ADA Compliance - A Web "Standard" that Needs to be Standardized

Blog / Software Development / ADA Compliance - A Web "Standard" that Needs to be Standardized
10/11/2016 | Joel Stephens

Let me start by saying that while we do a lot of work in this area we are certainly not ADA web compliance experts.  Part of that stems from the fact that it's hard to be an expert on something that changes constantly.  The short primer on ADA Compliance for websites is that the general goal for a website is to "provide the same experience to all individuals regardless of their abilities or disabilities."  What does that mean for a website?  Let's rewind the clock a bit and go back to the origins of these standards.  

Imagine you are blind and you want to go to a website to purchase a widget.  You load up your text based web browser and go to your favorite stores site and their e-commerce platform displays images of products for you to view.  Obviously you can't see them so you you wait for your browser to read you the information on the page.  The problem... each image of the widgets shows the product but the only text on the page is the price.  So your browser starts reading the website like this... "$9.99 Buy Now, $11.99 Buy Now, $8.99 Buy Now..."  Obviously that is not helpful.  The intent for someone who has some form of visual impermanent is that it should read something like this..."Acme Brand Water Bottle Rubber Lid, Color Red, $9.99 Buy Now, Brand X Stainless Steel Water Bottle $11.99..."  

You can see how the experience for someone who can not see the picture is massively improved by the second reading.  While we will not get into the basics of HTML, CSS, Alt Tags, and basic website standards in this article just trust me when I saw developing a website to do the second type of reading is really not difficult if you start with that in mind.  So whats the problem with the ADA standards.  There is a lot of grey area in the standards.  If you want to get to fully ADA compliant status, aka Level AAA, you basically need to build a site with no design, no images, no sound, and often very little visual functionality.  I know a lot of people will try and argue that point with me but I propose this: send me a link to one fully Level AAA compliant site that is as functional as an equivalent Level A site.  The sad fact is that I can not think of a single website for a Fortune 500 company that is even close to Level AAA compliant.  Why?  Because these standards are so rigorous that even large organizations can not find a good blend between fully functional for people without disabilities and people with disabilities.  Do I have a solution?  No, unfortunately I do not.  However, our firm has been helping companies and government organizations bring up their websites from "utterly horrible" to Level A and Level AA compliant for the last few years.  If you are interested in more details on the subject of making websites ADA compliant check out these links below.

 

General Reference to ADA Standards

ADA Compliance Toolkit Reference

Legal Discussion about ADA Requirements for Websites