ADA Compliance Explained – The ADA Website Compliance Checklists & Guidelines for 2022

November 1, 2021 ADA Compliance Explained – The ADA Website Compliance Checklists & Guidelines for 2022 By Gaurav Madan

Creating a professional website for their brand tops the priority of every business owner. Just because your website is easy to read and simple to navigate does not mean everything is fine. Business websites must be ADA compliant. First things first, what is an ADA-compliant website? Put simply, an ADA-compliant website can be accessed by all (including people with disabilities).

What is ADA Compliance? An Overview

Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Acts are a civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to their employees with disabilities.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in jobs, schools, transportation, and private and public places for general access.

The ADA requires employers to take steps to make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities.

Businesses also need to ensure that people with disabilities can easily access their websites. They are required to provide web accessibility features and functionalities designed to help people with disabilities easily use their websites.

Originally, the ADA defined disabilities as the conditions that prevent people from performing major life activities. In 2018, an amendment broadened the definition of disability. Now, any person who is unable to perform everyday tasks due to a physical or neurological condition is considered to be living with a disability.

Which Businesses Are Required to Comply with the ADA?

Any business that operates for 20 or more weeks every year and employs 15 or more people must comply with the ADA. The law also covers businesses that fall into the category of public accommodation, including banks, hotels, and public transportation.


Failure to comply with website accessibility requirements can attract a fine of up to $55,000 for the first violation, and $11,000 for every subsequent violation. Businesses receiving Federal funding can be blacklisted for non-compliance.

Why Should Digital Marketing Agencies Know About the ADA?

Though the act has been in place for a long time now, many businesses still do not realize the importance of website ADA compliance, and there are several misconceptions about the law. Around 2,300 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2018, an increase of 177 percent over 2017.

Website design companies have a major role to play here. If a digital marketing agency in san jose creates a non-compliant website for a client, they put the business at risk of getting slapped with ADA lawsuits. This is bad both for the client’s and the agency’s reputation. Plus, the agency will draw flak for its lack of professionalism. That’s why it is suggested by the experts to make ADA compliant website.

No Clear Web Accessibility Guidelines

It is worth mentioning here that the ADA does not lay down any technical requirements to make websites accessible. The website creator/developer has full freedom to decide which technological aids they want to use to help their visitors with disabilities access their websites.

WCAG 2.1 Guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG are a part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative, a project by the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, an international organization committed to improving the web.

WCAG guidelines are a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible for people with disabilities and user agents (software acting on behalf of users). WCAG 1.0 was published and became a W3C recommendation in 1999, WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008, and the latest recommendation, WCAG 2.1 was published in 2018.

Below is a paraphrased summary of WCAG 2.1 –


  • Text alternatives for non-text content must be provided
  • Include captions and other alternatives for multimedia
  • Take steps to ensure users with disabilities can interact with website content
  • Create content that can be modified and presented in multiple ways without changing/losing meaning


  • The text should be legible and understandable
  • Use technical aids to help users avoid and rectify mistakes
  • Content should appear and operate in predictable ways


  • Ensure maximum compatibility with current and future user tools


  • Make sure users can use all functions through their keyboards
  • Users must have enough time to interact (read, listen, understand, and use) with content
  • Make it easy for users to navigate and find content
  • Avoid using content that can trigger seizures or other undesirable physical response
  • Make sure users can use inputs other than keyboards

When creating your website, follow these standards to comply with web accessibility requirements and the ADA.

ADA Website Compliance Checklist

Website Presentation

  • The text should be accurate and descriptive. Use headings, link anchor text and page titles to describe the content of pages accurately
  • Do not solely rely on your color scheme to separate elements. Provide alternatives such as titles or captions
  • Headings should be logically structured. Make sure each page has one H1 followed by H2….up to H6, as required.
  • To ensure people with vision impairment can interact with your content without straining their eyes, use legible, larger fonts
  • The text must have a color contrast ratio of 45:1 against the backdrop
  • Links within paragraphs must have at least two different markups. A copy should be underlined only if it is a link
  • Make sure the text can be zoomed up to 200 percent. The zoomed text should be readable
  • Make sure your site does not have any broken links, error pages, and HTML errors
  • The layout should be consistent throughout the website. Avoid using more than one footer navigation, framework, and header for a page
  • Each field of a form must have coded labels. Give clear instructions on rectifying errors. Standard formats should be used for address, name, and date of birth
  • Images must have descriptive alt tags

User Control

  • Avoid using automatic pop-ups for subscriptions, special offers, or for any other commercial reason
  • Allow users to pause rotating content or content that continuously refreshes. You can use rotation advertisements
  • You cannot change a website element suddenly. Transitions should be gradual and soft
  • Give your users enough time to review and rectify important information before final submission
  • Autoplay is not permitted
  • Time limits must give a warning before expiring. Allow your users to extend time limits by up to eight times. Exception – time limits on online auctions


  • Use a focus indicator box that shows all the links and fields
  • Set a default language
  • Use HTML. Try to avoid PDFs as optical character recognition devices are unable to recognize/read them. Additionally, most developers use HTML for text-to-speech and other applications
  • The website must support keyboard navigation
  • Place a search function box in each page (in the same place)
  • Have a skip navigation link that allows users to skip to the main content at the top left of each page. You can make the link invisible
  • Provide a link to your sitemap on your homepage. Alternatively, place it on the footer of every page

