The ADA Checklist: Website Compliance Guidelines for 2019 in Plain English

Well here we are.

You’re over there trying to figure this stuff out so you don’t get sued. And I’m over here writing at 4:40 am because I can’t sleep.

Okay, for the record I did watch Bill Burr on Netflix before this but that’s besides the point.

Anyways, let’s quickly make ADA website compliance easy on you so a wild pack of opportunistic lawyers doesn’t make a paper airplane demand letter and float it on over to your desk.

Don’t let their friendly faces fool you, they’ll sink your battleship with one tiny letter.

The first thing you need to do is do something.

That’s always my professional legal advice (yes, I’m an attorney too but the good kind).

So you need to do something. What does that even mean though?

That means don’t make compliance out to be some huge project where you divide it into a million small projects where interns are color coordinating staplers and associate interns are reporting back to senior interns who then shuffle a bunch of papers and then something happens with your web content editor and then your social media guy gets involved for some reason and nothing gets done.

In other words, just start by adding alt text to every meaningful image on your website. If your website has a lot of pages with images, apply alt tags to the 25 most trafficked pages on your site and then work from there.

After that, continue on with my beautiful ADA checklist below that’s distilled straight from the ocean of detailed requirements that is the WCAG 2.0 AA standards (click that link and you’ll see what you’re up against were it not for me):

A Simple Checklist for the Ages

1. Provide Alternatives

· Alt Text: As mentioned so eloquently above, add alt text to all meaningful images on your website (Dear Medium…).

· Closed Captioning: All videos on your website must have closed captioning.

· Text Transcripts: Add a text transcript beneath all video-only and audio-only files.

· No Images of Text: All text must be readable by a screen reader.

2. No Automatic Content

· No Pop-Ups: Any distractors that activate on your website without being prompted by the user must be removed (Dear ESPN, FoxSports, and all other media sites in the world…).

· Static Website Forms: Forms must be fully controllable by the user.

3. Keyboard Accessible

· Your website must be fully accessible without a mouse, by using the arrow or tab buttons.

If you can unplug your mouse and still completely access and engage with your site, you’re in good shape.

4. Intuitive Website

· Language and Title Tags: Set a language for your website and provide clear titles for each page.

· Skip to Content: Users must be able to skip to the heart of your content.

· Consistent Navigation and Flow: Your overall website and each page needs to be predictable and logical (e.g. Facebook — a privacy nightmare but, hey, at least their page structure is consistent).

· Descriptive Links and Headers: Be obvious in linking to or setting up content so that users know what to expect. In other words, be very obvious in wording your headers, and anchor text/text surrounding your links

· Labeled Elements: Put a label on each important element of your website.

· Multiple Ways to Access Content: Provide multiple ways to navigate through your website.

· Clear Forms: Make forms simple and easy to fill out.

· Clean Code: Your website must be coded properly and free of errors.

5. Font Thresholds

· Color Ratio: All font should sharply contrast from its background color at a 4.5:1 minimum threshold.

· Scalable: Text should be able to be resized up to 200% without any loss of functionality.

6. Only Necessary Time Limits

· There should be no time constraints on website access unless absolutely necessary.

Alright, you’ve earned a 15 minute break just by getting this far down the page.

You definitely earned that victory lap you just took around the office by getting through the 1-minute informational gauntlet above but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, you’ve got at least another 14 minutes of hard labor to finish off this whole make your website accessible thing.

First, some background perhaps.

To condense a bunch of legal stuff into a sentence, basically you need to make your website so that it adheres to WCAG 2.0 level AA standards (summarized by yours truly above).

WCAG was created by The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) which “develops standards and support materials to help you understand and implement accessibility.”

Any and all governing bodies/rule makers worth their weight in copper are adopting WCAG 2.0 as the legal standard for whether a website is accessible to people with disabilities because W3C knows what the hell they’re doing. They’ve thought of everything already; there’s really no point in a federal agency trying to come up with their own set of guidelines.

WCAG 2.1 was just released in June of 2018 so, yes, that does need to be on your radar but don’t worry about it yet. How about you just work on 2.0 first and then you can get fancy. Oh, and very good news, 2.1 works on top of 2.0 so you can just keep right on trucking after you’ve updated your website with my checklist above.

The ADA Checklist is my super simple book that goes into more detail.

Of course, the subheadings and bullet points in this Medium article only go so far. My book, The ADA Checklist, goes into more detail on how to make your website ADA compliant.

It’s a quick read (20–25 minutes-ish) but very powerful and a reference guide you can use to educate all the players in your company with (content editors, web developers, executives, etc.)

Important note here: ADA web compliance is not a redesign your website set-it-and-forget it thing. A very big chunk of compliance is in how you upload your media content. Yes, coding is a very important part of the process but it’s not the end of the story.

Another important note: There are a separate set of legal best practices to web compliance as well: training, having a web page explaining your accessibility policy, appointing an accessibility coordinator, hiring an independent consultant, and inviting feedback.

My book has a paragraph explaining each of these. You can find it on Amazon by searching The ADA Checklist.

What to do next?

The most common complaint in demand letters and lawsuits is a very easy one to fix: alt text. Here’s exactly how to update your alt text:

Video tutorial on how to add alt text to your website.

Another big ticket item is having closed captioning on your videos. If you have your videos hosted on YouTube, adding closed captions is fairly easy to do.

Right off the bat, these are two very simple yet very big steps towards becoming ADA compliant.

Remember, updating your website to become ADA compliant is a process, not a flip of a switch so the best way to become compliant is to start doing what you can and not get caught in planning and procrastination mode.