The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protects the rights of individuals with disabilities and helps ensure that “places of public accommodation,” including websites, are accessible to anyone including people with disabilities. While there are currently no exact prescriptions for making your website 100% ADA compliant there are several things you can do to help protect yourself from legal liability and improve your website’s accessibility by following these best website practices.
1. Create a Simple Design and Easy to Follow Navigation
The first step is to design your website in a way that’s not overly complex and makes it easy for anyone to navigate your site. This includes avoiding things like Flash and placing the navigation bar in obvious places such as the top of the website where people would expect to see it. Be sure that your navigation is labeled correctly, consistent on all pages and links to the corresponding page with relevant content. SiteSwan’s Themes and layouts follow best practice with a clean and simple design and an easy and obvious navigation structure.
2. Make Sure All Text is Clear and Legible
Avoid using really small fonts especially for main titles, menus, and links. Also, be sure to use colors that make it easy to read the text on the page and doesn’t conflict with the site background color. For example, using a light grey font on a white background can make text difficult to read. Use SiteSwan’s text editor to choose font colors that provide enough contrast for easy readability.
3. Add “Alt Tags” to Site Images
Alt tags provide a text alternative for search engines and enable anyone who is visually impaired to understand what the image is if they are using a screen-reader or accessibility software. For example, adding an Alt tag for an image of a pizza that reads “Gino’s famous cheese pizza” helps someone understand what the image is, even if they can’t see it. Alt tags have also been known to help improve search results. You can add Alt tags to any or all images on your SiteSwan website at any time. Here is an article that explains how:
4. Add Closed Captioning to Videos and Audio
The best way to make videos or audio files ADA compliant is to add closed captioning. Captioning allows individuals with hearing impairments to read what’s being said in the video and allow those with visual impairments to use screen reading and accessibility software.
5. Provide HTML Format for Website Content
Websites using HTML make it easy for those who are using text-to-speech or similar applications to interpret what is on your website. SiteSwan websites are built using HTML including any content you add.
While PDF documents are very popular, especially for things like restaurant menus, the truth is these documents are not ADA compliant and cannot be read or recognized by optical character recognition devices. Instead, post the PDF’s content directly to your website using SiteSwan’s site editor. SiteSwan even offers a “Menu Post” option so you can easily and beautifully present restaurant menus on a site.
7. Provide Customer Support and Assistance
Allow customers to contact you via phone, email or mail if they cannot find the information they are looking for on your website. Encourage people to reach out with any questions, concerns or recommendations to help make your website more accessible.
8. Add an Accessibility Widget to Your Website
Accessibility widgets such as UserWay offer added protection by automatically improving the accessibility of your website. These widgets provide text-to-speech or screen magnification options without interfering with the HTML on your site. You can see an example of the UserWay Widget by clicking the blue icon on the right side of the screen on this website.
You can add the UserWay Accessibility Widget to any of your SiteSwan websites in minutes. UserWay even offers a reseller program so you can remove their branding and charge your website clients for adding the widget to their website. Many web designers will even offer an “Accessibility Package” that includes the UserWay widget along with optimizing the website using the tips above and charge their clients an additional $50 – $200 per month.