Millions of internet users have impairments that can make using websites difficult, or in some cases, impossible. By ensuring your website is ADA compliant, you're ensuring that a wide range of users can access and navigate your site.
Furthermore, as we've seen in the recent lawsuit, Domino's v. Robles
, there can be legal consequences. In October of 2019, Domino's Pizza was sued by a blind user, Guillermo Robles, who was unable to place an online order. Neither Domino's website or app allowed for a screen reader compatibility, so Robles sued the company, arguing the site's inaccessibility violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal from Domino's Pizza after a federal appellate court ruled that Robles can sue the chain. Domino's had asked the Supreme Court to rule that the ADA didn't apply to websites and apps. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since Domino's is a place of public accommodation, it's required to provide "auxiliary aids and services," making it necessary for visual materials to be accessible to visually impaired customers. The court found that it applies to the chain's website and app, even though they're often used outside of Domino's restaurants.
Now that a restaurant, known for having some of the most advanced e-commerce solutions, have found themselves in court, we should all be aware of where we end up on the WCAG 2.0 spectrum.
What Accessibility Should a Website Have?
Without clearly defined website accessibility laws for websites to follow, businesses continue to struggle with the gray areas of accessibility. While right now, it may be impossible to cover yourself in every aspect, it's become clear that companies need to start making a game plan to meet compliance.
WCAG Compliance Levels
There are three compliance levels under WCAG. They are A (must support), AA (should support), and AAA (may support).
As a general rule of thumb, it's recommended that companies aim for somewhere in between Levels AA and AAA. Level A is rarely considered to be sufficient in meeting ADA regulations, and Level AAA is the most difficult to achieve.
Level A and AA compliance checklist include items such as:
- Color Contrast Ratio. Your website should have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for your background and foreground to display text and images of text compliantly.
- Structure Content Correctly. Ensure all of your content uses relevant headers and that all pages have descriptive titles. For example, there should only be one H1 per page.
- Resizable Text. Assure text can be resized up to 200% while remaining form.
- Navigation. Websites should be navigable by both keyboard and keyboard equivalents.
- ALT Text. Ensure all images have a caption or "alternative text". These should be written in sentence case.
- Error Suggestion. Your site should suggest fixes when users make errors.
Level AA deals with the most significant and most common barriers for disabled users, which is why it's the level most companies strive to obtain. Once level AA is met, many companies will begin to chip away at the AAA checklist. As stated above, it's difficult to become AAA compliant; however, the more you make your site welcoming to disabled users, the better, for both your users and your company.
See more information on WCAG guidelines here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/
Web Accessibility Matters
Although clearly defined website accessibility laws are lacking as of now, we have learned from Domino's v. Robles how significant the consequences of non-compliance could be. So now that we know how vital web accessibility is, it's a good idea to start implementing some changes. The good news is that, for most websites, you'll find AA compliance should be relatively simple to achieve. There are many free online web accessibility tools to help get you started. Begin by making small changes and work your way up from there. Once you're ready to dive in a bit deeper, paid tools like Siteimprove can help you uncover more complex areas of improvement (check out my recent blog post to learn more about Siteimprove and other helpful webmaster tools). Making sure your site is accessible to as many people as possible should be a top priority. Not only will you provide users with a great experience, and possibly avoid negative backlashes or lawsuits, but your content is likely to be viewed by more users.