A Complete Guide to Website ADA Compliance

An ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant website will make the online experience accessible to people with disabilities. This means, the website must be accessible by visually impaired users, website content must be appropriate for screen-readers, links in the website must be descriptive and the site must be easily accessible through a keyboard.

If you already have a website, you might think that making the website ADA compliant must be difficult. It’s not! You have to work with a web design and development company that has a strong understanding of the rules and the ability to apply it in the coding and design process.

In this blog, we will explore all the factors that will make a website ADA compliant. This will be helpful for marketers, website owners and everyone who has a stake in the digital world.

What is ADA?

According to ADA.gov, “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.

The law has a wide scope and applies to many areas such as state and local government, public and private spaces, employment, building codes, transportation and telecommunication.

ADA is the reason why there are lots of things like disabled parking requirements, wheelchair ramps and more.

Title III of the ADA rules states that “private entities that are considered places of public accommodation” to make “reasonable modifications” to the usual ways they do things so that disabled people will also get better access to the goods or services a business provides.

When ADA was initially enacted, access barriers were translated to literal barriers like a disabled person not being able to enter a physical store because of stairs.

In 2010, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a new notice to Title III which stated that ADA will apply to website accessibility too.

The DOJ’s intention was to,

Establish requirements for making the goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered by public accommodations via the Internet, specifically at sites on the World Wide Web (Web), accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Why Should Your Website Be ADA Compliant?

Here are some of the major benefits of making your website ADA compliant.

  • Increase the size of your target audience (The US alone has 40 million people with some sort of disability)
  • Improve your SEO efforts
  • Get positive press for your website
  • Disabled Access Credit can be claimed by small businesses to balance the cost incurred to make the site ADA compliant
  • Gives an opportunity to write better content, cleaner code and include a better user interface
  • Avoid legal troubles

How To Develop or Make Your Website ADA Compliant?

In August 2016, a lawsuit was filed against the University of California Berkeley because they did not include proper captions in their YouTube channel’s videos for hearing impaired patients. Finally, the DOJ found out that this was violating ADA Title II rules (similar to Title III, but applicable to government organizations) laws as deaf users too had equal access to online content.

The DOJ asked UC Berkeley to follow The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

“Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

WCAG is classified into 4 basic principles. From the quick reference link of W3C, we have compiled the information for your easy understanding. To get detailed information about the guidelines under each principle, click here.

Principle 1: Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

Here are the guidelines of Principle 1.

Guidelines Description
Text AlternativesProvide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
Time-based MediaProvide alternatives for time-based media.
AdaptableCreate content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
DistinguishableMake it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background

Principle 2: Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable.

Here are the guidelines of Principle 2.

Keyboard AccessibleMake all functionality available from a keyboard.
Enough TimeProvide users enough time to read and use content.
Seizures and Physical ReactionsDo not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures or physical reactions.
NavigableProvide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
Input ModalitiesMake it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs beyond keyboard.

Principle 3: Understandable

Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable

Here are the guidelines of Principle 3.

ReadableMake text content readable and understandable.
Make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
Input AssistanceHelp users avoid and correct mistakes

Principle 4: Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Here are the guidelines of Principle 4.

Guidelines Description
CompatibleMaximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

