ADA Compliance (Part 3): Practical Steps Towards Compliance

Welcome back to our in-depth exploration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the last installment, we dove deep into the nuts and bolts of what makes a website accessible, WCAG compliant, and (by extension) ADA compliant. Today, we complete our shared journey towards stress-free web accessibility by discussing the most practical and impactful options available to you today for pursuing ADA compliance.

In this installment, we will discuss:

  • Who Must Comply: Get a quick reminder about which businesses must legally comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • WCAG & ADA: Revisit, or become introduced to, the four pillars of an accessible website: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
  • The Key Elements of a Successful Compliance Strategy: Learn a high-impact strategy for becoming compliant with the ADA.
  • Finding the Right Partner: Gain perspective into what you should look for in an ideal partner for your ADA compliance journey.

The full series includes:

This article will teach you how to create a strategy for evaluating and ensuring the conformance of your company’s digital assets with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In so doing, you will develop the tools you need to secure yourself yourself against fines reaching as high as $150,000 while simultaneously broadening your online outreach to new customer demographics.

We will begin with a brief reminder about the types of businesses that have obligations under the ADA.

Who Must Comply

The ADA applies to the following business types:

  • Public Accommodations (businesses that are open to the public), regardless of business size. While by no means exhaustive, a few examples include:
    • Restaurants 
    • Retail Stores 
    • Auditorium, Theaters, and Sports Arenas 
    • Hotels 
    • Banks 
    • Service Centers (regardless of industry) 
    • Healthcare Facilities 
  • All businesses with 15 or more full-time employees that operate for 20 or more weeks per year 

As a general principle, if your business must accommodate the ADA on your physical premises, you should do so on your company website as well. For example, if you are legally obligated to provide wheelchair ramps at your physical location, it would be wise to also provide website accommodations for someone who is visually impaired.

Keep in mind, these are just examples to help clarify the concept!


To fully understand the path to web accessibility laid out by WCAG, we must familiarize ourselves with the POUR principles:

Perceivable: Web content must be presented in ways that users can perceive with their senses (sight, hearing, touch).

Operable: Users must be able to effectively interact with and navigate through the website.

Understandable: Information about, and the operation of, the user interface must be clear and intelligible.

Robust: Web content must be robust enough to be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies such as screen readers.

These four pillars of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set the standard for what it means for a website to be accessible. By understanding them, you will begin to grasp the many ways in which web accessibility affects differing experiences and abilities.

If you would like a deeper explanation of WCAG and POUR, please see the previous article in this series: ADA Compliance (Part 2): What Accessibility Means for Your Website

The Key Elements of a Successful Compliance Strategy

ADA compliance is a continuous process, not a one-time fix. The following list outlines the key components of a successful ADA compliance strategy:

Understand the Roles: It’s not just about the technology team. Content creators, designers, and other relevant staff should understand accessibility requirements and play an active role in supporting them.

Conduct an Accessibility Audit: This initial assessment, using a combination of hands-on expert review and automated tools, will highlight where your website or application currently stands in terms of WCAG standards.

Prioritize Fixes: Based on the audit results, prioritize accessibility issues based on user impact and the complexity of the required fixes.

Plan for Continual Improvement: Allocate resources to periodically revisit each part of this process in order to ensure you remain in continuous compliance with the ADA as technologies, users, and regulations evolve.

Each of these elements plays a critical role in ensuring your website is sincerely accessible to real-world users with disabilities. Below, we will dive into each item in more detail.

Understand the Roles

Web accessibility isn’t solely the domain of compliance professionals, web developers, or any other one group of people. To truly build and maintain an accessible corporate environment, the core principles of accessibility must be integrated throughout the organization.

Here’s a brief look at who should be involved in your ADA compliance strategy and why:

Business Leaders: It is critical for business leadership to be involved in their organization’s digital ADA compliance strategy. Given that non-compliance with the ADA can result in massive fines, this is quite simply a baseline component of modern fiscal responsibility.

