You’re smartly pursuing ADA web compliance. You’re widening your audience, embracing inclusivity, and protecting your business from legal action. Great job.
Now you have to figure out how to get there. And that means figuring out how to check if a website is ADA compliant.
There are two ways to do it. An ADA compliance website test or an ADA compliance website audit. Let’s look into both options and your next steps.
Is My Website ADA Compliant?
To find out if your website is ADA compliant, you must first understand what ADA compliance is. ADA compliance is a legal requirement, not a technical requirement. There is nothing in the ADA that tells you exactly how to make a website ADA compliant.
There is, however, detailed technical guidance to achieving ADA-compliant web accessibility. It’s just not authored by the U.S. government. It’s the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Specifically, version 2.1. And depending on how many of those guidelines you institute, you receive ratings of WCAG 2.1 A, AA, or AAA. The latter being the highest level with the most digital accessibility.
Whether or not your website is ADA compliant depends on if you can successfully argue before the law that you’ve made a good-faith effort to make your web content easily accessible to people with disabilities. For most businesses, that good-faith effort is trying to implement as much of the WCAG 2.1 as they reasonably can.
Most businesses shoot for WCAG 2.1 AA. And thousands upon thousands of businesses rely on WCAG 2.1 AA compliance to meet ADA web accessibility standards. It's in almost every web accessibility statement, and It’s a good target to set if you’re after ADA compliance.
So how do you know what to implement? Where are your website’s areas of accessibility opportunity? Read on.
How to Check If a Website Is ADA Compliant
Here’s how to check if a website is ADA compliant. You need to see how your current website stacks up against the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. That involves running your website through an ADA-compliant website test or manually doing a ADA website compliance audit. Though, often, how to test your website for accessibility involves both.
ADA Compliant Website Test
We know a lot about designing and building for ADA web compliance. We’ve got one hospitality’s only WCAG 2.1-compliant QR code menus for bars and restaurants. And our favorite ADA compliant website test is WAVE. It’s a free service launched in 2001 from Utah State University. It’s been used to evaluate the accessibility of millions of web pages.
Here’s how it works. Enter the URL of the page you want tested. Then, on the left side of the page, click “View Details.” You’ll be shown a clickable list of:
- Errors where linked images are missing alternative text
- Low contrast errors
- Skipped heading levels
- Features with null or empty alternative text
- A high-level view of the page’s content structure
- Any elements with missing ARIA attributes
WAVE web accessibility testing checks against the most relevant and impactful WCAG 2.1 compliance issues. You can see how the WAVE website accessibility checker maps to WCAG 2.1 guidelines here. Though, according to WAVE:
“WAVE cannot check all the issues in these guidelines—no automated tool can.”
That statement is important. Only a human being can determine if a website is truly accessible. Automated tools get us close, but true accessibility is a human experience.
It’s important to understand that. When you update your website in pursuit of ADA compliance, you’re not checking off a list of boxes and washing your hands of the whole thing. You’re critically considering your users, how they interact with your content, and how you can make it accessible on an ongoing basis.
Even if you use automated web accessibility testing, you’ll likely still need a manual human ADA web accessibility audit. There’s simply no better tool to check for ADA compliance than a manual ADA compliance website audit. This is why most businesses choose a technology partner to do all this heavy lifting for them.
Web Accessibility Audit
An ADA website accessibility audit is a lot like an ADA compliant website test—just not automated. While that sounds like a pain, it’s actually a good thing. A manual audit from an ADA web compliance expert fills in the human cracks that an automated tool misses. Unlike a robot, they can put themselves in a user’s shoes and experience accessibility first-hand.
Here’s how a manual web accessibility audit works.
- You provide an ADA web compliance expert the list of page URLs you want checked.
- Compare those pages against the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. This involves checking each page—code included—along with overall site structure.
- The auditor comes back to you with a list of areas in good standing, a list of action items, and clear technical instructions to resolve accessibility issues and achieve the WCAG 2.1 level you want. These instructions can, ideally, be handed directly to a developer to start working on.
The reason why this is difficult to do yourself is because the WCAG 2.1 guidelines are a bit dense. Understanding and checking a web page against them requires a fair amount of technical familiarity.
A manual website accessibility audit, depending on the size of your website and the WCAG 2.1 level you check against (A, AA, or AAA), can cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000. And it’ll take around 2–5 weeks to execute and deliver. And this is just for the audit. Just to figure out what’s wrong. The costs to enact those changes (known as remediation) are separate—and can exceed $1,000 per web page depending on complexity. Accessibility audit cost can get pretty high. Read more about 508 remediation.
A Follow-Up Web Accessibility Audit
After the initial ADA web accessibility audit and deployment of the changes it recommends, it’s wise to give your website another pass. This second post-remediation website accessibility audit is much quicker and cheaper because most of the issues have been taken care of. And it should be about 30 to 40% cheaper than the original web accessibility audit.
Is My Website ADA Compliant? It Will Be Soon.
Here are the important things to remember as you go forward learning how to check if a website is ADA compliant.
- Check against the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Level AA is the level most businesses rely on to meet ADA compliance and defend against ADA legal action.
- An automated ADA compliant website test will never be enough to fully comply with ADA website law. You’ll need a manual ADA website compliance audit, too. An ADA compliant website test gives you a good idea how your site stacks up, and can be a useful tool for a manual auditor. But to complete the process in a legally defensible way, you’ll need a human touch.
- Costs will vary on how large our website is, what level WCAG guidelines you check against, and your website’s current level of accessibility.
It’s worth noting that 90% of all ADA legal actions for web accessibility are against retail and food service businesses. An easy way for bars and restaurants to get in line is with an interactive ADA-compliant digital menu. Or by ensuring the PDF accessibility of an existing PDF menu.
SproutQR’s QR code-based digital menu is the rare WCAG 2.1-compliant digital menu. By upgrading your single use menu to an ADA-compliant QR code menu, you could be eligible for up to $10,000 in disabled access credits from the U.S. government. And you’ll be delivering a germ-free menu experience that aligns with 2020 customer expectations. There’s no reason not to make the switch.