Best Practices To Follow For ADA Compliance

Approximately 15% of the world’s population, or one billion people, have some form of disability, and 20% of those have a disability that is considered to be significant, according to the World Bank.
People with cognitive, mobile, or visual impairments find it difficult to read and navigate digital documents. They depend on screen readers, screen magnifiers, text-to-voice readers, and other assistive technology to read and navigate.
For Federal businesses and their collaborators, it is mandatory to comply with ADA Regulations, similarly, it is equally important for other businesses and institutions to be fully ADA and WCAG compliant.

Thus, when authoring digital documents or any form of digital content, we must ensure to engineer an accessible design that provides a barrier-free inclusive experience for all. ADA compliance ensures accessibility and safeguards businesses from any legal litigations or hassles that could arise due to non-compliance.

What Is ADA Compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design states that all electronic and information technology (websites, digital documents) must be accessible to people with disabilities. ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of public life.

In the digital world, ADA applies not just to web pages and forms, but also to any sort of digital content like video, images, audio, and all types of documents, including PDFs, DOCX, and PPTX.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has provided recommendations to make digital content ADA compliant. The standard recommendation for documents is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
The WCAG 2.0 has three levels of accessibility – A, AA, and AAA. A is the bare minimum and AAA represents a perfect document.

The DoJ has specified that documents should mostly conform to WCAG 2.0 AA, which means they must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

ADA Compliance Checklist For Your Documents

Here’s a checklist to ensure that your documents are ADA compliant:

Use Of Headings

Ensure that headings and subheadings are marked up using the internal structure of your authoring tool. E.g. H1 for the page title and H2 – H6 for different levels of subheadings. The headings should follow a logical nesting order.
Screen readers use this structure to understand how the page is organized and help the reader access content of interest.

Use Of Links

Links should be clearly identifiable and distinct from the rest of the text.
Hyperlinks should be meaningful i.e. they should have descriptive titles that provide information about the destination instead of saying “click here” or “more information.”
Use shortened URLs where the reader cannot click on the link, such as printed materials.

Alternate Text For Images

Images should have alternate text (or alt text) to help visually impaired readers understand the content and its context. Alt text should describe the image accurately and provide context for it. Screen readers announce an image and then read the alt text.

Decorative images may not need informative descriptions but may still need specific markup as artifacts to tell screen readers to skip them.

Images should not flash more than three times per second to avoid triggering epileptic seizures.

Identify Document Language

Screen readers can read several languages, hence the language of the document should be identified to enable the reader to understand which language profile to use.

Use Of Tables

Screen readers tackle tables row by row across columns and count the cells to determine their location. Thus, you should structure your table in a simple manner and avoid using split cells, merged cells, or nested tables.
Tables should not have completely blank rows or columns either because it causes screen readers to think that there is nothing more in the table.
Provide meaningful header information to help screen readers identify rows and columns.

Document Remediation For ADA Compliance

Meeting ADA compliance for all your digital documents is important, else you could be at risk for legal action. While accessibility practices can be implemented when using your authoring software, some existing documents may need remediation.

You can choose to markup your documents to meet accessibility requirements or hire a specialized service provider like Continual Engine. For document and PDF remediation solutions or services, write to us at Become ADA Compliant Today!

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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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