Software Developers: These are the people who are creating the foundations of your website or application. Web software developers need to understand how to build accessible interfaces and should be familiar with WCAG guidelines.

Designers: As the people determining the ultimate look and feel of an online experience, graphic and UX designers have a significant responsibility in ensuring appropriate accessibility. A great design can improve accessibility, while poor design can create new barriers. Designers should incorporate accessibility considerations into their work, from color contrast to logical navigation flow.

Content Creators: The individuals who create and upload content must understand how to make it accessible. This includes providing alt text for images, using headers correctly, and ensuring that text is clear and understandable.

Other Staff: Every team member plays a role in promoting accessibility. From the customer service personnel who must know how to assist users with different accessibility needs to the project management staff who must allocate resources to accessibility efforts, the responsibility is truly organization-wide.

By creating a culture of accessibility, organizations can ensure a comprehensive and effective approach to ADA compliance.

Conduct an Accessibility Audit

A thorough and effective accessibility audit strategy includes three key components:

  1. Automated WCAG Assessment: The use of automated tools provides a swift and efficient method of checking your digital platform against WCAG guidelines. These tools can rapidly scan your website, identifying coding errors and other technical issues that could hinder accessibility. While efficient, it’s important to note that these tools can sometimes miss subtleties or misinterpret complex accessibility features.
  2. Hands-On WCAG Review: A manual review by an accessibility expert is an essential complement to automated assessments. In a hands-on WCAG assessment, professionals navigate your site, closely examining it for compliance with WCAG principles. They can identify more nuanced accessibility issues, such as those related to logical navigation flow and context-dependent content interpretation, that automated tools may miss.
  3. Real-World Usability Testing: To truly gauge your digital platform’s accessibility, testing with real users who have different types of disabilities is invaluable. Real-world usability testing provides insights into how your platform performs under authentic conditions and can reveal practical obstacles that may not be as readily identifiable via more “sterile” assessments that do not include real-world users and situations.

When used in combination, these three components can provide a comprehensive understanding of your website’s accessibility, ensuring that you capture the full spectrum of your system’s unique accessibility needs. As new opportunities for improvement are discovered in each phase, those learnings can be integrated into the other phases when you conduct additional Accessibility Audits in the future.

This approach maximizes the chance of uncovering accessibility barriers, thereby facilitating a more inclusive digital experience for all users and minimizing your legal compliance risk.

Prioritize Fixes

After completing a thorough accessibility audit, you’ll likely emerge with a list of potential improvements. However, not all fixes are created equal.

To make the most of your resources, you should prioritize remediation efforts based on the following factors:

  • User Impact: The degree to which an issue affects your users is a critical consideration. High-impact issues are those that significantly impede users with disabilities from interacting with your digital platform. A few possible examples of such issues include major navigational barriers, non-descriptive “alt tags” on images, inaccessible forms, or missing captions on videos. Given their significant effect on user experience, these high-impact issues should generally be prioritized.
  • Complexity: This refers to the scope of the internal resources and time required to implement a particular fix. Some fixes might be relatively simple, like adjusting color contrast, while others might be more complex, such as rearchitecting navigation structures. While high-impact fixes should be a priority, you also need to consider the resources at your disposal and balance those with the scale of the task.
  • Cost: While cost often correlates with complexity, this is not always the case. If the cost of implementing an improvement to your website or application is overly burdensome to your business, an alternative solution may exist that will be more palatable. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates only that your accommodations be “reasonable.”

By starting with high-impact, low-complexity issues, you can achieve quick, noticeable improvements in accessibility without a substantial drain on your resources. From there, you can plan for more complex fixes, allocating time and resources appropriately.

Plan for Continual Improvement

Web accessibility isn’t solely the domain of compliance professionals, web developers, or any other one group of people. To truly build and maintain an accessible corporate environment, the core principles of accessibility must be integrated throughout the organization.