International Web Accessibility Laws

Here are some of the international web accessibility laws

Country Law name Enacted YearMore InformationWCAG Standard UsedMust Be Followed By
ArgentinaLaw 26,653 on accessibility of information on web pages 2010Click hereWCAG 1.0Public sector websites must meet WCAG 1.0.
Australia Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)1992Click here WCAG 2.0Government websites should comply with WCAG 2.0 AA
Canada Canadian Human Rights Act1985Click HereWCAG 2.0Government websites should comply with WCAG 2.0 AA
China Voluntary Web Accessibility Standard2008Click hereWCAG 2.0 derivativeAgencies, ministries and other governmental entities must comply with a WCAG 2.0 derivative
Denmark Agreement on the use of open standards for software in the public sector2007Click HereWCAG 2.0Public sector
European UnionWeb and Mobile Accessibility Directive2016Click HereWCAG 2.0Required for all EU commission websites
Finland Act on Electronic Services and Communication in the Public Sector2003Click Here-Required for government websites
France Law N° 2005-102 Article 472005Click HereWCAG 2.0 derivativeRequired for all EU commission websites
Germany Federal Ordinance on Barrier-Free Information Technology2011Click HereWCAG 2.0 derivativeGovernment websites should comply with WCAG 2.0
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of ChinaGuidelines on Dissemination of Information through Government Websites1999Click HereWCAG 2.0Government websites should comply with WCAG 2.0
IndiaGuidelines for Indian Government Websites2009Click HereWCAG 2.0Government websites should comply with WCAG 2.0
IrelandEqual Status Acts 2000 to 20042004Click HereWCAG 2.0Required for government websites
Israel Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, as amended1998Click HereWCAG 2.0Agencies, ministries and other governmental entities must comply with a WCAG 2.0 derivative
ItalyLaw 9 January 2004, n. 4 "Provisions to support the access of disabled people to IT tools" (Stanca Law)2004Click HereWCAG 2.0Required for government websites
NetherlandsPolicy in the Netherlands2016Click HereWCAG 2.0Required for government websites
New ZealandOnline Practice Guidelines2013Click HereWCAG 2.0Required for government websites
Norway Regulations on universal design of ICT2013Click HereWCAG 2.0 derivativeRequired for government websites
Republic of KoreaAct on Welfare of Persons with Disabilities2008Click HereWCAG 2.0 derivativePublic and private sector use a WCAG 2.0 derivative
SwitzerlandFederal Law on the Elimination of Inequalities for Persons with Disabilities, as amended2002-WCAG 2.0
Public sector and private sector
TaiwanWeb Accessibility Guidelines 2.02017Click HereWCAG 2.0 derivativePublic sector
United KingdomEquality Act 2010Click HereWCAG 2.0
Required for government websites. Other websites have to comply with the Equality Act but, technical standards are not providers

Top Web Accessibility Testing Tools

Here are some of the top accessibility tools on the web. Click here to get a list of testing tools that are recommended by W3.org.

Tool About Link
DYNO MapperTest the accessibility of public or private websitesClick here
Bureau of Internet AccessibilityContains tools, reports and services to help companies and organizations to maintain site’s accessibility and integrityClick here
Automated Accessibility Testing ToolA PayPal product provides that offers accessibility API as well as other custom web applications for HTML CodeSnifferClick here
Accessibility CheckerHelps to inspect the accessibility level of contentClick here
Accessibility ChecklistProvides an easy way to review the most recent and relevant web accessibility guidelinesClick here
Accessibility ViewerA Windows' inspection tool that displays accessibility API informationClick here
ACheckerChecks single HTML pages for conformance with accessibility standardsClick here
Axe Chrome ExtensionEvaluate web accessibility within the Chrome browserClick here
WAVE Chrome ExtensionEvaluate web accessibility within the Chrome browserClick here
BookmarkletsUses JavaScript to highlight roles, states, and properties of accessibility elements on the pageClick here
CKSourceInspect the accessibility of created content and resolve any issues at onceClick here
Cynthia SaysIdentify the web accessibility compliance errors in your siteClick here
FireEyesHelps to build accessibility into your development processClick here
HiSoftware Compliance Sherrif WebHelps to enforce web accessibility guidelines on public web sites, portals and intranetsClick here
HTML CodeSnifferDetects violations of a defined coding standard and checks HTML documentsClick here
Monsido Web Governance PlatformFinds and helps to fix website accessibility issuesClick here
Pa11yHas open source tools to help designers and developers make their web pages more accessibleClick here
PowerMapperOne-click web site testing tool used by many reputed agencies to test accessibilityClick here
Tenon Tools, testing and training materials related to website accessibility Click here
Total ValidatorChecks if the site has used proper HTML and CSS, has no broken links, and is free from spelling mistakesClick here
WorldSpaceRetrieve and evaluate the entire website for accessibilityClick here

ADA Compliance and Accessibility Checklist

The best way to make your website ADA compliant is to adhere to both A and AA conformance levels. If you want your website to be available to a vast majority of users, then it must abide by the AAA level criteria. Keep in mind that a full AAA conformance is impossible for some website content.

