawsuits have increased over 753% in recent years — from 262 lawsuits in 2016 to 2,235 in 2019 (Source). With ADA lawsuits increasing, it is wise to take steps to protect your business from potential legal action if possible (we outline the steps you should take to protect yourself below).

Do you need to handle this now?

For now, you may be able to fly under the radar without complying due to the sheer number of websites that exist. But keep in mind that when ADA accessibility cases are filed, the plaintiffs are winning. You may choose to wait this out until more small businesses are being affected and the exact accessibility expectations are clarified.

It is a bit of a gamble to assume you won’t be targeted and all signs point to this being something that will be required of all websites in the future.  The internet has become a critical part of modern life, and making it accessible to people with disabilities is a growing concern.

What, exactly, does it mean to make your website ADA compliant?

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to conform to. The World Wide Web Consortium publishes “guidelines” which are listed on this page. In general, there are usually changes that need to be made to the website so that all its content is consumable. For instance, all website images need a description (called an “alt tag”) so that text to voice software can communicate the content of the image to the disabled visitor. Without this tag, the software has no way of knowing what the image is. Again, a list of requirements is listed below.

Website Accessibility - Level A

1.1.1 Non-text Content

All non-text content that is presented to the user has a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose, except for the situations listed below.

1.2.1 Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded)

For prerecorded audio-only and prerecorded video-only media, the following are true, except when the audio or video is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded)

Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

1.2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)

An alternative for time-based media or audio description of the prerecorded video content is provided for synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such.

1.3.1 Info and Relationships

Information, structure, and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or are available in text.

1.3.2 Meaningful Sequence

When the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning, a correct reading sequence can be programmatically determined.

1.3.3 Sensory Characteristics

Instructions provided for understanding and operating content do not rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, color, size, visual location, orientation, or sound.

1.4.1 Use of Color

Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.

1.4.2 Audio Control

If any audio on a Web page plays automatically for more than 3 seconds, either a mechanism is available to pause or stop the audio, or a mechanism is available to control audio volume independently from the overall system volume level.

2.1.1 Keyboard

All functionality of the content is operable through a keyboard interface without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes, except where the underlying function requires input that depends on the path of the user’s movement and not just the endpoints.

2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap

If keyboard focus can be moved to a component of the page using a keyboard interface, then focus can be moved away from that component using only a keyboard interface, and, if it requires more than unmodified arrow or tab keys or other standard exit methods, the user is advised of the method for moving focus away.

2.2.1 Timing Adjustable

For each time limit that is set by the content, at least one of the following is true: Turn off: The user is allowed to turn off the time limit before encountering it; or Adjust: The user is allowed to adjust the time limit before encountering it over a wide range that is at least ten times the length of the default setting; or Extend: The user is warned before time expires and given at least 20 seconds to extend the time limit with a simple action (for example, “press the space bar”), and the user is allowed to extend the time limit at least ten times; or Real-time Exception: The time limit is a required part of a real-time event (for example, an auction), and no alternative to the time limit is possible; or Essential Exception: The time limit is essential and extending it would invalidate the activity; or 20 Hour Exception: The time limit is longer than 20 hours.

2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide

For moving, blinking, scrolling, or auto-updating information, all of the following are true: Moving, blinking, scrolling: For any moving, blinking or scrolling information that (1) starts automatically, (2) lasts more than five seconds, and (3) is presented in parallel with other content, there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it unless the movement, blinking, or scrolling is part of an activity where it is essential; and Auto-updating: For any auto-updating information that (1) starts automatically and (2) is presented in parallel with other content, there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it or to control the frequency of the update unless the auto-updating is part of an activity where it is essential.

2.3.1 Three Flashes or Below Threshold

Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period, or the flash is below the general flash and red flash thresholds.

2.4.1 Bypass Blocks

A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple Web pages.

2.4.2 Page Titled

Web pages have titles that describe topic or purpose.

