30 Sep 2019 - Ian Lebbern

Your complete ADA compliance checklist


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Approximately 25% of American adults have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that your organization's website should be built in a way that accommodates and meets the needs of people with a variety of disabilities.

If people with disabilities can't successfully navigate your website and access content, they have the right to sue your company because it doesn't accommodate their specific disability. Making your website ADA compliant will help save you thousands of dollars in lawsuits.

The ADA compliance checklist

Below are key guidelines to follow for an ADA compliant website.

Website presentation

  1. Descriptive text: Use text that's descriptive and clear for headings, page titles and link anchor text.
  2. Headings: For each page, headings must start with an H1 tag and step down to H2 and H3 tags for subheadings. Make sure the hierarchy will be logical to someone who can't see but will hear it as spoken audio.
  3. Clear forms: Use coded labels for fields. Also, provide clear instructions on how to fill out the form as well as how to fix errors. Be sure to use clear error messages and use example formats such as with dates (e.g. 12/02/1980) and phone numbers (e.g. use dashes 404-504 or no dashes 404504).
  4. Uniform labels: All images and elements that are identical must have identical labels and alt tags throughout your site.
  5. Clean code: Your website should be free of errors, broken links and HTML errors.
  6. Don't use color alone to convey information and instructions. Provide an alternative for those who may not see color.

Website appearance

  1. Zoom text: Users must be able to increase text by up to 200%. Yet the website and text should remain readable.
  2. Color contrast ratio: Text must have a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 against its background.
  3. Distinctive links: Text links inside a body of text must stand out from normal text by using at least two of the following: underline, bold, italics, color.
  4. Consistent layout/navigation: Your website must have a consistent layout (i.e. header, footer navigation).

Content alternatives

  1. Descriptive alt text: Meaningful images and illustrations (i.e. charts, infographics, etc.) on your site must have alt text.
  2. No images of text: No images of text are allowed when actual text can be readily substituted. The exceptions are logos, branding and graph labels.
  3. Text transcripts: Audio and video files must have a text transcript directly below the file and must be accurate.
  4. Closed captioning: Video with meaningful sound must contain accurate, synced closed captions.
  5. Table data: Provide alternative versions of tables that contain a lot of data or provide a caption that accurately conveys the data.
  6. Extraneous documents: All documents must meet basic accessibility requirements.

User control

  1. Limit automatic pop-ups: Only use automatic pop-ups to provide instructions or assist website users.
  2. No automatic video or audio: Users should be able to choose to play video or audio.
  3. Unexpected changes: Don't change a part of your website without warning users several weeks in advance.
  4. Pause updating/refreshing content: The user must be able to pause content that automatically updates or refreshes. An exception is rotating ads.
  5. Adjustable time limits: For time limits (e.g. auction bids), before time expires, users must be provided a warning. They must also be able to extend the time limit by up to 8x the original limit.
  6. Important submissions: Users must be able to review and correct important information (e.g. credit card number, social security number, etc.) before finalizing the submission.

Website usability

  1. Keyboard only: Users must have the option to access all functions and content of the website by keyboard only.
  2. Focus indicator: All links and fields must include a focus indicator, which is a highlighted border or other indicator of the current location of the cursor.
  3. Skip navigation: A skip navigation link must be available at the top left of every page on a website.
  4. Search function: A search function must be provided on the homepage. It must remain in the same place if placed on additional pages.
  5. Sitemap: A link to a sitemap must be provided on the homepage.
  6. Language: A default language must be set for the website.


Why ADA compliance is so important

Following the ADA compliance checklist can not only help you convert more leads, but also gain trust with users because they can easily find the content they need regardless of any disability they may have.

Overall, understanding the importance of ADA compliance and using the checklist to make your website more accessible can help your company maintain a great reputation and appeal to a diverse set of customers.

Are you ready to optimize your website for better accessibility? At Engine Room, we have extensive experience in designing ADA compliant websites. Contact us today.

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