Assistive Technology Compatibility

Thanks to advancements in technology, people with disabilities today have several audio-visual aids designed to help them interact with content at their disposal. Make sure your website supports popular assistive technologies, including:

  • Text readers and magnifiers
  • Optical character readers
  • Screen-reading software
  • Text-to-speech services

Content Alternatives

  • Do not use an image of text instead of the text. Exceptions include infographics, logos, and charts with labels
  • Make sure extra documents, if any, on your site, such as PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, and other documents, meet accessibility guidelines
  • Videos must have synced closed captioning
  • Big data tables must be accompanied by descriptions. If this is not possible, try turning them into small tables
  • Descriptive alt texts must accompany images including info graphics, photos, and logos
  • Digital videos or audios, if any, on your website must be accompanied by text transcripts. The text for a digital video or audio must accurately summarize the video/audio

Customer Support

Provide customer support for users with disabilities. Have a system in place that simplifies the process of submitting feedback for users with disabilities. Schedule regular audits to test your web pages for accessibility.

How to Check Whether a Website is ADA Compliant?

Here are some ways to find out whether your website is ADA compliant:

Use ADA Compliance Checker Tools

There are several free ADA-compliance checker tools. An ADA-compliance checker tool analyzes every aspect of your website design, including its color scheme, image alt texts used, and text size.

The World Wide Web Consortium offers several ADA-compliance checker tools. Website owners with WordPress sites can even install ADA compliance plugins.

Ask a Professional to Audit Your Website

You can hire an ADA compliance agency to audit your website for accessibility. After the audit, the agency will reveal your accessibility score and recommend measures to make your website more accessible. Many ADA compliance agencies are capable of implementing plans to make websites ADA compliant.

Conduct a Manual Audit

A manual audit involves evaluating every page of the website for accessibility. Manual audits are not feasible for comprehensive websites with numerous pages.

Benefits of ADA Compliance

  • Enhances Your Reach: There are more than 50 million people with disabilities in the U.S. alone. If your website is non-ADA compliant, you are missing out on huge business opportunities
  • Improves Your SEO: A website that meets WCAG guidelines will appeal to users, search engines, and screen readers
  • Helps Avoid Penalties: Over the years, many renowned brands such as Brooks Brothers, Fordham University, and Foot Locker have been sued for using non-ADA compliant websites. A lawsuit can cost you millions and dent your brand’s reputation

How to Make a Website ADA Compliant?

Take Steps to Make Your Website Keyboard Friendly

When it comes to making your website accessible, the importance of ensuring that it is keyboard-friendly cannot be emphasized enough. Most assistive technologies rely on keyboard-only navigation.

You need to make sure that all your website’s main features can be used through a keyboard. Make sure all web content and navigation can be accessed using the Tab key.

Add Alt Text to Every Image

When adding an image to WordPress, remember to enter its alternative text that can act as an alternative replacement for the image in case it fails to load.

You can also use alt text to give context to users who access them. Alt text gives search engines more information to crawl and can improve your website’s SEO Score.

Be Careful When Choosing Colors

To ensure your site is accessible for people with vision impairments and defects use a color contrast that makes it easier for them to distinguish between different elements on your pages.

The text must stand out against the background. Using a dark color against a light color will ensure that they do not bleed into each other. You can use an online tool to find and test color combinations.

Use Tables Only for Tabular Data

Tables should be used exclusively for displaying data. If you use them for anything else, you run the risk of confusing screen readers. To help users assimilate information easily and swiftly, keep tables as simple as you can.

Make Sure Your Forms are Accessible

Make sure fields in your forms are clearly and accurately labeled. Labels must be placed adjacent to their respective fields. This will help ensure that people using screen readers can easily match labels to their corresponding fields. Provide clear, understandable instructions and information.

Enable Text Resizing

Many devices and browsers allow users to resize text. If, however, your website does not support this feature, users resizing text will find it difficult to interact with your site. Use relative sizes that enable the text to scale depending on screen size and other content.

Never turn off user scalability. Once these changes are implemented, test your font sizes by increasing the zoom level in your browser. Check whether content becomes difficult to read or navigate.

Use Headers

Use headers to structure your website content. The more accurate and clear your headers, the easier it will be for screen readers to analyze your pages. Use one H1 per page followed by subheadings, if required.

Gaurav Madan

About Author

Gaurav is working on various verticals like IT & Software Solutions | Digital Marketing | E-Commerce | BPO | Outsourcing | Offshoring | Global Deliveries | Exports | Education. Gaurav believes in CHANGE, which is constant throughout the LIFE so be with the CHANGE Gaurav is having, In-depth experience in IT Solutions, Offshoring, Internet Branding, Sales & Marketing, Managing New Projects & Processes, Solution Designing and Transitioning of New International and Domestic business engagements. Proficient at managing & leading teams to run successful operations & experienced in developing procedures, service standards, client satisfaction using standard frameworks for business excellence.

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