Additionally, there is a confusion prevailing on whether to follow WCAG 2.1 or WCAG 2.0. W3C says, “WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 are both existing standards. WCAG 2.1 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0. We encourage you to use the most recent version of WCAG when developing or updating content or accessibility policies.”

We have organized the WCAG 2.1 (latest version) checklist based on 3 conformance levels. If you follow them, you can easily make your website accessible to everyone.

  • Level 1 Conformance – For A, web pages must satisfy all the success criteria to reach Level A
  • Level 2 Conformance – For AA, web pages must satisfy all the success criteria in Level A and Level AA
  • Level 3 Conformance – For AAA, web pages must satisfy all the success criteria in Level A, Level AA and Level AAA

1. WCAG 2.1 Checklist for Conformance Level A

Guideline Additional Information
Non-text ContentClick here
Audio-only and Video-only (prerecorded)Click here
Captions (prerecorded)Click here
Audio Description or Media Alternative (prerecorded)Click here
Info and RelationshipsClick here
Meaningful SequenceClick here
Sensory CharacteristicsClick here
Use of Color Click here
Audio ControlClick here
KeyboardClick here
No Keyboard TrapClick here
Character Key ShortcutsClick here
Timing AdjustableClick here
Pause, Stop, HideClick here
Three flashes or below thresholdClick here
Bypass BlocksClick here
Page TitledClick here
Focus OrderClick here
Link Purpose (In Context)Click here
Pointer GesturesClick here
Pointer CancellationClick here
Label in NameClick here
Motion ActuationClick here
Language of PageClick here
On FocusClick here
On InputClick here
Error IdentificationClick here
Labels or InstructionsClick here
ParsingClick here
Name, Role, ValueClick here

2. WCAG 2.1 Checklist for Conformance Level AA

Guideline Additional Information
Captions (Live)Click here
Audio Description (Prerecorded)Click here
OrientationClick here
Identify Input PurposeClick here
Contrast (Minimum)Click here
Resize textClick here
Images of TextClick here
ReflowClick here
Non-text ContrastClick here
Text SpacingClick here
Content on Hover or FocusClick here
Multiple WaysClick here
Headings and LabelsClick here
Focus VisibleClick here
Language of PartsClick here
Consistent NavigationClick here
Consistent IdentificationClick here
Error SuggestionClick here
Error Prevention (Legal, Financial, Data)Click here
Status MessagesClick here

3. WCAG 2.1 Checklist for Conformance Level AAA

Guideline Additional Information
Sign Language (Prerecorded)Click here
Extended Audio Description (Prerecorded)Click here
Media Alternative (Prerecorded)Click here
Audio-only (Live)Click here
Identify PurposeClick here
Contrast (Enhanced)Click here
Low or No Background AudioClick here
Visual PresentationVisual PresentationClick here
Images of Text (No Exception)Click here
Keyboard (No Exception)Click here
No TimingClick here
InterruptionsClick here
Re-authenticatingClick here
TimeoutsClick here
Three FlashesClick here
Animation from InteractionsClick here
LocationClick here
Link Purpose (Link Only)Click here
Section HeadingsClick here
Target SizeClick here
Concurrent Input MechanismsClick here
Unusual WordsClick here
AbbreviationsClick here
Reading LevelClick here
PronunciationClick here
Change on RequestClick here
HelpClick here
Error Prevention (All)Click here

Checklist and Tips for Everyone Involved in Creating Web Experience

RolesAdditional information
DesignersClick here
DevelopersClick here
Content WritersClick here
Evaluators, TestersClick here
ManagersClick here
Policy MakersClick here
Trainers, EducatorsClick here
Web Accessibility tutorials for developers, designers, web trainers, content authors and project managersClick here

Additional Information

Here is some additional information to keep in mind.

Additional Information
Learn more
WCAG2ICT - For ICT managers, ICT developers, policymakers, and others wanting to understand how WCAG 2.0 can be applied to non-web documents and softwareClick here
Conformance Logos - How to use logos?Click here
Mobile Accessibility Standards - Applied to mobile web content, mobile web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps using web components inside native apps etcClick here
Accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilitiesClick here
WAI-ARIA - Helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologiesClick here
Authoring tool accessibility guidelinesClick here
Developing organizational policies on web accessibilityClick here
A guide that outlines activities to help you integrate accessibility throughout the web production processClick here

SEO Best Practices for ADA

SEO professionals must learn more about web accessibility because there are many areas in which web accessibility and SEO align.

