ADA Compliance for WordPress Websites is possible. If you have an organization with a website that has been around for a while, chances are ADA wasn't taken into account when it was built and over the years content has grown and you're facing a big task of making your website compliant.
There are some new laws on the horizon that could make ADA compliance mandatory
What is ADA Compliance
The Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law that was enacted to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Since 2010, various courts have heard parts of the DOJ’s argument. The results have been mixed.
Some courts have ruled that only websites with goods or services tied to a physical location, like a retailer that also sells its products in an online store, are considered “places of public accommodation” and would, therefore, be covered by the ADA.
However, other courts have more broadly argued that any website offering goods or services online should be considered “places of public accommodation”, even if they don’t have a physical store presence. A final ruling is expected to be announced sometime in 2018. This will set the official standard for website accessibility for businesses.
Web Content Assessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The WCAG is a set of accessibility standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium in partnership with various other groups to help guide web content producers in making their work more accessible to all, including users with disabilities.
Joe Leo Webber's article A Beginner's Guide to ADA Compliance for Websites does a good job of breaking down the 4 main categories of technical standards: Perceivable; Operable; Understandable; Robust.
Most of the basic accessibility guidelines are met by standard practices you follow when you design the page, such as the following: (from our friends at Beaver Builder)
- Ensure there is good contrast between text and background.
- Make link text contextual. Rather than this language:
To view our brochure click here.
View our brochure.
Screen readers read the link text, and "click here" gives people no context as to what they're clicking or why they should do it.
- Make sure you have descriptions for non-text media that contain content (i.e., are not just decorative). This means filling in the Alt field for images in your media library that convey content, or making sure your image is described in the text preceding or following the image, or linking to an external text file that describes the image.
- Ensure you have at least one <h1> tag, and use heading tags in order: <h1>, <h2>, <h3> and so on, so the structure of your page is obvious to search bots and screen readers. Note that the use of the section tag in HTML 5 has blurred the requirement of sequential headings a bit.
- Check the HTML rendering of icons and form fields. For anything interactive without an
altattribute, or text inside, or a label, such as an icon's <I> tag, you can add hidden text specifically targeted for screen readers. Page Builder has met accessibility requirements for form fields and icons, but check the HTML output of any plugins you use.
WordPress Plugins that help with ADA
There are a few plugins available in the WordPress repository that can help with ADA compliance.
WP Accessibility This plug-in helps with a variety of common accessibility problems in WordPress themes.
Accessibility by UserWay UserWay creates a simpler and more accessible browsing experience for users with mobility issues. Millions of people cannot use a mouse or other pointing device and rely solely on their keyboard to navigate websites. Your site should be fully navigable using a keyboard’s tab key, arrow keys, the enter key and the space bar.
WCAG 2.0 form field for Gravity Forms Forms are an important part of any website. Making them accessible using the keyboard tab key is a must.
WordPress is in the process of updating to Gutenburg, a new front end editing environment. As I write this article the accessibility of Gutenberg is faced with some difficult hurdles to meet basic standards. I'm confident that they'll succeed, but here's a status update on Gutenberg by Rian Rietveld written March 28, 2018.
If your organization is considering updating to a new website. ADA accessibility should be taken into consideration. Halagan Design is experienced in all aspects of web design for member and expert organizations.