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Assessing Your Website for ADA Compliance and Accessibility

Matt Hammer, Director, Technical Development

In our first blog on access compliance, we talked about the importance of making sure your website meets WCAG Level AA guidelines. Doing so goes a long way in helping your company avoid potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The first step in achieving compliance with ADA is to find out how your company scores today when it comes to website access. To help clients take on the challenge, R2i recommends a combination of a manual and an automated assessment. 

Our compliance experts can evaluate the general capabilities of a website to determine if the navigation is consistent from page-to-page. We also validate if all headers are correct and test whether tabs and accordions work correctly. 

In other words, we help you determine if people can easily interact with your company when they visit your website and if all of your website capabilities are accessible to everyone.

Categorizing Compliance Errors and Warnings 
We also combine our manual assessment with an automated accessibility testing tool from Siteimprove, which takes about two days to set up and then runs for 1-2 weeks. After loading your website into Siteimprove, the platform crawls each website page and logs any access compliance errors and warnings it identifies. 

Errors represent issues that must be fixed in order to meet the WCAG Level AA guidelines while warnings represent issues that may need to be fixed. Siteimprove further categorizes these issues as functional—relating to what end users can do on the website—or design-related, pertaining to what end users see on the website. 

Clients with large websites and frequently-changing content will often decide to run Siteimprove constantly. This makes it possible to be immediately aware of any access compliance issues and is particularly critical for organizations in healthcare and education, where equal access for all is closely regulated. 


Image: Siteimprove DCI Score Dashboard preview


Interpretation Requires Compliance Expertise

B2B clients may be able to rely on periodic uses of Siteimprove—perhaps an initial baseline measurement followed by monthly, quarterly or yearly scans. A key challenge that many run into, however, is interpreting the results that Siteimprove generates. This is where working with compliance experts can help.

For example, there is typically a long list of errors and warnings that Siteimprove generates the first time it runs. It’s vital to identify the major transgressions and determine the cause of each issue. There may be several global issues that exist on every page on a website, so that fixing those issues will immediately bump up your compliance score.

Compliance experts can also help you develop a clear action plan for what it will take to comply with ADA:

 - Document all WCAG Level AA errors and warnings
 - Identify the fix for each error and warning
 - Determine how long the mitigation process will take

Another important part of the assessment process is to identify who is responsible for each issue. Sometimes a problem needs to be addressed by developers, such as issues caused by software code. But in other cases, it’s the website designer. Perhaps certain colors are not viewable by people with low vision. Other groups that could get involved in the mitigation effort are the content authors and editors who oversee the website copy.


Image: Siteimprove Issues Queue preview


Important to Act Now

Whichever path you choose to take towards website access compliance, it’s important to begin your journey soon as court rulings are beginning to determine that ADA applies to websites just as much as the law applies to physical locations. Making your website accessible to all also simply makes good business sense.

This is the second in a five-part series on website accessibility. Visit the start of the series here. In our next blog, we will examine the strategies your company can apply to pass the WCAG Level AA guidelines. In the meantime, if you need assistance in evaluating the accessibility of your website, contact R2integrated at www.r2integrated.com/contact.

 

About the author: Matt Hammer

Matt is the Director, Technical Development at R2i and has a broad range of skills that have allowed him to often bridge the gap between design and development. His strong expertise in DNN, Drupal, Ektron, Adobe’s Creative Suite and a variety of web languages make him an invaluable member of the R2i team. True to his Baltimore roots, Matt also carries the banner for the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles, usually in the form of a team hat.

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