2.4.3 Focus Order

If a Web page can be navigated sequentially and the navigation sequences affect meaning or operation, focusable components receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability.

2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context)

The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.

2.5.1 Pointer Gestures

All functionality that uses multipoint or path-based gestures for operation can be operated with a single pointer without a path-based gesture, unless a multipoint or path-based gesture is essential.

2.5.2 Pointer Cancellation

For functionality that can be operated using a single pointer, at least one of the following is true: No Down-Event: The down-event of the pointer is not used to execute any part of the function; Abort or Undo: Completion of the function is on the up-event, and a mechanism is available to abort the function before completion or to undo the function after completion; Up Reversal: The up-event reverses any outcome of the preceding down-event; Essential: Completing the function on the down-event is essential.

2.5.3 Label in Name

For user interface components with labels that include text or images of text, the name contains the text that is presented visually.

Website Accessibility - Level AA

1.2.4 Captions (Live)

Captions are provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.

1.2.5 Audio Description (Prerecorded)

Audio description is provided for all prerecorded video content in synchronized media.

1.3.4 Orientation

Content does not restrict its view and operation to a single display orientation, such as portrait or landscape, unless a specific display orientation is essential.

 

NOTE
Examples where a particular display orientation may be essential are a bank check, a piano application, slides for a projector or television, or virtual reality content where binary display orientation is not applicable.

1.3.5 Identify Input Purpose

The purpose of each input field collecting information about the user can be programmatically determined when:

  • The input field serves a purpose identified in the Input Purposes for User Interface Components section; and
  • The content is implemented using technologies with support for identifying the expected meaning for form input data.

1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum)

The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following:

  • Large Text Large-scale text and images of large-scale text have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1;
  • Incidental Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains significant other visual content, have no contrast requirement.
  • Logotypes Text that is part of a logo or brand name has no contrast requirement.

1.4.4 Resize text

Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.

1.4.5 Images of Text

If the technologies being used can achieve the visual presentation, text is used to convey information rather than images of text except for the following:

Customizable – The image of text can be visually customized to the user’s requirements;

Essential – A particular presentation of text is essential to the information being conveyed.

NOTE
Logotypes (text that is part of a logo or brand name) are considered essential.

1.4.10 Reflow

Content can be presented without loss of information or functionality, and without requiring scrolling in two dimensions for:

  • Vertical scrolling content at a width equivalent to 320 CSS pixels;
  • Horizontal scrolling content at a height equivalent to 256 CSS pixels.

Except for parts of the content which require two-dimensional layout for usage or meaning.

NOTE
320 CSS pixels is equivalent to a starting viewport width of 1280 CSS pixels wide at 400% zoom. For web content which are designed to scroll horizontally (e.g. with vertical text), the 256 CSS pixels is equivalent to a starting viewport height of 1024px at 400% zoom.
NOTE
Examples of content which require two-dimensional layout are images, maps, diagrams, video, games, presentations, data tables, and interfaces where it is necessary to keep toolbars in view while manipulating content.

1.4.11 Non-text Contrast

The visual presentation of the following have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 against adjacent color(s):

User Interface Components: Visual information required to identify user interface components and states, except for inactive components or where the appearance of the component is determined by the user agent and not modified by the author;
Graphical Objects: Parts of graphics required to understand the content, except when a particular presentation of graphics is essential to the information being conveyed.

1.4.12 Text Spacing

In content implemented using markup languages that support the following text style properties, no loss of content or functionality occurs by setting all of the following and by changing no other style property:

  • Line height (line spacing) to at least 1.5 times the font size;
  • Spacing following paragraphs to at least 2 times the font size;
  • Letter spacing (tracking) to at least 0.12 times the font size;
  • Word spacing to at least 0.16 times the font size.

Exception: Human languages and scripts that do not make use of one or more of these text style properties in written text can conform using only the properties that exist for that combination of language and script.

