In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. When Web designers talk about ADA, they are referring to this set of standards. In this guide, we will outline how to implement these rules by deploying specialist software.
A number of consultancies provide ADA compliance auditing and advice. However, it is also possible to buy software that will guide you through making your products ADA compliant. A software tool for compliance works out a lot cheaper than paying a consultancy.
ADA compliance software should implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium and they explain how to implement ADA requirements.
Here is our list of the best ADA Compliance software:
- AccessiBe EDITOR’S CHOICE This website accessibility software runs constantly and assesses the useability of all of your sites with a scan every 24 hours. The tool can produce off-the-shelf audit reports to prove compliance should legal problems arise. This is a cloud-based service.
- AudioEye A cloud platform that scans websites and fixes accessibility problems. The company issues compliance certificates to its customers.
- EqualWeb This company issues a million dollar warranty against accessibility litigation for the clients of its cloud-based platform.
- Tenon A website testing platform for compliance to WCAG 2.0, 2.1, and Section 508. This system is suitable for website developers.
- Level Access A website accessibility guidance platform aimed at developers and testers that includes training videos and WCAG testing.
ADA and Section 508
You might have heard that all websites have to conform with “Section 508.” This is not necessarily true because these standards relate to US federal government agencies and their websites. Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. These requirements are implemented by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, which is also known as the Access Board. The requirements are explained in the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards.
The aims of ADA and Section 508 are similar. However, ADA operates in civil law, which means it enables individuals to sue businesses that don’t have accessible websites. Section 508 is a set of requirements for accessibility that are defined for the government’s own websites.
Private enterprises need to focus on ADA and they are not bound to follow Section 508. However, because of the strong similarities between the two requirements, Most ADA compliance software can also be used for 508 compliance.
Who needs to comply with ADA?
Not every business needs to comply with ADA. These are the three categories of organizations that should be ADA compliant:
- State and local government agencies
- Private employers with 15 or more employees
- Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public
The requirement for businesses with more than 15 employees includes most enterprises beyond the status of “small business.” If yours is a mom-and-pop outfit that doesn’t intend to grow, you could probably get away with not implementing the WCAG. However, if you have the ambition to grow your business, you will need to redesign your website at some point when the company takes on more employees. So, it is probably better to start with an ADA-compliant design from the beginning.
Keep in mind that ADA explains to businesses how to create websites that everyone can use. So, they aren’t impositions – these guidelines help you to create better websites and improve the appeal of your business.
Another gray area that might convince you not to bother with ADA compliance is that the police aren’t going to come after you if you don’t. The law just makes it possible for disabled individuals to sue businesses that don’t have accessible websites.
That means that, if your business is small, you might not need to comply and even if your business has more than 15 employees, you won’t get shut down. However, you could be sued.
Covering yourself for ADA compliance
The gray areas for ADA compliance get even murkier because the law doesn’t exactly define what measures show that a business is compliant. There is no official certification program and no institution or standards body to validate the compliance process.
This lack of industry structure means that hiring in a consultancy to ensure ADA compliance has no legal backing. In order to ensure that the consultancy you hire knows what it is doing and is giving you proper advice, you would have to be fully conversant with WCAG yourself.
One insurance policy you could use is to get your sites designed by a professional website design outfit and make sure ADA compliance is specified in the commissioning contract. That removes the burden of responsibility from your shoulders. However, there would still be a background risk that the supplier of your sites could go out of business sometime in the future. If this is the case, and the sites they provide you are not ADA compliant, you would have no fallback if you subsequently get sued.
The best ADA compliance software
The process of commissioning, designing, and testing a website has become a great deal more complicated thanks to ADA. You don’t need to become an expert in the law or accessibility issues if you buy an ADA compliance tool.
ADA compliance software has a built-in WCAG checklist, so it has all of the expertise in the subject distilled within it. This solution solves all of your ADA-related problems, whether you are a business that needs a website or a business that develops websites.
You can read more about each of these tools in the following sections.
AccessiBe is a website accessibility platform that implements WCAG for ADA compliance. This is a cloud-based service, so you don’t need to install it on your own servers. However, you do need to add a line of code into the headers of the pages that you are assessing.
The AccessiBe system scans each Web page and assesses its visibility. The system uses AI processes to judge whether it is useable by sight-impaired visitors. The system will run scheduled scans on each monitored page, passing through once every 24 hours. It then generates a monthly compliance report, which you can keep on file in case legal issues arise.
The AccessiBe platform adds an accessibility feature to your site that allows visitors to adjust the appearance of its pages themselves. This helps you account for the many varieties of sight impairment and it allows visual factors such as color, scaling, alignment, fonts, to be altered on demand.
If your site is based on a content management system, you can integrate the AccessiBe service through a plugin. CMS solutions are available for:
- Google Tag Manager
AccessiBe charges by a subscription with a rate per month or per year. Each subscription manages one website and there are four editions that account for sites of different sizes. AccessiBe also offers additional services, such as video captions, audio descriptions, and PDF rendering. It is available for a 7-day free trial.
