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A Nerdy Look At Website ADA Compliance

Posted on March 25, 2021 by Christopher Rhines

Is your website ADA compliant? If the answer to that question is “yes”, then great! You are way ahead of the curve. Give yourself a gold star and a pat on the back. But if you’re still getting your feet wet with what it means to be ADA compliant, read on.

ADA is an abbreviation for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It’s a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Website ADA compliance naturally means that a website, just like any other electronic or information technology, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Check out our previous blog post about ADA compliance for some additional general information on this topic.

Now that you hopefully have a very general idea of what website ADA compliance is, let’s take a nerdy look at what’s involved in reaching the three different levels (A, AA, AAA) of compliance:

Level A Compliance

  • Images have alternate text that can be read by screen-reader software.
  • Video content includes captions.
  • Video or audio-only content is accompanied by a text transcript or description.
  • Headings are presented in a logical order.
  • “b” and “i” HTML tags are replaced with “strong” and “em” tags.
  • There are no empty links or heading tags.
  • Presentation does not rely solely on color.
  • Auto-played audio does not occur or can be stopped.
  • The keyboard can be used to navigate the website.
  • Keyboard focus is never stuck on one particular page element.
  • Time limits provide notifications to the user.
  • Automatically scrolling or blinking content can be stopped.
  • No strobe effects or rapidly flashing colors occur on the site.
  • “Skip navigation” functionality allows keyboard users to quickly access content.
  • Page titles clearly and succinctly describe page content.
  • Buttons and links are clearly and logically named.
  • The language of each page is identified in code.
  • Elements receiving focus do not change content in a substantial way.
  • Invalid form input is identified to the user.
  • Forms have labels and legends that can be read by screen-reader software.
  • There are no major validation errors.

Level AA Compliance

In addition to all items already listed in Level A Compliance above, Level AA Compliance also includes the following items:

  • Live video or audio content includes captions.
  • Contrast ratio between text and page backgrounds is at least 4.5-to-1.
  • Text on pages can be resized to 200% while still maintaining form.
  • Images are not used where text can achieve the same purpose.
  • As keyboard focus moves down the page, highlighted elements should appear noticeable enough such that the user knows where they are focused. Keyboard focus is visible and clear.
  • The language of content is identified in code with any language changes.
  • Menus and buttons are used consistently regardless of the user’s location in the site.
  • Users are given suggestions on how to solve input errors.
  • An error prevention technique is used whenever the user is entering sensitive data.
  • Underlined text that does not provide a link is removed.
  • Redundant links on the same page are eliminated or minimized.

Level AAA Compliance

In addition to all items already listed in Level A Compliance and Level AA Compliance above, Level AAA Compliance also includes the following items:

  • Provide sign language translations for videos.
  • Record alternative video with extended audio description.
  • Provide a transcript for video and audio content.
  • Include closed captions with live audio.
  • Contrast is at least 7:1 relative to the background.
  • Limit background noise on video and audio content.
  • Allow users to customize their view.
  • Restrict images of text.
  • If re-authentication is necessary, data entered is saved.
  • Ensure user always knows location on the site.
  • Avoid or explain all jargon.
  • Write for reading level of 9 years of school.
  • Explain words that a screen reader will have trouble pronouncing.
  • Elements on the site do not change unless the end-user asks.

For clients with a very limited budget, we recommend considering Level A compliance. So many websites out there never reach even Level A compliance. Achieving just that first level is already a big step in the right direction.

Skipping ahead to Level AAA compliance… According to the World Wide Web Consortium, “It is not recommended that Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content.” While Level AAA compliance is the most comprehensive level of website conformance, it is also the most restrictive on critical interactive elements which can contribute to your website’s overall design and functionality.

Backtracking to Level AA compliance… this is the realistic “sweet spot” and the level of ADA compliance that we recommend most often.

If you’re ready to make the move to transform your website into an ADA-compliant masterpiece, let’s chat. Simply fill out the form below to get started.

Let's Chat!

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About the author:

Christopher Rhines

Partner, Director of Development

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Christopher is the Director of Development and one of the partners at Torx. In addition to keeping Torx's Richmond office firing on all cylinders, he can often be found deep in the trenches, building custom content management systems and WordPress-powered websites. He still remembers how to write Basic computer programs on Apple IIs and Commodore 64s.