Writing an ADA Compliance Accessibility Statement is Hard…Here are Some Tips

New here? Check out part one of this series first: Things You Should Know About Building An Accessible Website

It’s that time again! Time to talk ADA compliant web design. More specifically, let’s talk about accessibility statements.

As we discussed in part-one, an accessibility statement is an important part of any website striving to be accessible to those with disabilities. Not only does it provide alternate options if a user is unable to access a portion of your website due to disability, but it brings to light an organization’s ongoing commitment to being accessible and asserts that they’ve made their best attempts at being ADA Compliant.

Below, we’ve broken down the components of a good accessibility statement, as well as some red flags to watch for and opportunities for a little extra credit.

Components of an Accessibility Statement

Outline your commitment to being accessible.

You have the floor – use it well! Share your commitment to providing accessible content.  

Share which guidelines you are striving to be in compliance with, as well as the level you are aiming to meet.

The industry standards currently come from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. State this in your accessibility statement.

There are three levels to web content accessibility: Level A (the lowest), AA, and AAA (the highest). More content must be accessible in order to qualify for each level. For example, in reference to video and audio content, Level A compliance requires transcripts or captions for all pre-recorded content; Level AA requires text transcripts or captions for pre-recorded and live content; Level AAA requires all the above, plus sign language interpretation. To read more about what each level requires, visit the W3C guidelines.

Explain on a technical level how your website is structurally built.

You’ll refer to the W3C guidelines again here, but instead of referring to the content-related standards, you’ll be looking at the structural components like HTML, Javascript, and CSS.

HTML markup, for example, should include clear landmarks identifying where content starts and ends, the native language of the website, give context to form fields, and much more. When these frameworks are correctly implemented, users should be able to navigate using only the keyboard, make text larger, know via screenreader when on-screen content is changing, and much more.

Assuming you worked with an experienced web developer to create your website, many of these things are likely already in place. Discuss any concerns with your developer to determine the best phrasing for this section of your accessibility statement.

State any specific areas of inaccessibility, provided you have suitable alternatives elsewhere.

Use this space to state that, while you strive to meet the guidelines, it isn’t always possible to do so. Call out specific areas of inaccessibility and suitable alternatives.

Provide a specific line of contact dedicated to this issue.

Having a dedicated email address or phone number for complaints is nonnegotiable. Having a 24/7 staffed phone line isn’t feasible for most businesses, so we recommend a dedicated email address. It should be checked at least once a day and queries should be responded to promptly. In this section of your accessibility statement, also provide a timeframe for when someone will respond to messages (within one business day, for example).

Extra Credit

Describe the types of files users may encounter and how to read them.

If your website contains special file types, like PDFs, Word documents or Powerpoints, give tips in your statement for how to access these types of files, including links for where to download any software necessary (such as Adobe Reader for accessing PDFs).

USDA.gov has a great example of how to do this in their accessibility statement:
“PDF format is used to preserve the content and layout of our hard copy publications. Publications in PDF can only be viewed and printed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader®, version 3.0 or higher. You can download and get help using the Acrobat Reader at the Adobe Systems, Inc. site. The downloadable Acrobat Reader software is available at NO CHARGE from Adobe. Download Acrobat Reader

People using screen-reading devices generally are unable to read documents directly in PDF format, unless they have an accessibility plug-in installed on their system along with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. This plug-in is available at NO CHARGE from Adobe. Adobe also has online tools that will convert PDF files to HTML on request. To get the plug-in and latest news about Adobe’s accessibility tools and services, visit the Access Adobe site. Access Adobe

Requesting alternate formats

If you are able or willing to supply alternate formats of your website copy or resources, include that as well. These alternate formats could include Braille, large print, or audiotapes.

List the accessibility features of your website

If you want to go really above and beyond, list out each accessibility feature you’ve implemented (check out our first post for some suggestions) with a description of how this can help users. In general, a list like this is great to have handy even for internal company use to see how you stack up at a glance.

Red Flags

Do not admit fault.

Saying things like, “Portions of our website are not ADA compliant,” may sound like the reasonable, transparent thing to do, but could harm you if you were pulled into litigation later on.

Be careful not to imply your website is 100% ADA compliant.

As we discussed in our first post, ADA compliance for websites is impossible to measure at this point. There are no strict laws or rules governing what makes a website ADA compliant, so don’t imply that your website meets these criteria.

An accessibility statement is a great way to show your commitment to providing equal web access to all visitors, including those with disabilities. Looking for more insight into ADA compliant web design? Check out our first post on the history of the ADA and best practices to implement on your website.

This blog post is not legal advice, but digital marketing and web development guidance based on industry standards. Please seek legal counsel if you feel that is appropriate.