AccessiBe is our top pick for ADA compliance software because it is very easy to use and does all of the work for you. The service automatically adjusts visual attributes on your site to make your pages accessible. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution because it allows users to make their own adjustments to the appearance of a site. This solution can adapt any existing website to make it ADA compliant.
Get 7-day Free Trial: https://accounts.accessibe.com/signup
The AudioEye system uses AI methods to check each page for accessibility according to a range of sight impairments. The system has WCAG rules built into it, so you don’t have to worry about whether any issue has been overlooked. However, it won’t be able to fix all potential issues. Generally, the automated processes of AudioEye can resolve about 73 percent of accessibility issues on websites.
Once a site has been improved according to WCAG, AudioEye issues your company with a compliance certificate. Essentially, that gives you a guarantee that Audio Eye takes responsibility if any legal procedures arise through the ADA legislation. The service also adds on an accessibility settings bar that allows visitors to make their own adjustments to the appearance of pages on the site.
The AudioEye service can be implemented as a plugin for a list of CMSs, which includes:
- Google Tag Manager
The AudioEye service is a cloud-based platform with four plans that relate to the size of the sites being monitored. The service is available on a 30-day free trial.
The EqualWeb service operates as a scanner. It applies AI systems to assess each element of your site. The EqualWeb service goes a little further than just applying rules. It gathers accessibility data from many other sites, spotting trends in design and applying those to your sites.
If your site is hosted by a content management system, the service will be able to manipulate the settings of your site’s template to get all pages automatically adjusted for ADA compliance.
No matter how your site is hosted, the EqualWeb system is able to automatically resolve up to 95 percent of all accessibility issues. The EqualWeb team realizes that no automated system is perfect and so every customer gets a manual ADA compliance check performed by an expert assessor. They will then fix any issues that this human-driven assessment uncovers. Remember, if your site isn’t ADA compliant, EqualWeb is on the hook for a million dollars.
EqualWeb adds accessibility features to your site. These services include a voice command module that allows visitors to navigate by using a microphone. The system also gives visitors tools to adjust the appearance of site features themselves.
The EqualWeb system is available in three levels: Free, Auto, and Managed. As you would expect, human assessors and the services of a team to fix your site’s problems are only included in the Managed edition. The Auto edition is offered in four plans, which account for different website sizes. You can experience the Auto plan on a 7-day free trial.
Tenon is an automated accessibility testing tool that works on WCAG 2.0, 2.1, and Section 508 compliance issues. The site for Tenon includes an address field that lets you kick off a free site assessment run. The scan runs vary quickly and identify accessibility issues. Discovered problems are categorized by severity – either “errors” or “warnings.”
Unsurprisingly, the Tenon free trial gives you a teaser of problems on your site. It won’t show you the full list of problems or give you any assistance in fixing them until you set up an account. That’s only to be expected. A nice thing about that teaser on the site is that it shows you how easy it is to run the Tenon system.
You don’t have to pay for an account because Tenon offers a Free plan. The plans include a Pay-as-you-Go service that is metered per test and then there are three plans for subscribers that are set according to the number of API calls paid for in the bundle. An API call is the activation of the Tenon code on your site. You embed a call to the Tenon system so that it can test the whole page or just an element.
The Tenon system is particularly useful for Web development businesses because its pricing structure doesn’t depend on a specific URL. You can test many sites with this service. The service is also available as a plugin for CMSs or for browsers.
The dashboard for your account is hosted in the cloud and it includes a report feature, enabling you to get summaries of all issues and which problems have been resolved. This is a testing tool and it doesn’t include processes to fix problems so it is suited to businesses that have expert developers on the payroll.
Tenon is available for a free trial. However, this is not time-based. Instead, the trial gives you a credit for 25 API calls.
Level Access is an accessibility management platform that will scan your website to find accessibility issues. This system works towards compliance with ADA, WCAG 2.0 A, AA, AAA, WCAG 2.1, and CVAA standards.
This service is aimed at web developers and those professionals that need to test new websites and web page features. It is implemented through a browser plugin that has a Manual Testing Wizard that guides testers through the WCAG requirements. Tests can also be run on a schedule.
It is possible to test a whole website, a page, or a feature on a page in each test run. Each test results in a report that details changes that need to be made in order to achieve compliance. It is also possible to get a periodic compliance report that shows what issues still remain on a site. This report also recommends more tests that should be run in order to fully assess the website.
As well as providing a test utility, the Level Access platform includes a knowledge base with testing guides and also ADA accessibility training courses. The Level Access service is great support for businesses that really need to quickly acquire accessibility specialization.
The Level Access service is very flexible in that it offers guidance for manual testing and also a system for automated, unattended testing. The system will test a range of digital assets, not just websites. For example, it can also apply accessibility tests to PDF documents.
The lightweight nature of Level access’s implementation makes this service very easy to use. It doesn’t require any code to be installed on the host of the website that is being tested. This makes it an ideal tool for the clients of web development companies that need to check on whether the delivered site actually complies with ADA or Section 508 requirements.