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ADA Compliance in 2020: What it Means for Your Website

There are tens of millions of disabled internet users in America (and millions more worldwide). The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990, is a federal law that makes discriminating against disabled people illegal. Although the ADA was originally created for real-world discrimination, it now applies to internet-based discrimination as well. 


With the major developments of web technology over the past few decades (starting in the 90s), there have been several additions to the ADA. While the ADA was originally intended to guard against discrimination in the real world, that protection has now extended to the internet. 



Because the ADA was originally enacted into law without the internet in mind, there have since been several additions to it (most of which have dealt with tech-related industry developments). 

WCAG, short for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a set of standards developed by WC3 (the World Wide Web Consortium), to establish a set of protocols outlining exactly how websites should be accessible (as it relates to the ADA). WCAG standards, just like the ADA itself, have been updated several times since their initial creation.

WCAG Updates to Version 2.1 

WCAG’s latest update was in 2017 (to WCAG 2.1). This change saw numerous developments in the guideline’s protocols and standards. Below are some of the major areas that WCAG 2.1 covers: 

– Contrast issues
– Animations
– Physical interactions with devices
– Content timeouts
– Visual content issues

WCAG grades its standards on an “A to AAA” scale, with AAA being the highest level of compliance. Federal agencies, government organizations, and related institutions are required to be at a minimum of AA to be compliant with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Government entities aren’t the only ones that need to be compliant. Retail businesses, or any business that has an online presence, could just easily be sued for discrimination (and these lawsuits happen all the time).  


How to Become Compliant With the ADA and WCAG

Achieving compliance should be a major goal of any organization with even a moderate web presence. This especially rings true for businesses that rely on the internet for the majority of their revenue. So then, how does one go about becoming compliant? 

While this question might appear to have a simple answer, in reality, compliance is a very complicated (and oftentimes technical) issue for most organizations to solve on their own. 

Besides testing for compliance and editing your content to align with current standards, the best way to go about becoming compliant is to build compliance into your content strategy from the very start. 


Hiring a Compliance Tester 

One of the best ways to ensure your organization becomes fully compliant with the ADA is by using a web accessibility platform like AccessiBe or hiring a professional accessibility progammer. Most companies choose to hire this process out (rather than do it themselves) because of the amount of time involved in properly testing for compliance. 

ADA testing can take a long time, and nearly all of the top firms combine both automated and manual reviews (to be as thorough as possible). Beware of companies that promise total compliance while only performing bare minimum testing on your site. 


Testing Methods for WCAG

Depending on your business’s specific needs (in regards to compliance), you might need to do a quick scan, or you might need a complete website audit. There are a variety of methods that might be used (eg. automated, manual, content checkers, etc.). In most cases, it’s recommended to use a combination of automated testing tools and manual review methods. 

Remember though, the WCAG (and especially WCAG 2.1) places special focus on certain areas of accessibility. If you plan on doing a WCAG audit on your own, you need to ensure that the checklists/tools/methods you use are updated for WCAG’s current iteration. 


After WCAG 2.1

WCAG is always evolving, and while the last official update was in 2017, you can expect another one within the next five to ten years. New technology is always being created and becoming popular on the market, which means that the ADA (and by extension WCAG) will always need to be updated – which in turn means that your content will always need to remain compliant. 

In the meantime, make sure that your content is as compliant as possible with WCAG 2.1 because lawsuits are filed each year (and are nearly always settled out of court). Unless your organization has the capital to deal with numerous lawsuits every year, WCAG compliant content should be a priority


Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.