ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act, a U.S. federal civil rights law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
What does this have to do with your website?
In 2010, the Department of Justice published the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These standards state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This extends to your website through Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that have been updated twice since then.
So, as you can see, even if your website was originally designed to be ADA compliant, it may not be now. It isn’t going to be a “finish it and forget it” kind of thing. ADA compliance will have to be a part of ongoing maintenance of your website.
In fact, in the last five years the number of lawsuits filed against businesses that allege their websites are not accessible to the visually or audibly impaired has risen by more than 10x.
How can you figure out if your website is ADA compliant? What can you do if it isn’t?
How to check if your website is ADA compliant
There’s a couple different ways to figure out if your site is ADA compliant.
W3C has a quick reference guide you can go through section by section here.
There are also many free ADA compliance checker tools like WAVE that can either check one page at a time for free or there are paid options they offer for site-wide monitoring and reporting of accessibility over time.
You can also hire a marketing agency to professionally audit your website for ADA compliance.
How to fix any issues you find
How easy it is to clean up any non-compliance issues depends on which website builder you or whoever developed your website used.
If you used WordPress, there are some free plugins you can install that both continuously audit your website for compliance and add tools to keep it compliant.
If you choose your own plugin, be sure to compare features, reviews, costs, and make sure they’re still monitoring and updating.
If you used a website builder other than WordPress, you’ll have to fix the issues yourself, use someone in-house, or hire an outside web developer or agency to help you.
You’ll need to go through W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (again, you can access them here) and fix everything that is Level A as well as AA while at least considering some of the things in AAA.
Yes, there’s a lot to do here. So, allot several months to complete this task. Especially if you’re having to do everything manually.
Why you should care about ADA compliance
Some of you may be thinking you have skirted by without being ADA compliant for years, so you’ll just continue doing that until someone gives you a warning.
Well, here’s the thing: you might not get a warning.
Sure, it may be an investment of your time and resources. However, it’ll be a lot less than court costs or a fine. Currently, a fine for your first violation can be up to $75,000. It’s $150,000 for each subsequent violation.
However, compliance also helps improve your search engine optimization score which will, in theory, help bring new customers in through organic search traffic.
You’re also doing the right thing for people with disabilities which is a signal to potential customers that you care about people.
Not to mention that you won’t lose potential sales by actually making your website accessible and easier to use for disabled customers.