The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that websites (just like ATMs, elevators, and other user interfaces) be accessible to anyone with a physical disability. But beyond any requirement, it’s just best practices to make your website as accessible as possible!
Being conscious of your fellow citizens who may have disabilities shows that your organization is inclusive and would welcome members who may need some additional assistance. Here are a few tips for maintaining ADA compliance:
1. Be thoughtful with content
ADA compliance really comes down to website content. There are many tools that help people with disabilities access and navigate content, such as screen readers that read web pages aloud, screen magnifiers for those with low vision, and even voice recognition software.
Your goal, then, is to add as many things as you can into your content creation process that will make it as easy as possible for these tools to work. For example: Add alt text on your pictures, add captions to videos, include a link to text transcripts, include audio descriptions, and provide alternative links to an Image Map. (This is a great resource for additional criteria.)
2. Stay informed on standards
Compliance standards are ever-changing, especially as more tools are introduced. Once you have added a few things into your content creation process, make regular practice of researching new compliance standards that you could add.
The World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web, has a very comprehensive guide for ADA compliance standards and also regularly updates its website with new recommendations for compliance. This may be a good resources to follow!
3. Bring in an expert
It’s a lot to digest, so if you still have concerns you might consider hiring an outside expert. There are even a few website creative agencies that specialize in accessibility! Vet any third-party you bring in by asking:
- How will you audit my website for accessibility?
- Given the size and scope of my organization, what kind of plan would you recommend?
- What compliance tasks will you help us complete?
- How will you help us maintain compliance in the future?
4. Give them a way to address concerns
The more website content you produce, the more of a chance there will be that you’ll miss something. The best thing you can do is to make sure you give your website users an opportunity to report ADA compliance issues. (Say, through a form.) This way, they have an avenue to address the concern with you, and you in turn have an opportunity to correct the content!
Making it easy for everyone to access your website is not only the responsible thing to do, but it also means you’ll see increased website engagement overall! For more on creating and maintaining an engaging website, download our free guide Membership Websites: The Mothership of Online Member Engagement!