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ADA compliance level AA and how to conform
13 January 2022
ADA compliance

ADA Compliance Level AA Explained

Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to protect the rights of differently-abled people. It also requires that businesses take steps to ensure that their facilities are accessible to all customers.

While the ADA initially only applied to businesses with a physical presence, it now applies in the digital sector too.

However, the ADA itself doesn’t outline specific guidelines and standards to ensure web accessibility so, businesses and brands adhere to the WCAG guidelines. 

Specifically, the DoJ uses WCAG level AA to scrutinize web accessibility

If you want to learn more about ADA compliance level AA and how you can conform, this article is for you.

Want to learn more about ADA compliance for websites? Read our definitive guide below.

ADA compliance guide

What is WCAG?

The WCAG guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international organization that develops web standards. 

Thus, web accessibility standards worldwide also harmonize with WCAG 2.0 requirements, including the EN 301 549.

The W3C has test criteria to help developers determine if websites are easily accessible to differently-abled people by testing web accessibility and usability. They also developed the WCAG, a set of stable, referenceable, and technical formats to measure these standards.

WCAG includes 12 guidelines that follow four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

1) Perceivable

Users must easily understand the information being depicted on the website. Thus, you should present digital assets in a way that users can perceive.

Additionally, this principle suggests that information can’t be invisible to all of the user’s senses.

Here are some guidelines under this principle:

    • Adaptable: Your content should be presented in many ways without losing its structure and information. For example, websites can have a simpler layout.
    • Text alternatives: Websites should provide text alternatives for non-text content so that users can change them into other forms. These include braille, speech, and simpler language.
    • Time-based content: The WCAG suggests that websites provide alternatives for time-based content.
    • Distinguishable: Websites should make it easier for users to see and hear content. For instance, you can use proper color contrast to separate foreground elements from background ones.

2) Operable

Operability means that user interface elements and website navigation must be easy to operate. Your website shouldn’t require any interaction that a user won’t be able to perform.

If you want your website to be operable, here are some things you have to remember:

  • It should provide keyboard navigation
  • Your content shouldn’t trigger seizures or other physical reactions
  • Users should be able to navigate, determine, and find content wherever they are
  • The functionality of your website shouldn’t depend on only one modality
  • You should provide your users with enough time to read and use your content

3) Understandable

This WCAG principle suggests that users should be able to understand your digital assets and their operation. Simply put, the content on your website should be easy to understand.

For a website to be understandable, here are a few things you have to check:

  • Readability: Text content should be understandable and readable.
  • Availability of input assistance: Your website should help users avoid and edit input mistakes
  • Predictability: Your web pages should operate in a predictable manner

4) Robust

The last WCAG principle is robust. This means that your content must be robust enough so that users with assistive technologies can access it.

  • Compatible: Your website should be compatible with current and future technologies, including assistive devices

Remember!

While many businesses and brands use WCAG guidelines, it doesn’t guarantee that you will attain website accessibility. The WCAG guidelines merely provide recommendations on the things you can alter on your website.

Thus, website accessibility still depends on your efforts. The W3C also provides success criteria to make sure that your website is accessible to the differently-abled.

Three Levels of Compliance

ADA compliance level AA

Before we begin the discussion about level AA, let’s mention the different levels of compliance.

The WCAG is designed with 3 levels to cater to different situations. 

While most accessibility standards only have one conformance level, some website components need a higher level of accessibility. Thus, the W3C developed three WCAG conformance levels.

Each level evaluates different factors, these include:

  • Whether or not digital assets are made accessible by assistive technology
  • The ability to meet the success criteria with a range of content types and topics
  • How reasonable it would be to meet the success criteria

Now, the important thing to remember is that level AAA is the highest conformance level, however, it’s not necessary for the average website to meet these requirements. 

Here are some things to remember when striving for a conformance level.

Level A

Level A conformance has a minimal effect on website accessibility. While this level enables screen readers to access a website, it doesn’t help your website comply with DOJ or lawyers’ standards.

Level A is the most basic conformance level in web accessibility. If you only comply with Level A, you’re most likely non-compliant with the ADA and are creating barriers for disabled users and customers.

Level AA

Level AA gives you medium conformance, but this is what most businesses strive for. This level meets Level A’s criteria and more while allowing you to choose a flexible design for your website.

Level AA is not too light, nor does it restrict you from making an aesthetically pleasing website.

Level AAA

Level AAA is the highest level of conformance. However, this level is the most restrictive when it comes to your website’s interactive components.

Thus, your site’s design and functionality might be affected. Additionally, the W3C doesn’t recommend conforming to level AAA.

It is because some content cannot satisfy all level AAA criteria. Simply put, some requirements may be difficult to attain.

ADA Compliance Level AA

The Importance of ADA Compliance

Now that you know the three conformance levels, it’s time to dive into the most popular one: Level AA.

As mentioned, most businesses aim to achieve level AA because it meets all the requirements of level A and more.

This level is the perfect balance between conforming and keeping design flexibility.

While some requirements under level AA can be complex, these will help you attain ADA compliance.

So, if you want to attain WCAG conformance, here are some requirements and features that fall under level AA:

  • The color contrast ratio should be at least 4:5:1
  • The website must have consistent navigation
  • Screen readers must be able to scan status updates
  • Headings should be displayed in a logical order
  • Forms should have accurate labels
  • Alternative text should be used for non-text content
  • Websites must provide suggestions for solving input errors

If you want to be confident about ADA compliance, you should strive for level AA compliance. You can also read our latest ADA compliance checklist if you want to learn more.

The Importance of ADA Compliance

If you’re not complying with the ADA, you’re not only increasing your lawsuit risks, but you’re discriminating against 1 billion people living with disabilities.

Aside from this, ADA compliance also gives you other benefits, including:

  • Attracts a loyal customer base
  • Service to the community
  • Supports the aging community

ADA compliance is not only good for business, it’s also a way to show that you’re committed to inclusivity.

Accessibility checker

Wrapping Up

Understanding the different levels of compliance can help you better understand WCAG as a whole. 

To make your business more inclusive and gain other advantages, you must aim for a high level of compliance. 

Find out where you stand by conducting an audit of your website at Accessibility Checker 

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