1.4.13 Content on Hover or Focus

Where receiving and then removing pointer hover or keyboard focus triggers additional content to become visible and then hidden, the following are true:

Dismissable – A mechanism is available to dismiss the additional content without moving pointer hover or keyboard focus, unless the additional content communicates an input error or does not obscure or replace other content
Hoverable – If pointer hover can trigger the additional content, then the pointer can be moved over the additional content without the additional content disappearing
Persistent – The additional content remains visible until the hover or focus trigger is removed, the user dismisses it, or its information is no longer valid.

Exception: The visual presentation of the additional content is controlled by the user agent and is not modified by the author.

NOTE
Examples of additional content controlled by the user agent include browser tooltips created through use of the HTML title attribute.
NOTE
Custom tooltips, sub-menus, and other nonmodal popups that display on hover and focus are examples of additional content covered by this criterion.

2.4.5 Multiple Ways

More than one way is available to locate a Web page within a set of Web pages except where the Web Page is the result of, or a step in, a process.

2.4.6 Headings and Labels

Headings and labels describe topic or purpose.

2.4.7 Focus Visible

Any keyboard operable user interface has a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible.

3.1.2 Language of Parts

The human language of each passage or phrase in the content can be programmatically determined except for proper names, technical terms, words of indeterminate language, and words or phrases that have become part of the vernacular of the immediately surrounding text.

3.2.3 Consistent Navigation

Navigational mechanisms that are repeated on multiple Web pages within a set of Web pages occur in the same relative order each time they are repeated, unless a change is initiated by the user.

3.2.4 Consistent Identification

Components that have the same functionality within a set of Web pages are identified consistently.

3.2.5 Change on Request

Changes of context are initiated only by user request or a mechanism is available to turn off such changes.

3.3.3 Error Suggestion

If an input error is automatically detected and suggestions for correction are known, then the suggestions are provided to the user, unless it would jeopardize the security or purpose of the content.

3.3.4 Error Prevention (Legal, Financial, Data)

For Web pages that cause legal commitments or financial transactions for the user to occur, that modify or delete user-controllable data in data storage systems, or that submit user test responses, at least one of the following is true:

Reversible – Submissions are reversible.

Checked – Data entered by the user is checked for input errors and the user is provided an opportunity to correct them.

Confirmed – A mechanism is available for reviewing, confirming, and correcting information before finalizing the submission.

4.1.3 Status Messages

In content implemented using markup languages, status messages can be programmatically determined through role or properties such that they can be presented to the user by assistive technologies without receiving focus.

Website Accessibility - Level AAA

1.2.6 Sign Language (Prerecorded)

Sign language interpretation is provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media.

1.2.7 Extended Audio Description (Prerecorded)

Where pauses in foreground audio are insufficient to allow audio descriptions to convey the sense of the video, extended audio description is provided for all prerecorded video content in synchronized media.

1.2.8 Media Alternative (Prerecorded)

An alternative for time-based media is provided for all prerecorded synchronized media and for all prerecorded video-only media.

1.2.9 Audio-only (Live)

An alternative for time-based media that presents equivalent information for live audio-only content is provided.

1.3.6 Identify Purpose

In content implemented using markup languages, the purpose of User Interface Components, icons, and regions can be programmatically determined.

1.4.6 Contrast (Enhanced)

The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1, except for the following:

Large Text – Large-scale text and images of large-scale text have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1;

Incidental – Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains significant other visual content, have no contrast requirement.

Logotypes – Text that is part of a logo or brand name has no contrast requirement.

1.4.7 Low or No Background Audio

For prerecorded audio-only content that (1) contains primarily speech in the foreground, (2) is not an audio CAPTCHA or audio logo, and (3) is not vocalization intended to be primarily musical expression such as singing or rapping, at least one of the following is true:

No Background – The audio does not contain background sounds.
Turn Off – The background sounds can be turned off.
20 dB – The background sounds are at least 20 decibels lower than the foreground speech content, with the exception of occasional sounds that last for only one or two seconds.
NOTE
Per the definition of “decibel,” background sound that meets this requirement will be approximately four times quieter than the foreground speech content.

