In recent years “ADA Compliance” has become a major topic of discussion for website owners.  Business websites that aren’t accessible to persons with disabilities may be seen as discriminatory, so FMG Suite works hard to make certain everyone may access your website.  With the tools we offer complying doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do need to learn a bit and take a little time to use them properly. 

The Spirit of the Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, only a year after the invention of the World Wide Web as we know it and more than a decade before the majority of Americans began using the internet. Even major amendments in 2008 left the law without a single mention of the words “internet” or “website”. However, the way our public consciousness has started to view the web as a place one can actually visit has allowed common law to apply it to new technology.

Title III of the ADA requires that “places of public accommodation” be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Interpretation by federal courts have made it clear that the same rules that require businesses to make their physical offices accessible also apply to websites. While the text provides no specific instructions for this, the spirit of the law is being applied in the same way. Business locations, virtual or otherwise, that offer goods and services to the public must be available for the entire public.

This doesn’t mean that your site must offer the exact same experience to every visitor.  If it’s even possible, it would be counterproductive for everyone. Just like many businesses offer stairs next to ramps, or braille menus to supplement the written ones, your site may offer different features to those using a text reader, a screen magnifier, or the more common experience in a web browser. There is no reason not to add some “wow” factor for a subset of your users, so long as basic functionality is available in some form for everyone.  FMG Suite sites offer visual flair that has no impact on users of screen readers. We also support screen reader friendly keyboard navigation that most of our users, generally interacting with a mouse, never notice.  It’s all a matter of making certain there is some way of every visitor to find the content you’ve offered and accomplish the tasks your website asks of them.

Common Sense Accessibility

There are some interesting challenges for a website to comply with a law that didn’t explicitly envision “public accommodation” as a virtual location. There is no clear legal standard for a site to achieve ADA compliance. Justice Department officials have commented that businesses have flexibility in how they comply with the law, which is nice to know but isn’t exactly practical advice. Prominent ADA-related court cases tend to reference something called the WCAG 2.0 AA Success Criteria. 

These Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are maintained by an international community called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and they do a good job telling developers how to create new components for complex web applications. WCAG helps solve disagreements between people with User Interface and User Experience in their titles.

They are also sort of deep. And technical. And very, very long. 

WCAG is difficult for business owners to deal with, which is why FMG Suite handles the heavy lifting. There is a whole list of accessibility requirements we cover for you, helping people access our content while using a variety of assistive technologies. The difficult bits are handled automatically and you don’t need to worry about them. However, there are also a few requirements where our sites offer all the tools needed, but we need your help to ensure that your content remains accessible. 

Things You Don’t Need To Worry About

Error-Free Code, Default Language, and Uniform Labelling

Every visitor appreciates consistency, but it’s doubly important when using an alternative way to interact with your site. Our site themes help you ensure that navigation and content elements stay the same across every page.

Consistency in Layout and Navigation

Every visitor appreciates consistency, but it’s doubly important when using an alternative way to interact with your site.  Our site themes help you ensure that navigation and content elements stay the same across every page.

Clear, Readable Hyperlinks

Our default styling for in-text hyperlinks and navigation buttons provides clear, easy to see indicators for linked content. This is one of those areas you technically have the ability to make LESS accessible through color choice, so you’ll want to be careful!

Keyboard Navigation and Focus Indicators

Our sites are built with a clear tab order and a clear outline to indicate focus on menu items or hyperlinks. This lets visitors who are unable to use a mouse navigate via keyboard or other accessibility aid.

Nested Headings and Standard Tags

Our editor offers standard heading tags behind the scenes (like H1, H2, H3…) and our themes nest them under one another by default. This makes it far easier for screen readers and magnifiers to parse the page. 

Avoid Cues Requiring Color

No part of our standard themes or any of our regular content requires a user to distinguish between various colors to navigate the site or understand its message.

Text Magnification

Our sites can gracefully handle at least double zoom on text. No fiddling required!

Labeled Forms With Clear Feedback

Our contact and signup forms have clear labels associated with each field and provide feedback when invalid entries are made.

High Contrast Colors

Our default theming options allow for the use of highly readable text on properly contrasting backgrounds. Ensuring high contrast colors are used throughout your site is likely the most impactful accessibility decision you can make, so we start you off with a great toolset.

