Website Accessibility Standards For The New Year: Your 2019 Guide For Redesigning An ADA Compliant Website
January 10, 20193 min read
Happy New Year! If your team hasn’t already designed for web accessibility, now is the time.
Note that design for accessibility is more than a kindness extended to people with disabilities. Good accessibility practice can improve usability for everyone, enhance user experience, build brand loyalty and encourage conversions. And remediating an inaccessible website on your preferred timeline beats responding to a lawsuit.
Since the beginning of 2018, websites have been required to meet new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines under the Revised Section 508 standards. These standards aim to ensure that individuals with disabilities have no problems accessing your website.
These web accessibility requirements apply to any page updated since January 2018. (See the complete Web Content Accessibility Standards here.)
How to respond? Start by developing an action plan.
Build an Accessibility Team
Are your web developers familiar with WCAG website accessibility guidelines and standards? Many employees need training on the nature and impact of accessibility, but the need might not be obvious. You might need to build a business case for web accessibility and take it all the way up to the CEO.
First, designate someone familiar with accessible website design to be Web Accessibility Coordinator. This person will own the accessibility initiative. Your team should also include
- Someone with working knowledge of ADA-compliant website guidelines.
- Content writers and creators familiar with web content accessibility guidelines.
- Designers with an awareness of the significance of font size, color choices and visual focus.
- Developers who follow best practices and code for universal access.
- Managers who understand and advocate for accessibility.
Fix current issues and bake accessibility into new content
Create a public policy on accessibility to demonstrate your company’s commitment and highlight your plan to turn that commitment in standard practice.
- Solicit feedback from users, including people with disabilities.
- Hire a website accessibility expert to audit and evaluate the site(s).
- Prioritize issues and necessary fixes; tackle those with the highest impact first.
- Train content creators to follow web accessibility guidelines.
- Develop and maintain accessibility best practices as part of everyday web workflow.
- Retest regularly.
Planning a Website Redesign?
When planning a redesign of your website, discuss accessibility goals early and often. Web accessibility needs to be built into your web design process from the beginning. This is not pre-launch polish.
What makes a website accessible?
- Clear, concise content is arranged into a proper structural hierarchy in sections under informative headings.
- Media, such as audio and video, have text alternatives.
- Downloadable documents, such as PDFs, are created to be accessible.
- The website responds to screen size and device type and supports text reflow and resizing.
- Users can stop all motion or animation and still find the page fully functional and all information available.
- Color contrast meets or exceeds required ratios.
- Color is not the sole indicator of a function, action, or piece of information.
- Links are easy to distinguish.
- Navigation is consistent and straightforward.
- Forms are clearly labeled, with error messaging that guides the user to success.
- The mouse is an option, not a requirement; the website is navigable with keyboard alone. This ensures accessibility to people with screen readers and other assistive devices.
- The website is optimized for touch screens, with consideration for touch target size.
At Northwoods, we have felt the shift in thinking about the importance of web accessibility. If you need help making your website accessible, or if you’re facing a complaint because your website is not compliant, we can help.
Websites built with accessibility in mind often turn out to improve usability for everyone. Better usability enhances user experience, which builds brand loyalty and encourages conversions.
How does Section 508 Refresh apply to you? It likely doesn’t directly affect your website design and development. Still, you should pay attention.
We tend to think of “accessibility” as making websites usable by people with disabilities. But think of it another way: Accessibility is making your website available to a wider range of abilities. This could include people who use your website only with a keyboard or a screen reader.