By Sarkis Najarian
on August 10, 2018
Sarkis Najarian

Will Ferrell in Anchor Man looks confused

ADA Accessibility? What in the world is that?

ADA is not something you may have heard of unless you're a business owner. To the average Joe like me, I didn't even know what the acronym stood for. That was until one of our clients here at Rooster Creatives came to us with some startling news.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

One of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Though the name ADA might not be widely known, most people are familiar with the physical accommodations businesses make for Americans with Disabilities, such as automatic door openers, wheelchair ramps, and braille text on signage. But what people don't know is that the ADA applies to the virtual world as well.


accessibility icon bar


ADA Accessibility for the world wide web

Under the law, websites should be just as accessible as ATMs (ever notice the Braille there?), elevators, terminals and other user interfaces. Not only should your site be accessible to all on a laptop or desktop but also on tablets and mobile phones. Failing ADA compliance creates poor and awkward experiences for people with physical disabilities.


Where the trouble is...

However, since the ADA was passed in 1990, when the Internet was still very young, many of the web requirements do not hold up well to the current times, and since the Federal Government has not passed any laws for the ADA towards websites, there is no official requirements or rules to follow.


man deciding between multiple doors to choose from


What does that mean?

Because of this, lawsuits for ADA website compliance are very tricky. Every town, city, and state judges rules differently depending on their location/thinking. This makes it very difficult to have a standard protocol to follow when developing/designing websites.

And that's where our client that we mentioned earlier comes in. They were being sued by a Law Group for violating ADA web compliance protocols, and were seeking our advice.


So what can and should you do?

There are certain measures everyone can and should take when designing websites to make sure their website is accessible to all types of users. These include but are not limited to:

  • keyboard navigation functionality for physical impairments
  • alternate text for images for visual impairments
  • various color modes for visual impairments
  • text scaling and size increases for visual impairments
  • text to speech device capabilities


alt text example


Alt Text

Adding alternative text for images is the first principle of web accessibility. It is also one of the most difficult to properly implement. The web is replete with images that have missing, incorrect, or poor alternative text. Like many things in web accessibility, determining appropriate, equivalent, alternative text is often a matter of personal interpretation. 

Alternative text provides a textual alternative to non-text content in web pages. We will be discussing alternative text for images only, though the principles can be applied to media, applets, or other non-text web content.

For a much deeper dive into alt text go here to learn more about how to use and implement alt text.


Vision Impairment Design Examples


Vision Impairment

No two people browse the internet the same way, there are multiple angles to consider when it comes to the user perspective of web accessibility and though you may not be able to address all of them, it's good practice to at least be aware of the key points. 

For example, those American's who are color blind don't see fancy website designs with neon and pastel colors in the same way others do. Sometimes, but not always, many contrasting images and web elements displayed wont have the desired effect on such individuals.

In these cases, it's important to be aware that the best method to take is the simplest one. If you're going to design your website, try to follow the ADA's color contrast guidelines. More information on proper color combinations can be found here.


keyboard accessibility button


Keyboard Navigation

Keyboard accessibility is one of the most important aspects of web accessibility. Many users with motor disabilities rely on a keyboard. Blind users also typically use a keyboard for navigation. Some people have tremors which don't allow for fine muscle control. Others have little or no use of their hands. Some people simply do not have hands, whether due to a birth defect, an accident, or amputation. In addition to traditional keyboards, some users may use modified keyboards or other hardware that mimics the functionality of a keyboard.

In order to follow correct keyboard navigation protocol, you might need to hire a web developer, because much of this requires manipulation of your websites code. You can learn more about how keyboard navigation effects Americans with Disabilities here.




In Conclusion

It's always good to keep in mind that 15% of American's who access the internet do so with some type of aid, and no one wants to alienate such a large number of people from browsing their website. ADA web accessibility is not common knowledge, but by being aware of the challenges ahead and doing our best to accommodate, we'll be that much closer to awareness!


We wish you continued success,
The Rooster Creatives Team


Please be aware, that despite all efforts, no one can guarantee 100% ADA compliance online. This is because there is no official ruling on what the guidelines are federally. Until the federal government passes an official law, the best anyone can promise is minimizing the risk of a lawsuit.

Aside from following good practices to make sure all Americans have proper access to the internet and to your website, we recommend you speak with your website developers, programmers and lawyers to discuss ADA web compliance and assure you are protected from any potential lawsuits.

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