The Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) was signed into law in 1990. Websites that are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired are in violation of Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in “places of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).
Your website needs to be easy to read and understand across devices for all people. I think this is a great idea regardless of the law!
Here are a few important ways to be sure your website is accessible
Alt tags for all of your images
This is also important for SEO. Keep them to less than 125 characters long clearly describing what the image itself shows. Don’t try and stuff in keywords or your business name. Do your best to accurately describe the image to someone who may not be able to see it.
Use actual text, not images showing words, whenever possible
With the improvements in web font availability, unless it’s your logo or other highly specific text treatment, you should always be using selectable text on your website.
Make sure all text is formatted properly using header tags instead of spans whenever possible
Does some text need to stand out from the rest? Make it bold, italic or a header. Avoid using colors or other specialty classes for text. Those styles may not always translate for some users.
Text size and color contrast
This can get a little technical when evaluating but you want to be sure that all of your text is easy to read. Small text over a busy background image is a definite no-no. A broad rule for text is that it should be at least 18 point, or 14 point if bold. You also need to be sure the color of the text contrasts strongly enough from it’s background.
Captions and other special considerations for audio/video content
Videos and audio clips that include spoken word should have accessible captions if you host them on your website. YouTube provides automatic captioning options and is a good idea for video hosting for lots of other reasons.
I am not a lawyer…
From what I’ve read the legal details on ADA and websites still seems pretty fuzzy. There are a few resources out there that offer a basic analysis of a website with suggestions but there’s no easy way to get a straight yes or no answer if a site is compliant or not. I try to ensure that every website I build is accessible.