Unfortunately, the vast majority of websites aren’t accessible to many people with a wide range of disabilities. Because of this, many people have no access to many of the things that most people take for granted.
Up to 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. As a result, existing laws protecting people with disabilities have expanded to include websites, mobile devices, and other technologies.
Accessibility compliance in the digital realm is now required under current laws in the United States, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and similar laws in other countries that ensure all people can have access to content, which is necessary for functioning in modern society.
- It’s the responsibility of web developers and designers to create structures for people with disabilities to have access not just to public and government services but to use a wide range of tools, it is recognized as a civil right.
- Website accessibility laws exist to make sure that people with disabilities are given access to the same sorts of goods and services as everyone else.
- As a general rule, inclusion should be the model for how you design your site and make sure that as many people as possible can access your services or products by working to make sure your site is compliant.
Who Is Responsible for Website Accessibility?
While many people with disabilities use a wide range of technologies to help assist the process, it’s the responsibility of web developers and designers to create structures that make it possible to use these tools.
This applies not just to government and public services but also to any business that provides services, including lodging, food or beverages, public gathering places, businesses providing items for sale or rental, services, recreation, education, and more. Access to these activities, services, and products is recognized as a civil right.
If your website provides services in any one of the above categories, theoretically you could be liable for ensuring that you haven’t provided any barriers to access.
What Are the Web Accessibility Laws?
Many countries have established laws protecting the rights of disabled people online, and there are sometimes multiple laws that need to be applied when considering the web accessibility of your site. In the United States alone, there is the ADA, which has been in effect since 1990 but has since been expanded to include access to the internet.
There is also Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which applies to government websites. There are also other laws that need to be adhered to, such as Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which relates to telecommunications devices like mobile phones.
Title II of the ADA requires that public governments must not refuse access to services based on having a disability, and they must provide programs to help people overcome these difficulties. You may be thinking, “how does this impact private businesses?” Title III of the ADA addresses this, stating that these kinds of rules are applicable to private businesses as well.
The U.S. doesn’t stand alone with the creation of laws to protect people with disabilities. In the United Kingdom, there is the Equality Act of 2010, which is a framework for providing accessible products. There are laws in many more countries that take this seriously as well. Here is a more comprehensive list of countries that have established some form of web accessibility laws.
Who Do the Web Accessibility Laws Benefit?
Many different categories of people are represented by these laws. However, anyone who has a physical or mental disability may be represented. These disabilities include those related to:
- Motor functions
- Cognition and understanding
- Senior citizens
- Independent living
The laws exist to make sure that people with these conditions are given access to the same sorts of goods and services as everyone else.
How To Comply With U.S. Web Accessibility Standards
As a general rule, inclusion should be the model for how you design your site. Make sure that as many people as possible can access your services or products. By paying attention to making sure that there are methods of obtaining information and acting upon it for all of the above categories, you’ll be working to make sure your site is compliant.
Make Sure Your Site Is Navigable by People Who Use Only a Keyboard
Also, consider people who cannot use a keyboard at all but must rely on a pointing device. Consider that some of your users have vision problems and will need to use special software to read the site aloud.
Generally, this means that you should avoid relying only on graphics for conveying information unless there’s some accompanying text to assist users. You also need to recognize that a significant portion of the public suffers from some form of colorblindness, meaning that they have a hard time distinguishing between hues that don’t have a strong enough contrast.
Text is usually able to help resolve this. Following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines will go a long way toward making your site accessible fully.
Offer Video Content Alternatives
If you offer video or audio content, consider providing textual alternatives, not just for people who are blind or deaf, but also for users who surf with the sound off.
Content is also important. People with some form of mental difficulties are also a protected group. You should strive to keep your sentences short and avoid using too much jargon. Always consider your audience when writing for the web.
Because it can be difficult to cover such a broad topic in one article, we have created several guides to help you with this process. Consider reading each of the below articles to improve your website’s compliance:
- How To Make Your Small Business Website More Accessible
- How To Structure Your HTML Properly for Web Accessibility
- How To Structure Your Visible Content for Web Accessibility
- The Best Website Accessibility Compliance Tools
The world has changed rapidly during the past 25 or more years with the creation of new technologies which theoretically should make all of our lives easier. However, with these advancements come new dependencies.
While a world without the internet had no need for things like web access, it has become a fundamental necessity in today’s world. We all now rely heavily on the internet for things as simple as viewing videos and purchasing goods and services to more necessary actions like working jobs.
Overall, regardless of whether it’s the law, you should consider accessibility a major tenet of your website design. Beyond the fact that access to goods and services is something that’s a human right, you generally want to make sure that as many people as possible can access your content. Why limit your potential customers, especially as a small business?
However, besides being a good idea, complying with accessibility is the law. You could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit if you don’t follow these guidelines. Regardless of which country you operate, each has its own set of rules that you should follow.
The good news is that it isn’t particularly difficult to manage this if you keep it in mind as you build your site. Make sure your website is structured well. Make sure that you have text with audio and video and testing that audio devices will work with your site isn’t hugely complicated. You need to follow the rules of good website design.
If you’re looking for a good way to build your site, take a look at The Best Website Builders of 2023.