ADA Accessibility Principle #4: Robust

Eric Kazda  |   February 7, 2018   |  Posted in Accessibility

Does your website use ADA compliant web design? If not, you’re vulnerable to legal complications. With the new ADA legal guidelines in place, we’re breaking down the main four components to the guidelines to help businesses adjust. This time we’re covering the last principle within the new law, a robust website.

What do you know about ADA compliant web design?

As of January 18th, 2018, all new websites and updates to existing websites now need to comply with specific legal guidelines on ADA accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 were created by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative and are available to view in their entirety here.

If you’re just starting to learn about ADA compliance, get caught up by reading a couple of our previous articles.

The law is broken down by four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Under each principle, there are guidelines that provide specific goals a website should work toward. Under each guideline, there are testable success criteria. Those criteria are graded A, AA, or AAA. This grade shows the level of conformity to accessibility, AAA being the highest. The law only requires A and AA criteria to be met, so we won’t be covering any AAA criteria in this ADA compliance guide.

Today we’re breaking down the fourth and last principle within the rules – robust.

Principle #4: Robust

Assistive technology

Defined by WCAG 2.0, this principle states that “content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.” Basically, your website’s content and back-end coding needs to be compatible with the software a user who is disabled uses to interact with your website. An example of a common assistive technology would be screen readers like JAWS, NVDA, or Voiceover.

Check out JAWS navigating a website in real time.

Guideline 4.1: Compatible

Accessibility disability computer icon

“Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.”

There are two main success criteria identified under this guideline. Number one, content developed using a markup language like HTML has to be able to be decoded, or parsed, by assistive technology. Number two, if your user interface components are custom-built, the name and role of the interface has to be programmatically determined, values within these interfaces must have the ability to be programmatically set, and the assistive technology must be notified of changes so it can notify its user.

This may sound complicated, but it really comes down to using the correct formatting in any markup or programming language on your site. Custom scripts that have to adhere to this rule are really only created by website developers, and those developers should be aware of these regulations.

Examples of compatible websites:
  • Your markup language content has complete start and end tags, is nested according to the specifications, they don’t have any duplicate attributes, and the IDs you use are unique.
  • If user interfaces are custom-built, they meet the same standards for compatibility as all other markup and programming languages on the internet.

Final recap on all ADA principles

These new guidelines may feel overwhelming, but at their core they are simply about improving the user experience. Much of the same techniques you normally utilize to improve the user experience and intuitiveness of your site will help you achieve these ADA guidelines. All of the principles, including perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, work with each other to accomplish the primary goal. The tactics you enforce for once principle will often apply to more than one principle and guideline.

The most important thing you can do in 2018 is to make sure you’re working with a qualified website design and development agency who understands the new regulations. Talk with your current agency and ask how they are prepared to handle these guidelines. If you’re unhappy with their response read How to Choose a Web Designer for a Major Website Redesign. The article will give you great starting point on how to search for a new agency.

As always, feel free to comment below any questions you may have – or contact us directly. Either way, make sure you’re informed of the new ADA website compliance laws and take steps to ensure your website meets the new standard. Good luck!

Writing in journal with pen and glasses on desk
Is Your Website Accessible to the Blind?

Creating a website accessible to all users is not just important because of a possible lawsuit or government action, but also because you want your business to be available to all potential customers. It’s simply a good business practice and an example of positive customer relations.

Find out if your website meets ADA guidelines.

Contact us now for a FREE consultation!

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Eric Kazda

Eric Kazda is a leading expert in the interactive development industry with over fifteen years of experience. With a mastery of critical development technologies, Eric has crafted innovative award-winning work for clients both large and small. Coupling this knowledge with a real world understanding of usability and technological feasibility, his work is developed to be accessible by every user.

Read more by Eric