For example, SEO best practices and WCAG guidelines both state that images should use descriptive alt texts.

So, SEO professionals must not only think about website optimization. They must also consider accessibility optimization.

Below, we have compiled some of the main best practices that every SEO professional must follow.

SEO Best PracticeExplanation
Image alt tags and captionsImages on the entire website must have an appropriate description of what the image depicts
Video transcription and tagsA readable transcript for audio-only media and video-only media is required. Additionally, add title, description, and keywords to the videos
PDFsPDFs on your website must be fully accessible. Click here if you like to learn more about this.
Title tagsTitle tags must be easily identifiable
Heading tagsScreen readers can easily access the structure of a page if there are proper heading tags
Link anchor textLink anchor texts on your website must be descriptive. For example, in the ‘cliclick hereck here’ CTA, you must tell users to what you are linking to
On-site sitemaps, table of contents and breadcrumbsA simple, outlined sitemap can help users to understand the content of the pages
Content orderingUse semantic markup to give meaning to the web page
Size and color contrast of textTry to maximize the contrast and readability of text

Which Industry Websites Must be Compliant With ADA?

We will tell you the industries that must be compliant with ADA. But, before that, let’s find out about the companies that violated the ADA compliance website rules and got into trouble.

Company Industry More Information
Amazon website failed to be accessible for screen readersE-commerceClick here
Netflix’s lack of closed captioning discriminated against deaf peopleEntertainmentClick here
30 retail websites of Nike was sued because they did not follow ADA compliance protocolsFootwearClick here
Domino’s website and mobile app was not accessible for people with disabilitiesFoodClick here
50 colleges were sent ADA lawsuits over the accessibility of their websites.EducationClick here
Beyonce Knowles' was sent an ADA lawsuit because her website was not accessible by visually impaired usersEntertainmentClick here
Travelocity settled with National Federation of the Blind to make their website fully accessible to people with disabilitiesTravelClick here
Hilton violated the ADA rules because it did not equal opportunity to reserve rooms online and over the telephoneTravelClick here
Governor Cuomo’s agreement to provide accessible website bankingBankClick here
WellPoint, currently known as Anthem was sued because people with visual disabilities were not able to use the websiteHealthcareClick here

Click here to view the web accessibility-related lawsuits and settlements in the United States.

From the above list, it is evident that most of the major industries have faced ADA compliance issues.

According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, “Nineteen percent of the U.S. population has a disability of some form, and many of them experience serious challenges when trying to research information, communicate with friends and family, and make purchases online.”

As a business, you have to provide easy access to consumers on what you offer. The ultimate goal of ADA is to provide an equal online experience to people with disabilities.

So, no matter the industry you are in, you have to provide a struggle-free online experience for all users.

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The first step in making your website ADA compliant is to choose the level of conformance you would like to achieve. Next, look into the criteria and see if your website matches those accessibility standards.

If you are looking for techniques to match the success criteria, you can keep our blog as a reference. On the other hand, if you rather outsource the work of making your website accessible, feel free to send a request to our ColorWhistle team anytime.

DisclaimerThis blog is not legal advice. For any legal advice related to ADA, you must contact a practicing lawyer. We have written this blog soley to educate the online community about the importance of website accessibility.

About the Author - Anjana

Anjana is a full-time Copywriter at ColorWhistle managing content-related projects. She writes about website technologies, digital marketing, and industries such as travel. Plus, she has an unhealthy addiction towards online marketing, watching crime shows, and chocolates.


  1. Nice Article! You’ve explained each of the point very well. It is really very important to be ADA compliant if you don’t want to get sued. Moreover it is not worth of your business if your website is excluding millions of people. As being an ADA compliant Web designer I’ll suggest that if you make website ADA compliant it can benefit you as well as people with disabilities, as you can earn and increase brand reputation and name among all people and disable people can easily access and navigate your website. Moreover, they can get the benefits and services that you offer.

  2. I have been browsing on-line more than 3 hours today, yet I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful value sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web might be a lot more helpful than ever before.

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