Here’s a brief look at who should be involved in your ADA compliance strategy and why:

Periodic Auditing: Establish a regular schedule for accessibility audits. The frequency will depend on the pace of changes to your website and your industry’s established best practices. Regular audits help identify new issues as they arise and ensure ongoing compliance.

Training & Education: Continually educate your team on accessibility standards. As guidelines evolve and new techniques are developed, it’s vital to keep your team up to date in order to proactively identify threats and opportunities. Regular training sessions and workshops can help keep accessibility at the forefront.

Monitoring Feedback: Keep an open channel of communication with your users. User feedback can provide invaluable insights into real-world accessibility challenges on your website that might not be caught during audits.

Goals & Benchmarking: Set specific, measurable accessibility goals for your website, and regularly evaluate your progress towards those goals. This could involve improving scores on automated accessibility tests, reducing the number of user complaints, or increasing the accessibility of certain website components.

By integrating these strategies, your organization can ensure a comprehensive and lasting approach to ADA compliance, thereby continually reducing your company’s legal compliance risk and improving the quality of the digital experiences you present to your users.

Finding the Right Partner

As we’ve seen, achieving and maintaining ADA compliance involves a commitment to continual improvement, a wide range of expertise, and substantial resources. For many organizations, this may necessitate finding an external partner to guide their accessibility journey. Here are key qualities to look for in an ADA compliance partner:

  • Experience and Expertise: The ideal accessibility partner should have a solid track record in ADA compliance and a deep understanding of WCAG guidelines. Ask about previous projects and clients, and request case studies or examples that demonstrate their expertise.
  • Wide-Ranging Services: Look for a partner who can offer a comprehensive suite of services – from auditing and remediation to training and monitoring. This can ensure a holistic approach to your accessibility efforts.
  • Commitment to Accessibility: The best partners are those who are passionate about accessibility and actively work towards promoting it. Look for signs of this commitment in their company culture, values, and contributions to their community.
  • Strong Communication: Clear, proactive, and responsive communication is critical. You need a partner who will keep you informed about your compliance status, potential issues, and recommended solutions.
  • Future-Proof Solutions: As technology and standards evolve, your compliance strategy should as well. Find a partner that stays ahead of industry trends and can provide guidance for your future accessibility needs.
  • Timeline Fit: The right partner is one that can accommodate your immediate needs. If you are seeking a solution partner in response to an active lawsuit, you should work with a company that specializes in quick, actionable change. If your needs are less urgent, however, you would likely benefit more from a partner with a stronger emphasis on long-term account management. You should be wary of organizations who offer quick fixes without simultaneously discussing your greater journey towards accessibility.

By carefully selecting a partner who aligns with these qualities, you can ensure a seamless and effective approach to your organization’s ADA compliance journey.

Earthling Interactive: All of the Above

While our goal for this article series is simply to provide education, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that we are a full-suite consultative technology partner with a strong emphasis on accessibility and usability. We also have a dynamic project team that can accommodate your needs on a flexible schedule while helping you develop long-term plans that will propel your business forward.

As long as you find a partner that meets your needs, we are happy. As such, and regardless of whether we turn out to be your perfect fit, we enjoy being a part of the conversation. If you would like to discuss your ADA Compliance strategy, contact us today!


Digital ADA Compliance is a daunting prospect for many businesses, but it doesn’t have to be! With a solid business strategy, and the right team in your corner, you can achieve ADA Compliance without stress and while engaging more deeply with your customers.

If you would like to talk to somebody about the usability or accessibility of your website or application, or if you have questions about this article series, don’t be a stranger; reach out to us!

You can reach us by phone at 608-294-5460

You can also visit the contact form on our website at:

Note: All proprietary symbols displayed on this page are and remain the sole property of their respective trademark owners. This blog post does not represent formal legal advice. For formal legal advice, please seek the help of a qualified attorney. We additionally recommend, if possible, that you review official government guidance on the ADA, including: