ADA Compliance Checklist: Everything You Need for Digital Accessibility

Graphical picture of ADA Compliance Checklist
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, ensuring equal access to online content has become more important than ever. In this article, we present an insightful checklist that highlights the key principles and practical steps to make your website accessible to all users in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We will explore the realm of inclusive design and empower you to create an inclusive digital space that embraces diversity and eliminates barriers by adhering to an ADA compliance checklist.

Best Practices for Digital Accessibility

  1. Accessible Text and Language

    The first element of the ADA compliance checklist is accessible language and text. To achieve digital accessibility, you need to make the text and language in the content accessible for everyone to comprehend. Make sure your website, PDFs, and documents use language that's readable for a screen reader and other assistive technologies for easy identification.

    Here are some ways in which you can make document language accessible:

    • Accessible Fonts

      Accessible fonts make a website or a document easy to read for people who have vision problems or use assistive technologies. They refer to typefaces that are designed and chosen specifically to enhance readability and legibility for individuals with varying abilities and disabilities, improving the overall accessibility of written content. Accessible fonts make it easier for everyone to perceive and understand the content.

    • Plain Language

      Plain language is a style of writing and communication that aims to make information accessible and understandable to a wide range of audiences, including those with varying disabilities. It involves presenting information clearly, concisely, and straightforwardly, using plain and familiar language without unnecessary jargon, technical terms, or complex sentence structures. This element is an essential part of the ADA compliance checklist and should be followed to avoid inviting legal troubles.

    • Readable Titles and Headings

      Readable headings and titles make content accessible as people can navigate within the content easily. To make sure the headings and titles are accessible to everyone, add them in a hierarchal structure to break down the content into logical sections and sub-sections, allowing readers to quickly scan and understand the structure of the content, making it easier to find relevant information and navigate through the document.

    • Content Order

      Screen readers are assistive technologies used by individuals with visual impairments. They read the content of a website or document aloud. By following the content order, screen readers can present information logically and coherently. If the content is not properly ordered, your users may encounter difficulties understanding the context or miss out on important information.

      Further, people relying on the keyboard for navigation move through tabs with the Tab key on the keyboard. Content order ensures that the focus moves in a logical sequence, allowing users to access and interact with the content meaningfully.

    • Correct Table Structure

      Properly structured tables allow people with different disabilities who rely on assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers, braille displays, or alternative input devices to access the content effectively by enabling them to access and interpret information.

  2. Color

    The next essential element of the ADA compliance checklist is color.

    • Color Contrast

      Color contrast for accessibility refers to the difference in luminance (brightness) and color between foreground (such as text) and background elements in digital or physical content. It ensures that the text is easily distinguishable and readable by people with visual impairments, low vision, or color vision deficiencies. Measured using contrast ratio, it quantifies the difference in brightness between the foreground and background colors.

      According to WCAG 2.1, there are specific guidelines that make it necessary to include color contrast in a certain ratio for enhanced readability and accessibility. WCAG recommends a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text (typically used for headings or important content) to meet Level AA accessibility standards.

  3. Media

    Another element of the ADA compliance checklist is media. Media like video and audio needs to be accessible as well for people who are hard of hearing or have vision impairments, and these elements need special accommodations for easier access.

    • Video Captions

      Video captions are textual representations of the audio content in a video. They display the spoken words and relevant non-speech elements, such as sound effects and speaker identification, in synchronization with the video's timeline. Many individuals can benefit from video captions.

      People who are hard of hearing need video accessibility through video captions. They provide essential access to audio content for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. By displaying the dialogue and other relevant audio information, captions enable them to understand and follow along with the video. Further, non-native language speakers can also greatly benefit by reading video captions in their preferred language, enhancing video accessibility and ensuring a more inclusive experience.

    • Audio Descriptions

      Another important element of the ADA compliance checklist is audio accessibility which can be achieved by providing audio descriptions of video content. It provides a verbal narration of visual elements in media content and is primarily designed for individuals with visual impairments. Audio descriptions enhance audio accessibility by ensuring everyone can access the content displayed, regardless of their abilities and disabilities.

    • Alt Text

      The next element that focuses on media accessibility includes providing alt text, short for alternative text, for non-text content. It is a textual description added to an image or other non-text content on the webpage. The purpose of including an alt text description for an image is to describe it accurately and concisely for individuals who are visually impaired or using assistive technologies such as screen readers.

    • No Flashing Imagery

      Some users can get triggered by flashing imagery, resulting in a seizure. To make your website and other digital materials completely accessible, avoid adding flashing imagery to prevent individuals from getting triggered.

    • No Autoplay of Audio

      Auto-playing audio content can create challenges for audio accessibility as it takes away control from users, particularly those with disabilities or specific needs. Some individuals may have cognitive or sensory impairments that make it difficult to process multiple audio sources simultaneously. Auto-playing audio can be disorienting and overwhelming for such users.

    • No Automatic Scrolling and Blinking Content

      People with cognitive disabilities like ADHD and OCD often struggle to maintain focus and attention. Automatic scrolling and blinking content can be highly distracting, as their attention gets distracted from the main content, creating a hurdle in accessibility.

    • Time Limit

      Some functions are time bounded on certain websites. This creates a barrier for people with cognitive or other disabilities who struggle to comprehend certain functions. Designing certain functions and elements of a website with no dependency on time can encourage accessibility as it makes it easier for individuals who need more time to perform the task to access your content.

  4. Navigation

    One of the most crucial elements of the ADA compliance checklist is ensuring users can navigate your website as smoothly as possible. This means that not only a mouse but also your website should be navigable by keyboard for people with limited accessibility. To make sure your website is perfectly usable, below are some elements to keep in mind:

    • Descriptive Anchor Text

      People using screen readers often find it difficult to navigate through the website if their assistive technology cannot read out the content of the site to them. With descriptive anchor text, screen readers are provided with accurate information, giving the reader a clear understanding of where the link leads and eliminating any confusion.

    • Mobility Disability-friendly

      Not everyone who visits your website will use a mouse to navigate it. People with mobility or vision issues often use additional technologies like a keyboard or a screen reader to navigate the content on the website. Hence, your website needs to be accessible to everyone, and avoid using keyboard-only navigation on it.

    • Accessible Buttons

      Descriptive labels should be used to navigate screen reader and keyboard users effectively. Further, the buttons and links on the website should be labeled properly and logically to avoid confusion.

    • Error Reporting

      Another element that fills the ADA compliance checklist is a function to notify website users of bad forms and other errors. Make sure to keep the notifications clear and simple to read, and the error messages must be easy to understand with clear instructions on how to resolve them.

    • Labeled Forms

      The forms on the website should be properly labeled to make the content more perceivable and readable by everyone visiting your website.

  5. Other Elements

    Apart from the above pointers, there are other elements that you need to take care of when ticking off your ADA compliance checklist. Whether it is audio accessibility or video accessibility, you need to keep in mind the above compliance checklist along with the following:

    • Legal Requirements

      The year 2017 alone saw a whopping 800 and more lawsuits on businesses for violating ADA by not being accessible to everyone. This figure keeps increasing yearly with no signs of reduction in its number. To make sure your business is not facing any legal issues, it's necessary to follow the rules of digital accessibility by following the above ADA compliance checklist.

    • Zooming Functionality

      Make sure the website contents can be zoomed in and out smoothly without breaking its user interface experience. People should hold the power to enlarge and minimize text size as per their wish for better accessibility and readability.

Bottom Line

Ensuring ADA compliance for website accessibility is not just a legal obligation but a moral imperative that promotes inclusivity and equal access for all. By adhering to this comprehensive ADA compliance checklist, you can empower individuals with disabilities to take control of their browsing experience and easily navigate online platforms, fostering an inclusive digital environment.

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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