What is ADA Compliance, Accessibility, and WCAG 2.1?

 
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Accessibility can be a confusing and intimidating topic, but here at Bell Media, we know all the ins-and-outs so that you can stay stress-free. Here we have outlined a general overview of what Accessibility is, why it’s important, and what the various guidelines and recommendations mean.

Who Needs Accessibility?

The best way to think about Accessibility in relation to a website or a piece of digital content is this: just like a brick-and-mortar store makes accommodations for disabled individuals, like providing wheelchair ramps, a business’s website and digital content should also be accessible to all.

Types of disabilities to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Blind/Low-Vision
    • These users are either completely blind, or have very poor eyesight. For those that aren’t completely blind, ensuring text is large enough and is colored in high contrast against the background color is important. For example, having large, black text on a white background would be ideal. Users that are completely blind will use a piece of software called a ‘Screenreader’, which does what it sounds like – it reads a webpage aloud to the user. For a Screenreader to operate well, the website needs to be coded/created so a Screenreader can interpret the information and convey it to the user.
  • Colorblind/Color Deficient
    • To make your website accessible to those who are colorblind or have a color deficiency, make sure that the site’s information isn’t conveyed through color alone. Unsure what this means? Think of the common stop sign. If a colorblind individual looks at a red stop sign, the purpose of the sign is still communicated because of the word STOP. Like a stop sign, your website content should convey the same information in two ways – through the use of words and colors.
  • Motor-Skill Impaired
    • These users will have difficulty using input devices such as a mouse or trackpad with the required degree of precision necessary to navigate your site. Some may not be able to use these tools at all. For these users, a website needs to be completely traversable with just the keyboard alone – the user will need to be able to tab from one link to the next, from one form of input to the next, one menu item to the next, etc.
  • Deaf
    • Just like conveying information just through color, make sure that information isn’t only provided via audio. This means adding captions to any videos that may exist on a site or providing a transcript of a video or audio file on the site itself or available for download elsewhere. Also, provide a contact form that allows the user to choose their preferred means of contact instead of just asking for their telephone number.

Understanding the Different Guidelines

All of these ‘Accessibility’ Guidelines fall under the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990, which covers not just websites, but brick-and-mortar storefronts, public transportation requirements, etc. The portion that discusses websites, in particular, is called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version 2.1 or, WCAG 2.1.

Additionally, there is a complementary guideline under Section 508 – 2017, which outlines the accommodations required for federal employees and members of the public with disabilities who wish to access the government’s Information and Communications Technology, including government websites and multimedia.

Within these two guidelines ( WCAG 2.1 and Section 508 – 2017 ) exist three separate levels that all Accessibility issues fall under – Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Level A: Pages with level A issues are unusable for some people
  • Level AA: Pages with level AA issues are very difficult to use
  • Level AAA: Pages with level AAA issues can be difficult to use

These three different levels exist to classify Accessibility issues on a website ranging from most to least impactful.

100% ADA Compliance?

For starters, it’s completely possible to make a 100% Accessible website. Possible, but oftentimes impractical. If you’re starting a new business and haven’t designed any branding elements yet, you’re in luck. A clean slate allows you to create a brand that will lend itself to an accessible website in the future. For example, when creating a business logo, create one that has a high contrast ratio between the text and background. If you’re still unsure of what an inaccessible logo would look like, here’s an example:  

Cazz's Sports Bar and Grille
Probably pretty difficult to read for low-vision and/or colorblind & color-deficient Users

The contrast between the yellow and light-blue text against the fuchsia background isn’t high enough – it might be difficult for low-vision and colorblind/color deficient users to read the text.

Here is an example of an Accessible logo: 

The Adidas Logo
The Adidas Logo – Black text on a white background provides the perfect color contrast.

It doesn’t get more Accessible than this: black text on a white background. This provides the highest level of contrast possible. Also, Adidas hasn’t committed itself to a brand color that would introduce Accessibility issues when used in other branding elements, such as a website, printed marketing materials, etc.

Cazz’s Sports Bar and Grille, on the other hand, has committed its brand to yellow text on a fuchsia background which will introduce all kinds of problems down the road.

An Honest Effort

What if you already have an established brand and colors that would introduce Accessibility issues? That’s where coming into 100% Compliance might be difficult. You can either choose to design your website differently, removing the offending logos and other branding elements with more Accessible versions, or you can choose to forego those particular Accessibility issues and focus elsewhere. Accessibility is more about providing an honest, best-effort attempt to make your website as accommodating as possible, rather than a hard-and-fast, in other words, a “comply or else” mentality. 

To Fix, or to Start Over?

It’s much easier to build a website from the ground up with Accessibility in mind rather than shoehorning Accessibility concerns into an existing website. In fact, many seeking to fix their Accessibility issues have decided to take the opportunity to redesign and rebuild their website from scratch. Whatever you choose to do, rest assured Bell Media has the knowledge and skills required to assist your website’s Accessibility concerns. 

 

Bell Media is Alabama’s leading digital marketing agency, a 4x INC. 5000 Company and a Google Premier Partner. We serve local companies in competitive markets that have a need or desire to grow. Bell Media is in the business of predictable outcomes, fueling growth by driving customer acquisition and filling open capacity. We work hard to understand what success looks like to our clients, and passionately seek to achieve those results through collaboration and education.