How the Americans with Disabilities Act Impacts Website Development - accessiBe

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 and signed into law by George H.W. Bush on July 26 of that year, that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all places that are open to the general public. It also applies to private employers with more than 15 employees, according to accessiBe.

Title I of the ADA deals with employment, stating that employers cannot discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability and that individuals with a disability must be provided “reasonable accommodations” as long as they do not create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

What are the requirements of ADA compliance for website development? 

The standards for accessibility of web content address design, development, and management issues. The goal is to make websites accessible to more people rather than turning specific disabilities into second-class conditions.

To be ADA compliant for website development, you must adhere to the guidelines set forth by section 508, which are as follows:

  • Content must be perceivable, understandable, and operable by people with a wide range of disabilities.
  • Content must be presentable to the user in ways determined by the user’s disability.
  • Users must access content through different technologies based on their needs (i.e., text browsers).
  • If the answer is yes to all three questions, your site is considered ADA compliant for website development. If it is no, you must revise your site to meet the requirements of section 508. Sites that are not ADA compliant will be deemed non-compliant and given thirty days to correct any problems found before sanctions begin.

How much will it cost to make your website ADA compliant, and is it worth the investment?

The costs of making a website ADA compliant vary greatly depending on the size and scope of your development project. If you simply add alt-text to your images or implement accessible forms, it can be done for near-zero cost. However, if you are rethinking the structure of your site, it could become costly.

Generally speaking, however, websites that use tagging and semantic markup will benefit from website development that directly addresses these issues, ultimately reducing the time needed to implement changes. In other words, the investment you make now in creating a better site design can pay off later by reducing future costs.

In terms of whether it’s worth it or not, if you are already obligated to be ADA compliant for website development, the question is moot. If you are not obligated, it will depend on your bottom line and how much priority you place on being accessible.

How do I know if my website is ADA compliant?

Unfortunately, this question does not have an easy answer. It requires that you or your developer develop a set of guidelines that are followed to determine compliance, which can be subjective at times, but more on that later. 

There are several ways to check the accessibility of your website. One is to go through the evaluation process outlined in Section 508. This can be time-consuming and not necessarily comprehensive, but it may be worth looking into if you are an organization.

Another method would be to hire someone specializing in auditing websites for ADA compliance issues. Unfortunately, some companies do nothing but review websites for accessibility issues. It can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 to have someone review your site, depending on its size and the severity of problems found.