What is ADA testing and why is it important?
In the United States, 61 million adults (26%) live with some form of disability, such as mobility, cognitive, auditory, speech, visual, and age-related challenges. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), originally passed in 1990, is an anti-discrimination law that requires equal access to places of public accommodation for people with disabilities, which now includes the Internet.
ADA compliance for websites is based upon international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)—but less than 5% of websites globally comply with the latest WCAG 2.1+ standards. As a result:
- Annual compliance violation lawsuits tripled in the U.S. from 2017–2020
- Traditional remediation is complex, labor-intensive, and costly
- Businesses can no longer afford to ignore this issue
ADA testing for digital accessibility allows any company, organization, or institution with an online presence to review their digital assets in order to identify and correct potential ADA/WCAG violations.
Types of Accessibility Testing
There are two ways to perform accessibility testing for ADA specifications: manually or automatically. To find and fix as many compliance errors as possible, use a combination of both methods.
In the past, online marketers who chose to make their websites and digital assets (such as graphics, images, and videos) accessible have faced a long, expensive, labor-intensive road that requires dedicated personnel or outsourcing. Now, the Allyable360™ solution provides a suite of advanced WCAG/ADA software tools that automates most of the scanning process, fixes some violations automatically, and flags the remainder for manual remediation.
How to Manually Test ADA Accessibility
Manual WCAG 2.1+ and ADA compliance testing for online content is based upon four digital accessibility principles that form the acronym POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. ADA compliance violations will usually fall into one of these categories, so here is a general idea of what to look for:
Perceivable – Users need to access and comprehend all the information on your website. Include alternative text (Alt text) for all images and non-text content; add closed captions to multimedia content such as videos; provide options for time-based media; increase the contrast ratio to make text in the foreground distinguishable from a color background.
Operable – Enable all functionality to be navigable from a keyboard, as many people with motor or visual disabilities cannot operate computers with a mouse or trackpad. Allow enough time for users to read and utilize content. Do not design elements in any way that might trigger seizures or other physical reactions.
Understandable – Website visitors should be able to understand all information and the user interface operation. Web pages need to appear and function in a predictable manner. Content must be readable and understandable, which includes providing a lookup tool and using plain, simple language that someone without an advanced education can comprehend.
Robust – Your content needs to be robust and accessible enough to interface with a range of assistive technologies, such as screen reading software and other user agents, which may evolve over time.
It is important to stay up to date with the latest ADA requirements and review your digital accessibility compliance regularly, in order to avoid legal issues and potential lawsuits.
Automation Tools for Accessibility Testing
Full accessibility requires much more functionality than a menu, widget or overlay on its own can provide. To be truly effective, a digital accessibility platform needs to incorporate a variety of tools for scanning, identifying, flagging and remediating compliance errors (both automatically and manually). Allyable’s unique, modular platform is made up of several components that work together to provide a comprehensive, holistic approach to digital accessibility—providing superior auditing, immediate remediation, continuous compliance, and built-in accessibility for existing content and assets in development.
For instance, our free a11yToolbar™ provides quick fixes without any coding to enhance user’s accessibility options. Website visitors with disabilities can customize their online experience by selecting the settings they need to interact with your assets.
The a11yAudit™ module performs sophisticated 24/7 scanning and auditing of potential issues, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) crowd-sourcing and image processing technology. This helps to ensure that your assets are always up to compliance, providing the most beneficial, inclusive and effective end-user experience possible.
You can even get a complimentary scan and report of ADA violations for one of your web pages with Allyable’s Free Accessibility Checker.
Domino’s Web Accessibility Case
In recent years, digital accessibility litigation has been steadily increasing against companies whose websites do not adhere to the WCAG guidelines that govern ADA regulations. In 2017, there were 814 ADA lawsuits filed in the U.S.; by 2020, that number grew to 2,523—a 300 percent increase.
One of the most prominent cases was a lawsuit filed against Domino’s in 2016 by a visually impaired patron, Guillermo Robles. He sued the popular chain after multiple unsuccessful attempts to order a custom pizza on their website and mobile app using screen reading software. Robles and his attorneys claimed that the company’s website was just as much a place of public accommodation as a business with physical locations. Under the ADA, that means their website should be equally accessible to blind people and others with disabilities.
After a federal appeals court sided with the plaintiff, Domino’s request for the Supreme Court to review and overturn that decision was denied in October 2019, returning the case to the lower court. On June 23, 2021, Judge Jesus Bernal of the California Central District Court ruled that Domino’s violated Title III of the ADA by not providing a website that was fully accessible. In the summary judgement, Domino’s was ordered to bring their website up to compliance with WCAG 2.0 standards and pay Robles $4,000 plus attorney’s fees.
Digital accessibility testing is a way for any company, organization, or institution with an Internet presence to review their website and online assets in order to identify and correct potential ADA or WCAG violations.
All companies doing business in the U.S. on the Internet must comply with ADA regulations: an anti-discrimination law that requires equal access to places of public accommodation for people with disabilities, which includes websites as well as physical locations. Non-compliance can lead to lengthy, expensive lawsuits for discriminating against people with some form of disability.
Accessibility testing for ADA specifications can be manual, automatic, or a combination of both, which is recommended to find and fix as many compliance errors as possible. The Allyable360™ platform provides tool that automates most of the scanning process, fixes some violations automatically, and flags the remainder for manual remediation.
Some examples of making your digital assets accessible to customers with disabilities are: including alternative text for all images and non-text content for screen reading software used by visually impaired website visitors; adding closed captions to multimedia content (such as videos) for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing; and increasing the contrast ratio to make text in the foreground distinguishable from a color background for color-blind users.
ADA compliance is becoming increasingly important for anyone doing business on the internet…not only to avoid lawsuits, but also because inclusion is the right thing to do for 61 million people with disabilities in the U.S. What’s more, making your website fully accessible to ALL visitors can end up making a big impact on your bottom line. Get started today with accessibility testing from Allyable. Check your website for no charge and download our free Toolbar. You can also sign up for a free 7-day trial of any subscription plan, according to your organization’s needs.