In 2021, having a website for your business is essential. But it’s not merely enough to secure a domain, a host, a CMS, a web designer, and a white label SEO reseller program. You need to make sure that your site is truly accessible to all users — and that means you need to consider the Americans with Disabilities Act during the development and maintenance of your site.

If this isn’t something you’d considered before, you’re not alone. But it’s crucial that you keep accessibility at the forefront in order to protect your business and address all customer needs. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to have an ADA-compliant website, why it matters, and what you can do to get started.

What is ADA Compliance?

First, it’s important to know what ADA compliance means. “ADA” is shorthand for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has been around in some form since the 1990s. You might already be familiar with the ADA if you run a brick-and-mortar location, as this legislation is what requires businesses to provide accessible parking spaces, ramps, entrances, and other features. Although this law was amended in 2009 to expand certain definitions, there is still a lot of ambiguity surrounding website accessibility.

ADA compliance, in this context, refers to websites that are fully accessible (meaning they provide an equitable experience) for all users. This means that, in order for your site to be ADA-compliant, you need to provide the same value of experience for people with all kinds of disabilities as you do to those visitors without disabilities.

Why Does ADA Compliance Matter?

ADA compliance matters for a couple of big reasons. For one thing, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. are living with a disability of some kind. If you make your site accessible only to those who see, hear, or interact with web content in the same way that you do, your business will potentially be missing out big time. An accessible website can make sure that you reach everyone and that you have no barriers that keep customers away.

Perhaps more importantly, the lack of ADA compliance is a legal liability. While it’s true that there are some businesses whose sites aren’t subject to ADA compliance guidelines, the vast majority of websites are required to meet these standards. If you fail to comply with the ADA, you run the risk of being sued. These lawsuits are becoming more prevalent, with major brands and even celebrities being forced to spend thousands on fixes and on legal settlements. By being proactive about ADA compliance, you can protect your business from legal action and bad press.

How Can You Ensure Your Site is ADA-Compliant?

Now that you know a little more about what ADA compliance means and why it matters, it’s time to take the next step to ensure your website measures up. But how do you ensure compliance?

If you have an existing website, one of the first steps is to have an accessibility audit performed. An audit can show you the scope of the changes you might need to make and put you on the right track to implementing those improvements. You might be able to make some of those fixes yourself — but if the entire site needs an overhaul (or you’re starting from scratch), you’ll want to meet with an expert who can make changes to your site’s code or perform a more customized manual review of your site.

According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, an ADA-compliant website is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. This means that your site shouldn’t rely on just one sense for accessibility; that your site should be easily operable with the use of adaptive technologies; that your site should be simple to navigate and understand; and that your site should be responsive on any device or browser.

While there’s a lot more detail that goes into crafting an ADA-compliant site — like the use of descriptive alt text, closed captioning, and certain types of coding — a qualified web designer can help you figure out exactly what your site needs to be accessible to all.

The reality is that ADA compliance is just as important as having a website at all. By keeping this information in mind, you can get started on building or fixing a site that can address every user’s needs while boosting your brand.