It is often a complaint that ADA-compliant accessible web design is unattractive or stodgy. The truth is far from it. ADA web design is exactly how developers should do website designing according to W3C or the World Wide Web Consortium, the leading international standards organization for the World Wide Web. There are tons of web accessibility tools for disabled people that can make a website not just accessible but also more visually appealing even for those that don’t have any impairment.

When accessibility means inclusion, it also means following the best practices of the industry.  

So what should an ADA-compliant website consider having or how to make your website compliant. Here are a few requirements that you should be adopting:

  • Carousels or slideshows often composed in jquery are very confusing to special needs users and should be removed.
  • Color contrast is a must. Primarily for those who are visually impaired. Update your color scheme and choose one with the highest color contrast.
  • As you’ve learned in your digital marketing and SEO classes, text embedded in images is not readable to any automated devices. Neither Google bot nor a text to voice and voice to text translator.
  • Adding headings to pages and having well-structured and organized content goes a long way.
  • Visible page elements should be reordered to match the programmatic order.
  • In a web form, stack names and fields vertically rather than horizontally.
  • Anything that’s flashing, blinking, or moving detracts a visually impaired user. Try doing without them.
  • The more additional descriptive/instructive text, the better
  • Leave more white spaces between elements if you are doing ADA web design.
  • Larger size in text and easy to read fonts.

Why Make These Changes

Because of the inability to decipher shades or colors, the visually impaired users of your website are unable to or have difficulty deciphering the content. To make the content accessible, include those users in consuming your content. You are also setting the standard on how to make a website accessible for the blind.

How does the ADA define a Person as Blind?

According to the ADA definition, being blind means being severely visually impaired to make a person unable to see objects in various environmental conditions.

A person is considered entirely blind when he/she suffers from total loss of the ability to see and cannot see even under lighted conditions. Some people may be partially blind who suffer from low or limited vision, and that condition cannot be remedied using eyeglasses or lenses. The definition of blindness according to the ADA varies from partial to complete blindness in the following order:

  • Color blindness
  • Low contrast sensitivity (or reduced contrast sensitivity)
  • Low vision (where a person cannot make out moving shapes)
  • Complete blindness (where a person cannot distinguish between light and dark)

Besides the United States, many countries defined blindness differently. Objectively, in the US, a person is considered blind if their sight scores an acuity of 20/200 or lower. This acuity score can be with or without corrective lenses.

To understand what 20/200 means, it is the visual acuity at 20 feet that an average person can see 200 feet. So, what is visible to an average person at 200 feet is visible to a person deemed legally blind at 20 feet.

According to ADA, individuals who suffer from tunnel vision who can only see things in a 20-degree chunk are also considered blind.

Besides the color contrast between the background and the written text, the most significant challenge for the visually impaired is the font used to compose the content. The use of the internet exploding where people consume websites and apps over various devices has made it necessary for the developers to use a wide variety of appealing fonts. However, oftentimes, to add the visual appeal, designers made it less accessible to the visually impaired. Here are some of the ways fonts create problems for the visually impaired.

  • The font design could make the text harder to read
  • The font is designed in such a way that it makes it difficult to distinguish between the shapes of different letters and characters
  • Which in turn slows down the reading speed of the user
  • Sometimes even overlapping letters or characters makes it difficult to distinguish one letter from another.

To remedy these problems, ADA has issued a font list. Utilizing the ADA-compliant font list is a necessary part of the ADA web design, and a site is not approved to be ADA compliant without the use of the listed font.

Several Universities have also included recommendations on Font lists and sizes.

Other essential elements worthy consideration regarding fonts.

Font Sizes and Units: It is essential to understand how a browser will act given the device’s screen size on which the web page or app is viewed. This is the reason why the WCAG favors using relative font units rather than absolute units.

Zoom feature: Along with the font size, the user should also have the ability to zoom text up to 200%.

In conclusion, the ADA requirements are just guidelines. The goal here is to make the content as accessible to every user as possible.