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The Importance of Website ADA Compliance

Updated April 5, 2021

Brick-and-mortar business owners know very well how important it is that their buildings comply with ADA standards. But, did you know that internet businesses and websites for your business also need to comply with ADA standards? In this ebook, we’ll go over the requirements and how you can accomplish them.

What is ADA compliance?

According to the CDC, 22 percent of U.S. adults are living with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law created to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. ADA is the reason buildings must be wheelchair accessible, have accessible parking spots, and so on.

Passed in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled people by ensuring they have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The act covers all sectors, from jobs and schools to transportation and public/private places open to the public. 

How does ADA apply to websites?

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, mandating all electronic and information technology, like websites, be accessible to those with disabilities, including vision impairment and hearing loss. 

The ADA states that places that are open to the public are legally responsible for removing any barriers that may affect a disabled person’s ability to engage with a company’s products or services. Today, this applies to websites as well because many people with disabilities use assistive devices such as text readers and audio scanners to translate and communicate information on websites.

What is ADA Compliant web design?

In 2010, the Department of Justice announced that it intended to adjust its legislation Americans with Disabilities Act to consider how websites should work to accommodate people with disabilities. 

Simply put, an ADA-compliant website is designed for everybody. The goal is to allow people of all abilities and disabilities to use websites in a way that best works for them. This is a win-win situation for all because a more accessible website means more traffic, which will help your business (and SEO) grow.

What is WCAG?

Though the ADA doesn’t offer set guidelines for website compliance, many organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This isn’t a legal requirement, but instead, it’s a reference point for organizations looking to improve their digital accessibility. Accessible content must meet the following principles:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

ADA website requirements


Website images must be assigned alternative text, also known as an alt attribute. Alt text is the message that shows up when an image can’t load, it’s also used to help assistive devices understand and communicate what the website is presenting. Every image on a website needs to have alt text that clearly describes the image. In a worst-case scenario, it’s better to include an empty alt text (alt= “”) than to not have one at all. Most screen readers will read the full image URL or the URL where the image links to if there’s no attribute. Reading this mumbo jumbo can be more frustrating for the user than having an empty attribute that is read as “image.” 

Design and colors

Contrasting colors (a white background and black text, for example) are integral for users to discern buttons and links from the text. This is one of the reasons why many call-to-action (CTA) buttons are a different color than a brand’s central theme. This is key for people accessing your website with impairments, but it also helps draw attention from every visitor.

Video and moving images

As you likely already know, videos are an integral part of a website’s strategy to engage visitors and increase their time on your page. For people with visual and audio impairments, the sound must be crystal clear, and you must provide captions or transcripts as well. If there are any areas of your website that move, like a carousel of photos, there must be an option to pause. Some users need more time to look at images or read text. Also, be mindful of the impact of your videos/moving pictures. If there are a lot of flashes or bright colors, these features may trigger seizures. For best practice, the WCAG says that webpages shouldn’t contain anything that flashes more than three times in one second.


The code behind your website is the site’s foundation, and you must have ADA compliance top-of-mind from the moment you decide to create or redo your website.  


In order to convert your website visitors, you need proper labels. Ensure your website lists the necessary instructions wherever user input is required. For example, checkout page, contact forms, etc. This ensures all visitors are able to interpret each function.

The pages of your website and sections should also be clearly labeled for easy reading, scanning, and understanding by humans and assistive devices (which will also help with your SEO).


For a website’s content to be ADA compliant, website visitors must be able to navigate through the whole website without having to use a mouse. You can test this by browsing your website using only a keyboard. You can use the tab key to navigate your website to reveal how well its content flows and spot any errors. Keyboard navigation is an excellent way to mimic how many assistive devices interpret a webpage. This is another area where labeling is essential since the HTML is the only thing telling assistive devices what the page content is.

Logical website features

An ADA-compliant website must also be easily understood by a broad audience. The site should operate predictably and have helpful labels over blocks of content and media. For instance, a clear “X” in the upper corner of a pop-up window will clearly and easily show users how to close the window. The site should be built to avoid user error and has readable instructions on all forms where users are expected to enter information.

Post-Launch Compliance

Your job is not done after your website implements ADA guidelines. You must continue to stay up-to-date on any new compliance requirements as they are announced in the future.

Making sure everybody can easily access your website is key to being a good business owner and ensuring you make the most sales and business. But, failure to create an ADA-compliant website could also open your business to lawsuits, financial liabilities, and damage to your brand reputation. That’s why making sure your website is ADA Compliant is extremely important.