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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has some standards about accessibility in public places that can apply to websites. In fact, ADA website compliance lawsuits are common, and businesses can spend years in court fighting charges about site accessibility. While debate rages on about whether website accessibility is in fact addressed by American Disabilities Act standards, one thing is for sure: businesses that have accessible websites are at an advantage. For many eCommerce business owners, the question of ADA compliance may arise during, or even after, site development. The goal is to get your site ADA compliant as soon as possible. 

Read on to learn what the basic web accessibility standards are, and what the timeline for ADA compliance is.

Need an eCommerce agency? Smart Solutions is a trusted partner for eCommerce website owners and operators, ensuring that ADA compliance is achieved and maintained. Contact us to learn more.

Timeline for ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] Website Compliance

There is no grace period for making your website accessible to people with disabilities. The broad categories of disability addressed by website compliance include people who are blind or have low vision, people who are deaf or have limited hearing, people with mobility issues, and people with cognitive impairments. As these users attempt to access and use your website: can they, with reasonable ease?

While some eCommerce retailers are concerned about lawsuits, that is only one motivating factor. Another is that people with disabilities make up as much as 15% of the world’s population. As eCommerce retailers attempt to reach as many people as possible, it makes good sense to have a website that is easy to use for everyone. If a user interface limits a visitor's ability to select sizes or configure a product in order to add to their cart and checkout, they will be unable to finalize the sale.  

So, the timeline for an ADA-compliant website is now. If your website is operating without these checks and balances, you are already vulnerable to prosecution and limiting your revenue potential.

On-Demand Webinar: Learn How to Create an Accessible eCommerce Website

How to Implement WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guideline] Standards

While many people refer to website accessibility in terms of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not actually have standards for website accessibility. What it does have is vague language that is open-to-interpretation (as is evidenced by opposing court rulings). The place to go to find website accessibility standards is the Web Accessibility Initiative, or WAI. The WAI has published standards that are called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG guidelines. 

WCAG has technical specifications and guiding principles down to a pretty specific level. In fact, once you dive into WCAG, you may be surprised at just how precise you have to be. The website guidelines most often require developer work, as they relate to how your website content is organized and how your website functions.

If you want to dive into specifics about ADA compliance, you can check out our comprehensive guide: What You Need to Know About ADA Compliance Standards in 2021: WCAG & Website Requirements

How Does Accessibility Improve Your Website?

Web accessibility isn’t just about jumping through hoops to accommodate a small sector of the population. Every site change you make is a net positive improvement for user experience in general.

Here are some examples of the standards in WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and how they improve your website.

Example: Guideline 3.2 Predictable: Make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

How this improves your site: Users are easily frustrated, and if your site is tricky to navigate, you will lose them, regardless of their level of ability. Complying with this ADA-compliant standard means that you rethink the user journey on your website, simplify navigation, and make the user interface as streamlined as possible. This improves the experience for all users.

Example: Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

How this improves your site: Many eCommerce website owners or operators are guilty of building a digital property in stages. In other words, as your business grows, you develop new areas of the site, add product lines, and often inadvertently make the user journey more complicated in the process. This standard is a solid recommendation for the health of any site, as it forces you to think of the total experience of the site and provide contextual navigation that directs users to where they want to go.

Example: Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

How this improves your site: It is easy to give into gimmicky, trendy, or over-designed graphics on your website. After all, you want to stand out from the crowd. This standard for accessible design is a really good gut check for whether you are going overboard with the visual bells and whistles, and will prompt you to assess whether your site is easy to experience and ADA compliant.

Implementing WCAG Standards

Scheduling site changes to ensure ADA compliance can happen anytime and should be considered mission-critical for the success of your ADA-compliant eCommerce website. We recommend creating an action plan that starts with assessment:

  1. What are the development issues that must be changed on your site? How much time will they take to plan and execute?
  2. What are the user experience issues that must be changed on your site? How much time will they take to plan and execute?
  3. What are the design issues that must be changed on your site? How much time will they take to plan and execute?
  4. What are the media issues that must be changed on your site? How much time will they take to plan and execute?

Once you have those factors thoroughly assessed, with an action plan for addressing each, you can calendar it out.

Of course, in an ideal world, you would have an expert on your side, which is an overt segue into describing what we do. At Smart Solutions, we offer website compliance assistance. We truly do understand that ADA compliance and WCAG standards aren’t something most people are well versed in, and something very few people or companies know how to address. Let us provide you with expert analysis and guidance through this process, then assist you with the website changes you need to tick all of the boxes to become and stay ADA compliant. Our goal is to ensure you succeed.

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