Avoiding a Web Accessibility Lawsuit: 7 Steps You Can Take Right Away

ADA website accessibility lawsuits are on the rise. Here are some steps you can take right away to make your website more accessible and avoid potential lawsuits.

BY: TIM FERGUSON ON TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2020
Avoiding a Web Accessibility Lawsuit: 7 Steps You Can Take Right Away

ADA website accessibility lawsuits are on the rise. Big brands are coughing up big bucks for lawsuit settlements. Here are some steps you can take right away to make your website more accessible and avoid potential lawsuits.

Similar to how your business’s physical premises must be readily accessible to people with disabilities (such as wheelchair-bound), the same individuals should be able to browse your business website without facing any disability-related biases.

And that’s what website accessibility is all about. An accessible website is one that accommodates all users on all devices regardless of the physical or mental ability of the user. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has made it mandatory for business websites to be accessible.

Failing to make your website accessible leaves you susceptible to costly ADA claims by disabled individuals and advocacy groups. As 2018 marked a 181% increase in Federal ADA lawsuits over 2017, and this trend is only going upward, it’s sensible to take some steps that will keep your business on the right side of the law.

Here are seven such steps to get started with making your business website accessible:

Include alt text for all images

First of all, check if all the images on your website have an alt text or not. Alternative text is a must for people who use assistive technology such as screen readers because screen readers can’t “see” images. These devices use the alternative description to make sense of what’s on the screen and convey it to the user.

Thus, add an alt attribute for all images on your website so that the content is accessible to people using assistive technology. Without it, there’s no achieving ADA compliance, plain and simple. As an added bonus, alt text also helps improve your site’s rankings on Google because search engine bots can’t crawl image files either.

Maintain adequate color contrast

Are the colors on your website distinct enough? If the colors, such as the background of textual content or call-to-action buttons, do not have adequate contrast to other colors around them, it can be truly tricky for visitors with vision trouble to consume the content.

By using sufficiently-contrasting colors, your website’s content and elements become crisp enough for people with vision difficulties to read without breaking a sweat. This leads to a pleasant browsing experience for everyone. Therefore, review the color contrast of your website using a validator tool such as a11y to quickly start complying with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Write descriptive anchor text

Typically, screen readers have a mode wherein they can pull all the hyperlinks off of a page and list them out separately for easier navigation. Thus, the anchor text of each link on your website must be descriptive enough to make sense when listed without context.

For instance, instead of writing “Learn more”, how about saying something like “To learn more about anchor texts, check out this article.”

Moreover, a descriptive anchor text assists search engine bots to understand your content and hence, results in better rankings on Google. Besides, a “click here” link looks terrible and hurts the user experience (UX). So, long story short, remove or modify all such links pronto.

Make your site keyboard-friendly

People with mobility disabilities can’t use a mouse or trackpad to browse the web. They depend solely on the keyboard or some other alternative input device. Consequently, permitting keyboard-only navigation on your website is imperative. That is, all actions that can be performed with a mouse must be doable with a keyboard.

Also, users who have eyesight but navigate using the keyboard must have the ability to know where they currently are on the page. And so, there has to be a visible focus indicator that identifies the active element the user is presently selecting. As the owner of the website, it’s your responsibility to ensure your site is accessible using just the keyboard.

Test your website with accessibility tools

With so many other important business matters at hand, improving your website’s accessibility may seem like a tedious task. Well, the World Wide Consortium (W3C) wishes to make your life easier. They have curated a list of web accessibility evaluation tools that will make the process of attaining ADA compliance much easier.

Simply flip through the list, find the ones that are useful for your website, and then test your website for various potential accessibility issues.

Ensure a coherent content hierarchy

All the content on your website should follow a logical hierarchy for easier navigation with the help of HTML headings. These headings (H1 to H6) should be properly nested, just like a document outline, because screen readers rely on headings, among other elements, to navigate content.

So, an H4 would indicate a sub-section within an H3, which should be a sub-section under an H2 heading. Jumping heading levels can perplex screen readers into thinking that some content is missing from the web page, so make sure to create a coherent hierarchy of headings. Additionally, see to it that you use the H1 heading only once for the main title of the page.

Create an accessibility statement

Simply put, an accessibility statement is a separate page on your website that clearly declares your commitment to website accessibility and achieving ADA compliance. It affirms your business’s target level of accessibility (A, AA, or AAA) and what you’re doing to achieve ADA compliance. While you're in the process of making your website ADA compliant, make sure your employees understand the length and cost you are going through to do so. You don't want to end up with an employee whistleblower situation if they know the site isn't compliant but don't know you are making the corrections.

Accessibility statements are now a key part of any business website and many visitors will want to check them out as an indication of whether the business cares about equal access to information.

The ball is in your court

A new decade is upon us. It is about time you make sure your website is equally accessible to everyone. Just executing the seven steps outlined above might not cut it when it comes to achieving full ADA compliance, but will surely help your business in avoiding web accessibility lawsuits in 2020 and beyond.

And it’s not just about dodging costly lawsuits. Making your website more accessible will enhance the user experience (UX), improve your brand’s credibility, expand your potential client base, and ultimately, result in more business.

So, don’t put it off for later. Review your website’s current level of accessibility and make those improvements without further delay. Do you have any quick tips in mind to improve a website’s accessibility? Feel free to share them by dropping a comment below. Cheers!

About the Author

Tim Ferguson

Tim Ferguson works for Right Mix Marketing, a digital marketing blog. His day-to-day role comprises of writing & editing content for RMM blog, and helping clients with link building, guest posts and content marketing. When he's not working, he loves spending time reading all things psychology.

Full Biography