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How to Make a Website ADA Compliant?

If you are reading this post you have likely received some inquiry or perhaps even some solicitation about making your website ADA Compliant. Appnet is always here to try and assist our clients through the murky waters that IS the internet these days.  If you’ve been directed to this post, you may have some questions. If you’ve been sent to a link TO the ADA website – the long list of content can make your eyes glaze over. What’s new about that or anything to do with a government agency, right?

Before we dive into some Q&A, the tone of this post might sound as if we have anything but LOVE for our citizens with disabilities. I assure you that is not accurate. Not only do we want all citizenry to have equal access to materials – it is actually in our financial best interest to PROMOTE ADA COMPLIANCE. However we do post this information in a attempt to pare down some of the mind-numbing terminologies and to eliminate the scare tactics that some people seem to be using.

Let’s get to some of your questions:

1. What IS the ADA and what does it mean to make your website ADA Compliant?

2. What happens if I don’t do anything?

3. What are the costs to make my website ADA Compliant?

4. Are there any “other secondary benefits” to making my website ADA Compliant?

First – the ADA is the American with Disabilities Act. Title III of the act requires that businesses and nonprofit services providers make accessibility accommodations to enable the disabled public to access the same services as clients who are not disabled. (This includes websites.)

Editor’s Note: The word “REQUIRED” is a bit strong since there are MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of business websites running that are not ADA compliant. However, there has been a significant bit of time and energies put out by the government in an effort to get everyone moving on this issue.  By the way, this ADA ACT only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees – but they ARE pressing businesses of all sizes to comply with wording such as, “Even smaller businesses can benefit from ensuring that their websites are ADA compliant. Doing so opens your company up to more potential clients and limits liability. Web developers should include ADA compliant features in the original site and application plans.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T DO ANYTHING?

We’re not sure how anything like this could be enforced except through the kind of process and tactics that the government gets a LOT of things enforced. For example, we received an email from a client that read, “A client has informed us that they have taken down a link from their site to our site because our site is not ADA compliant. While in their case it is not a huge deal for this to happen to us, I fear that if this starts be more requested that this could be a major issue for us.”

My GUT tells me that the person who wrote that email to our client was NOT an actual potential client or vendor – but was more likely someone with some kind of political action committee or group who uses these kinds of scare tactics to get things moving.

I can’t imagine a scenario where the Federal Government would step in and shut a website down for not being ADA Compliant. However, I could see a couple of scenarios apply.

One – by not having an ADA Compliant website, you would probably miss out on getting that business from such a disabled person who would just search elsewhere until the found a website that worked best for them.

Two – We COULD see a scenario in the future where Google, Yahoo and other search engines only ranked websites that were ADA compliant. They have recently moved in that direction to “force” businesses to make their websites MOBILE FRIENDLY or lose rankings altogether. So it is not without some realm of possibility that they could do the same with this.

WHAT ARE THE COSTS TO MAKING MY WEBSITE ADA COMPLIANT?

Some unscrupulous web design firms would have you believe one of two things.

1. It is VERY EASY to make your website ADA Compliant and therefore with some simple tool and about $200 your website would be magically compliant.

2. That it is VERY TIME CONSUMING AND EXPENSIVE to do so and could easily cost as much as the initial website cost you.

The truth is neither of those are true statements. First, there is NO simple tool that you can run on your website to make it ADA Compliant. Much more has to be done PER PAGE to accommodate the steps necessary. So PRICING depends on how big your website is.

For example, if you have a 5-10 page website and no eCommerce and no BLOG articles, photo galleries or any thing other than 5-10 static pages with text and images, then the cost to make it ADA Compliant would be in the $200-$300 range. (Basically $15-$20 per page.)

However, imagine you have a 50 page website with additional product pages or BLOG articles that have been grown over time to be 200+ pages. To make that website ADA Compliant would cost more than $4K.

Lastly – if you have a dynamically generated website where you add articles or stories, photos, photo galleries, videos and things like a newspaper website or a Chamber of Commerce-style website – the content on those kinds of websites could be in the tens of thousands of pages. See one example of the edits suggested in just ONE page of a WEBSITE WE OWN.

CLICK TO ENLARGE!!!

CLICK TO ENLARGE!!!