No Shifting Content

We don’t use techniques that lead to sudden changes in the way your site works between pages or as menus are accessed. Our sites don’t include content that slides around, jumps across the page, or dramatically changes color and appearance. These sort of things can be a “wow” factor or some users, but they would be a terrible frustration for others.

Accessibility Rules That Don’t Currently Apply To FMG Suite

We monitor various requirements that don’t currently apply to our service and make certain to address them as we add relevant features. This includes rules for features with time limits and review requirements for certain forms submissions. We also avoid providing content that is hard to control, like auto playing media and scrolling messages.

Things You Need To Help With

Use Clear, Descriptive Text For Titles, Headings, and Links

Writers have a tendency to over-sell titles, using buzzwords and pithy sayings where simple descriptive text might be best. We need to remember what a title or heading would sound like to someone listening to them read out as if they were a table of contents… because some people are doing just that. 

 FMG Suite allows a lot of creative license in designing and populating your site, but you want to remember that the structure of your pages and the titles you use to describe it are a lot like the rooms and hallways in an office. You wouldn’t make them crooked and hide the doorways behind flowery prose, so you ought not do the same thing with your titles. Sometimes an “About Us” page is best as just that.  Ask yourself if you could tell what was on a page just by hearing the title, without seeing any of the images or reading the body content. If you can’t, change it.

Stick to High Contrast Colors

Our design flexibility allows you to make both good and bad decisions with color. If you don’t want to trust your graphic designer on this, there are plenty of tools to check the contrast of key colors. They provide clear, unambiguous numbers in the form of a ratio. You want at least a 3:1 for heading text or titles over images. Regular body text should stand out from the background by at least 4.5:1. In case this isn’t clear… it’s a very different rule than you’d use for the colors in your logo.

Add Descriptive Alt Text To All Images

We offer a cool feature to describe the content of your images – Alt Text. It allows you to describe the image for search engines, which is important because they still love the written word even after AI has learned to categorize pictures. Alt Text is also used by screen readers to describe your content to the visually impaired. It’s easy to add a description and there are multiple benefits when you do. Adding Alt Text to existing images is the most common “retrofit” needed to make a site more accessible. 

Don’t Add Images of Text

It wasn’t cool back in the 90s… it’s definitely not cool now that it violates Title III of the ADA. Screen readers generally don’t have the ability to recognize and read text if it is included as a graphics file. Even if you include the message as alt-text to the image, it’s the sort of thing that earns a demerit in an accessibility audit. There are always exceptions, like logos and the labels on illustrations, but we do our best to avoid this whenever we can and you should too.

Add Explanatory Captions To Your Tables

Large data tables pretty much immediately push your content well above any reasonable target reading level, so you ought to avoid them most of the time anyway. They’re even harder to understand when read out or viewed through a screen magnifier. If you really need to display a table, it’s a great idea to include a caption that explains the point a viewer should derive from the data. If you can’t summarize a point from the table… all the more reason to cut it from your content.

Avoid Poorly Accessible Documents

The files you upload to your site, whether they are PDFs or PowerPoint slides, need to follow the same sort of accessibility rules as the rest of your site. High contrast colors, readable text, and avoiding text as an image are key elements.

Choose Videos With Closed Captioning

Wherever they are available, choose videos and video services that allow for closed captioning. This is a vital part of making video content available and relevant for all site visitors. Checking whether captions are available should be one of your standard steps before choosing to embed a third party video. Many services, like YouTube, offer automated captions generated by speech recognition for free or at a reduced cost. You will be more likely to find properly captioned content on these services.

Avoid Autoplay Media

Videos and audio that automatically play can interfere with the use of accessibility tools. They are also sort of annoying and some browsers block them anyway.

Offer a “Text Version” Where Possible

Whenever possible, offering a text alternative to video or other illustration will ensure you reach the largest audience. This could include a transcript of videos and with better video hosting services (like ours) the file behind closed captioning serves this purpose. However you do this, offering a text version of content is a great way to make your site more accessible and demonstrate compliance with the ADA.

We’re Here To Help

Our implementation team works to keep all new websites compliant with the ADA.  If you would like to update your current website to resolve any issues that might conflict with accessibility and ADA requirements, you will need to provide us with a list of items that need to be changed on your site. Depending on the scope of the changes, there may be a fee for these updates.

Please reach out to our Customer Service Team to discuss the changes you'd like to make to your site. You can reach us at 858-251-2420 or service@fmgsuite.com.

Did this answer your question?