1.4.8 Visual Presentation

For the visual presentation of blocks of text, a mechanism is available to achieve the following:

  • Foreground and background colors can be selected by the user.
  • Width is no more than 80 characters or glyphs (40 if CJK).
  • Text is not justified (aligned to both the left and the right margins).
  • Line spacing (leading) is at least space-and-a-half within paragraphs, and paragraph spacing is at least 1.5 times larger than the line spacing.
  • Text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent in a way that does not require the user to scroll horizontally to read a line of text on a full-screen window.

1.4.9 Images of Text (No Exception)

Images of text are only used for pure decoration or where a particular presentation of text is essential to the information being conveyed.

NOTE
Logotypes (text that is part of a logo or brand name) are considered essential.

2.1.3 Keyboard (No Exception)

All functionality of the content is operable through a keyboard interface without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes.

2.2.3 No Timing

Timing is not an essential part of the event or activity presented by the content, except for non-interactive synchronized media and real-time events.

2.2.4 Interruptions

Interruptions can be postponed or suppressed by the user, except interruptions involving an emergency.

2.2.5 Re-authenticating

When an authenticated session expires, the user can continue the activity without loss of data after re-authenticating.

2.2.6 Timeouts

Users are warned of the duration of any user inactivity that could cause data loss, unless the data is preserved for more than 20 hours when the user does not take any actions.

2.3.2 Three Flashes

Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period.

2.3.3 Animation from Interactions

Motion animation triggered by interaction can be disabled, unless the animation is essential to the functionality or the information being conveyed.

2.4.8 Location

Information about the user’s location within a set of Web pages is available.

2.4.9 Link Purpose (Link Only)

A mechanism is available to allow the purpose of each link to be identified from link text alone, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.

2.4.10 Section Headings

Section headings are used to organize the content.

NOTE
“Heading” is used in its general sense and includes titles and other ways to add a heading to different types of content.

NOTE
This success criterion covers sections within writing, not user interface components. User Interface components are covered under Success Criterion 4.1.2.

2.5.5 Target Size

The size of the target for pointer inputs is at least 44 by 44 CSS pixels except when:

Equivalent – The target is available through an equivalent link or control on the same page that is at least 44 by 44 CSS pixels;
Inline – The target is in a sentence or block of text;
User Agent Control – The size of the target is determined by the user agent and is not modified by the author;
Essential – A particular presentation of the target is essential to the information being conveyed.

2.5.6 Concurrent Input Mechanisms

Web content does not restrict use of input modalities available on a platform except where the restriction is essential, required to ensure the security of the content, or required to respect user settings.

3.1.3 Unusual Words

A mechanism is available for identifying specific definitions of words or phrases used in an unusual or restricted way, including idioms and jargon.

3.1.4 Abbreviations

A mechanism for identifying the expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is available.

3.1.5 Reading Level

When text requires reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level after removal of proper names and titles, supplemental content, or a version that does not require reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level, is available.

3.1.6 Pronunciation

A mechanism is available for identifying specific pronunciation of words where meaning of the words, in context, is ambiguous without knowing the pronunciation.

3.2.5 Change on Request

Changes of context are initiated only by user request or a mechanism is available to turn off such changes.

3.3.5 Help

Context-sensitive help is available.

3.3.6 Error Prevention (All)

For Web pages that require the user to submit information, at least one of the following is true:

Reversible – Submissions are reversible.
Checked – Data entered by the user is checked for input errors and the user is provided an opportunity to correct them.
Confirmed – A mechanism is available for reviewing, confirming, and correcting information before finalizing the submission.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: We aren’t lawyers and you should not take anything we’ve written here as legal advice. The purpose of this page is to provide a basic solution that should satisfy most disabled visitors. It gives them the ability to navigate and use the majority of content on your site. It also shows you’ve made a sincere effort toward making your site accessible so it should provide some level of protection from legal action.

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