The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights act designed to protect persons with disabilities. It was originally passed by Congress in 1990 and underwent a substantive revision in 2008. The most recent modifications took effect in 2009. Businesses with 15 or more employees are required to comply with the provisions of the act, but whether or not compliance is required, many businesses may find that ADA-compliant website design techniques can give their business websites a much needed lift.
HTML, the primary programming language for the Web, supports ADA-compliant web design. It helps that many of the techniques used in ADA-compliant web design also help search engines determine the content and relevance of a website. Armed with this information, search engines can better understand and more appropriately rank ADA-friendly websites in search engine results.
What is involved in making an ADA-compliant website? Much of the work of compliance is, not surprisingly, done at the website design stage. If ADA-compliance is your goal and you are contemplating a new website design, the earlier you work compliance into the plan, the happier you will be with the result.
Non-ADA-compliant websites can be modified at any time to incorporate compliance techniques, but it is much easier (from a design and encoding perspective) to bake the changes into the original design, rather than retroactively modifying a website design that’s already been completed.
What does an ADA-compliant website design look like? The US Department of Health and Human Services has developed an extensive list of criteria for ADA-compliant website design. Some, but not all of the features are listed here:
- Each image, video file, audio file, and plug-in has an alt tag
- Detailed text-based descriptions accompany complex graphics
- The alt descriptions for each object include a description of the object’s purpose
- Alt-tags for image-based links describe the image and the destination link
- All videos are captioned and all text descriptions accompany all audio files /li>
- Videos are linked to, rather than embedded in a page
- The page provides links to required media players
- The page does not include any flashing images or strobe effects
- All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins and their content support assistive technologies, or the page provides an alternative means of accessing equivalent content
- Form fields are in a logical tab order and use the LABEL element
- A “Skip Navigation” button is provided for those using text-based readers/browsers
If you would like more information about ADA-compliant web designs, or you would like to modify or re-design an existing website to include ADA-compliant features, contact our creative director Dave Ramsell for more information or a consultation regarding your ADA-compliant website design options. You can also reach Dave by phone at (330) 243-0651.
Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen, via Flickr