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By: Melissa Matheson
Corporate Direct Webmaster

Back in 2017, we published an article regarding ADA compliance on websites. The Winn-Dixie case was the case that defined websites as “public spaces,” thereby requiring that they be accessible to those with disabilities. This in itself is not an issue, I think we can all agree that we want all people to be able to freely access information and services. And in brick and mortar business, these requirements are clearly outlined in the Americans With Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADASAD). These standards are now embedded in building codes and permit requirements so there is no confusion as to how to make your brick and mortar business ADA compliant.

Website accessibility, however, has proven to be a more difficult issue. There are no strict guidelines for websites set by the ADA or in the ADASAD. You will however, be strictly liable for following these guidelines that do not exist. Strict Liability means that even with the absence of intent to harm and/or absence of negligence, you can be held liable for violating any provision of the law. There will be no leniency granted if you aren’t aware of the law, or if you are “working on it.” You are either in compliance, or you are not.

But there has to be some sort of guidelines, right? Well…yes, and no. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1) have been established. (WCAG 2.1 are appended guidelines to WCAG 2.0). The WCAG are extremely technical and reading them is akin to learning another language if you aren’t a complete tech nerd. As well, you can make your site accessible without meeting all of the WCAG. There is information contained in WCAG for all possible scenarios, so there is a ton of information making it nearly impossible to digest. So if you can make your site accessible without implementing all the WCAG, but there are no other clear guidelines, how exactly do you go about becoming compliant?

Good question. I have found that a common sense approach is much more beneficial than trying to read all of the WCAG. As stated in the beginning of the article, we want everybody to have access to our services, right? So this is just a matter of making sure that is possible. And it turns out, if you have built your website with SEO in mind (which I hope you have) you probably have the bulk of the work already done.

If you have not focused on using the best SEO practices, you’ve probably got a lot of work to do. And if that is the case, please remember that there is no quick and easy miracle solution. There are many out there who have capitalized on the fact that people need to make these changes to their sites. But unfortunately, there are no miracle cures for this. Please do not spend your money on WordPress plugins or fancy scans. They won’t help. There are many WordPress Plugins out there (premade snippets of code that can be easily imported into your site) that are available both for free, and for sale. Be careful with these. If they are free, secure, and you like what they do, that’s great. Use them. But don’t be fooled into thinking that any of these plugins (even if they cost a fortune) are going to make your website ADA compliant. They will not. Regardless of how fancy they are, there are no tools available in them that make it easier for say, a screen reader, to access your content. They also usually provide functionality that can be achieved by just using the web browser functions (i.e., enlarging text).

As well, there are free scans that are great and can give you a very good idea of where you are in regards to compliance. A company called aCe for example, will scan your site and give you scores on different categories of your site for free. It will also show you code snippets of where the issues are along with any successful examples (if you have any) so that you can easily find where errors are and understand how to apply the fixes. Again, there are tools to help, but the solutions are largely manual and will take some time to complete.

Back to SEO. If you have built your site with SEO in mind, you have probably made sure to add alternative text to your images, captioned your videos and have a site map. You probably have a content rich site and have focused on presenting the content in a logical manner. You know that you will be punished by the SEO masters for any deceptive anchor text or other such tricks from the early days of the internet, so no worries there. You regularly speed check your site and apply fixes to anything slowing you down.

It turns out that by following SEO best practices, you are also in line with the four principles of the WCAG. The WCAG says (broadly) that your site should be: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. While there will still be some technical issues for you to bring your site into full compliance, if you have paid attention to SEO, you’ve also knocked out some of the biggest reasons that people get sued for not complying with ADA.

ADA website compliance lawsuits often begin because a company has failed to provide alternative text on their images. Again, using common sense, you can see how this can be a problem. If you have 25 products listed as images with no text, a visually impaired person would not be able to use your website with their screen reader as there would be nothing to read. Also, crawlers can’t read images so you have to add text if you want your site to be indexed properly. So adding that alternative text to help you climb higher in search results actually serves two purposes now.

The second biggest issue is not providing alternative multimedia support. The type of media will dictate your approach to making it fully accessible. Captioning videos may not be a huge SEO issue directly, but we all know how much it helps to have a video captioned when we put it out on social media. The click through rates, exposure and added interest in your company all indirectly affect SEO so if you’re not currently captioning videos that you put on social media you should start anyway. If it is audio only, like a podcast, you need to include a complete transcript. You can either have a link to it, or display the full text near the podcast. (Bonus: If you are lacking text content on your site, displaying the entire text will help to easily add some good text content).

Last but not least, the structure of sites often get people in trouble. Just like with SEO, your site must flow easily and not contain deceptive or unclear link structures. Anchor text to your links should clearly show the purpose. For example, your link should not be anchored with only “click here,” it should show as “click here to see an article about anchor text.” Get rid of any redundant links or any information that clutters your site and make sure that all of your menu items are available through keyboard navigation.

Although ADA compliance seems daunting and confusing at first, you may have more of it done than you realize. This is by no means an exhaustive list of requirements but if you don’t have much done, then taking compliance measures will not only keep you on the right side of the law, it will help you on the SEO side.

Through our research, we found Kris Rivenburgh, who does an outstanding job of breaking the WCAG down into terms that normal people can understand. He offers a WCAG guide at no charge (at the time of this writing) which can be found on the website he founded: If you have questions on ADA compliance, definitely check him out at and