The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was instituted in 1990 in an effort to put an end to discrimination based on different abilities. This revolutionary act led to designing an equal-access workplace that includes wheelchair access ramp, accessible restroom facility, disabled lifts and many more facilities that became a norm in most American public places and office areas. Since then, ADA legislation has evolved to provide access to spaces in the digital world – most importantly, the Internet, since it has not only become a critical element of doing business but has become the backbone of the entire Global economy.
Today, Federal agencies are adopting the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a measure of accessibility, to help businesses adapt to ADA compliance.
The technical requirements of WCAG guidelines are grouped under three levels: A, AA, and AAA, wherein AAA being the highest level. The three levels are designed to offer more flexibility under different circumstances and situations. For example, a government website may require the highest possible standard of accessibility- AAA, whereas, other commercial entities may fulfill their ADA requirement by meeting level AA standards.
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This is the most basic level of web accessibility that allows the screen reader to scan a website more effectively. It includes the issues that are most urgent and problems that can limit a disabled visitor to use or navigate the website effectively. However, it leaves many barriers for people with disabilities to quickly browse a site. Also, meeting only Level A does not help to fulfill ADA compliance requirements.
Level AA is considered the target standard for most commercial websites, as it offers more functionality, and addresses areas where there is the scope of improvement to provide disabled users a higher degree of accessibility. For example, Level AA criteria require that navigation remains consistent throughout the website, text and background have a minimum level of contrast, and all content is effectively organized under clear labels. People with disability will be easily able to access web content that meets Level AA criteria than they would with the website that fulfill only the Level A criteria.
This is the highest standard and it includes additional requirements that expand on issues identified in Level A and AA. It includes new, fine-tuned criteria such as adding a sign language translation for pre-recorded videos, that AA text must have a contrast ratio of 7:1 against the background, as opposed to the contrast ratio, met of 4.5:1 required in the AA criteria, and ensure that user data is saved when re-authenticating. While achieving Level AAA is an excellent goal, full level AAA compliance is difficult to reach for most websites.
A few years ago, it was difficult to meet level A criteria. But, today this can be achieved by most professional web design companies. Level AA can pose a challenge, but with careful governance and planning; it is also achievable. And it is currently the recommended WCAG 2.0 conformance level for most situations.
Meeting Level AAA is often considered out of reach, mostly because it is currently not required. But this does not mean you should not seek to comply with it. Level AAA can help future-proof your site and shield you against unnecessary lawsuits.
Pulse engineers have been building ADA compliant sites for corporations, restaurants, e-commerce and more. We bundle A level compliance on most web design projects. Reach us for a free evaluation of your site today.