An example of a dynamically generated website would be eCommerce where you are adding products or a travel, blog type site. We own one at www.SkiSoutheast.com. We ran testing on that website to see what it would take to make it ADA Compliant and it showed us more than (97) items that needed to be changed ON JUST THE FRONT HOME PAGE! We have added photos, videos and pages over the years to where that website is more than 30,900 pages of content as indexed by Google. Making that website fully ADA Compliant could cost close to One Million Dollars.

ARE THERE ANY SECONDARY BENEFITS TO MAKING YOUR WEBSITE ADA COMPLIANT?

Not that we are aware of – unless the search engines begin making the algorithms pick up that as a ranking benefit. That doesn’t appear to be on their horizon as far as we know at the time of this writing.

What we DO KNOW is that some older browsers and devices may actually have some difficulty with displays some websites where all of the suggested META and SCRIPT TAGS are concerned.

Please note that this post is NOT any kind of disrespectful slant against those who are disabled. In fact – it is IN our best interest to do this work for our clients because that means we have a ton of new business just by getting every client to spend the money for this work.  However, we feel somewhat inclined to say that performing this work on some websites would make them somewhat harder to navigate and on particularly “busy websites” we could see it being even harder to navigate for those who are disabled.

WHAT HAS TO BE DONE ON A WEBSITE TO MAKE IT ADA COMPLIANT?

These are the things suggested via the ADA website – however there are MANY more considerations.

1. Every image, video file, audio file, plug-in, etc. has to have an alt tag
2. Complex graphics are accompanied by detailed text descriptions. The alt descriptions describe the purpose of the objects.

3. If an image is also used as a link, you have to make sure the alt tag describes the graphic and the link destination.

4. Decorative graphics with no other function have empty alt descriptions (alt= “”)
Add captions to videos
Add audio descriptions
Create text transcript
Create a link to the video rather than embedding it into web pages
Add a link to the media player download
Add an additional link to the text transcript (for videos)
The page should provide alternative links to the Image Map

5. The <area> tags must contain an alt attribute
6. Data tables have the column and row headers appropriately identified (using the <th> tag)

7. Tables used strictly for layout purposes do NOT have header rows or columns
Table cells are associated with the appropriate headers (e.g. with the id, headers, scope and/or axis HTML attributes)

8. Make sure the page does not contain repeatedly flashing images
9. Check to make sure the page does not contain a strobe effect
10. A link is provided to a disability-accessible page where the plug-in can be downloaded
All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins (including Acrobat PDF files and PowerPoint files, etc.) and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided

11. When form controls are text input fields use the LABEL element
12. When text is not available use the title attribute
13. Include any special instructions within field labels on forms.
14. Make sure that form fields are in a logical tab order
15. Include a ‘Skip Navigation’ button to help those using text readers

Additionally things that HAVE to be addressed:

1. Fonts and colors have be dictated within certain variables.
2. Additional SCRIPT TAGS have to be placed within the HTML of the pages whether they be static or dynamically generated pages.

3. There are MULTIPLE adaptive technologies that those who are disabled use. Making a website work for each and all of them is an arduous task.

The SPEED of these adaptive technologies are slower and therefore when a designer creates navigation, they have to slow the movement down for all users (not just those with disabilities) or else the adaptive readers won’t have time to properly read them aloud.

The ADA act is actually dictating a desire that websites be far less graphic and much more text based which is 180° opposite of the newest trends and for what actually works for helping businesses to generate new clients.

Again – using SkiSoutheast as an example – over 140 edits were needed to make the HOME PAGE ONLY ADA Compliant.

There are MANY TOOLS for the purpose of testing your website for ADA Compliance. We’d suggest: http://wave.webaim.org

Bear in mind that making these changes WILL probably effect your website’s layout and functionality on some browsers.

Regardless – as a rule of thumb if you are wanting or needing to make your website ADA Compliant you will have to have your developer invest 20-30 minutes per page or more. At a cost of perhaps $30-$100 per page. The process is arduous. You have to edit everything, run it through the tester to find if anything is missing and do it all again.

Some developers that we’ve spoken with have suggested that business owners address this as if they were developing a website in another “language”. Simply leave your current website AS IS except for the HOME PAGE and then create a SECOND website for those who are disabled. The link would be clearly there for them to hear and then the second ADA website could be designed far more basic, without visuals, etc.

In closing, we are here for you if you have any questions and/or wish/need to bring your website up to ADA Compliance.