ADA Compliant Website Options: Balancing Good, Better, and Best with your Budget
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ADA Compliant Website Options: Balancing Good, Better, and Best with your Budget
Kate Gingold
/ Categories: The Sprocket Report

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ADA Compliant Website Options: Balancing Good, Better, and Best with your Budget

We started talking about ADA compliance for websites last time. The next step is to figure out how to fix it. Today we’ll look at the options available to businesses and organizations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to prohibit discrimination, but let’s look at it from a more positive position. Rather than simply conforming to a rule, most of us are trying to grow our businesses. Becoming more inclusionary is smart as well as the right thing to do. So, now what?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has come up with three levels of conformance for accessibility, A, AA, and AAA. Note that some websites are not required to conform at all and there is no guarantee that achieving any level of compliance will protect against a lawsuit. As always, check with your own law experts before you make any decisions, but we’ll explain some of the issues you should be aware of when you talk with them.

Websites at the AAA level have met all the requirements, including those for A, AA, and beyond. This level starts with an audit of the entire website, followed by manual coding and re-auditing until all issues have been resolved. While level AAA is what websites aspire to, it can be difficult to achieve.

The first hurdle is, as you’d expect, the expense. Paying professionals to write new code is a significant cost and the cost goes up even higher depending on how many pages make up your website and how long the project takes. Multiple audits to catch mistakes as coders fine-tune the remediation can also add up. We have seen companies pay thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands, to be compliant at the highest levels. But some organizations must realistically weigh remediation costs against the cost of a possible lawsuit.

There are other hurdles to level AAA compliance as well. With website technology, maintenance becomes a tricky issue almost immediately. Every bug fix and platform update will need to be audited and possibly corrected. Also, any new blog posts, announcements, photos, documents, and all other additions to the website by every person who has editing access to the pages.

One other, if less important, snag is your website’s design. Obviously, it is much easier to fix and correct a website that has a plain, uncomplicated design. For certain kinds of industries, exceptionally creative web design will preclude becoming compliant at the highest level.

Besides manual remediation, there are several companies that offer less pricey options for website ADA compliance. Commonly, this solution is a toolbar or overlay that is added to a non-compliant website. The overlay provides options for changing parts of the web page. For instance, the text could be enlarged, the contrast increased, and the graphics described verbally. Some of these changes react to assistive technology tools already on a user’s computer.

These overlay tools usually have an ongoing subscription cost, but they are less expensive than manual coding. Among the drawbacks to overlay tools is that user privacy is threatened because they work with assistive technology tools. Also, the tools do not modify all of each page sufficiently to be fully compliant. Overlay widgets and plug-ins reach the A level, or possibly the AA level, of compliance.

Most website owners aim for the AA level, balancing compliance with budget. Cash-strapped small businesses and organizations, however, are still struggling to find affordable solutions for meeting the W3C guidelines. It may help to remember that certain compliance steps, such as good meta tags on images, are also important to improving a website’s SEO, so you get double value for your efforts.

Before making any decisions, find out where your website stands now. Consider an ADA compliance audit and then weigh the options. Our Sprocket team would be happy to help you through the process. Just give us a call!

Photo by Maryam Duraid

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Kate Gingold

Kate GingoldKate Gingold

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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