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ADA Compliance Made Easy: ADA Testing for Websites and Applications

ADA Compliance Made Easy: ADA Testing for Websites and Application.

Websites and applications play a central role on the web as the cornerstones of digital interactions. But, these tools can be a real pain for users with disabilities if they're not designed properly. ADA compliance comes in handy in this regard, as it ensures accessibility for everyone, including individuals with disabilities. However, achieving ADA compliance can be challenging, especially regarding testing accessibility.

This article will discuss the importance of ADA testing for websites and applications. It will also provide practical insights and strategies to make ADA compliance seamless.

What is ADA Compliance?

The acronym "ADA" stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became a federal law in the US on July 26, 1990. ADA ensures non-discrimination and equal access to public resources for people with disabilities. Thus, ADA compliance means adhering to the ADA's requirements and standards.

ADA is a legal requirement that aims to create an inclusive digital environment. Thanks to it, users with disabilities can easily access Internet information and services. Violating ADA regulations could result in lawsuits and fines, harming your business' reputation. Examples of ADA non-compliance lawsuits are Robles v. Domino's Pizza LLC from 2016 and the Louisiana Tech ADA lawsuit from 2013. A more accessible and inclusive online experience requires adherence to ADA regulations.

ADA compliance covers many areas, like websites, communication, and physical spaces. ADA compliance in digital spaces means creating accessible websites and applications. It involves implementing features like video captions, alt text for images, keyboard navigation, color contrast adjustments, and more. Implementing these features will improve your website accessibility for users with disabilities. Examples of these users include users with visual impairments, motor disabilities, and more.

Importance of ADA Compliance

It is crucial to ensure that websites and applications comply with ADA standards. Prioritizing accessibility in web development is essential for the following reasons:

  • Improved user experience: Putting accessibility first benefits everyone, not just users with disabilities. An ADA-compliant website or application prioritizes usability and accessibility for all. Using proper headings and alt text for images is one of the principles of an accessible and effective UX design strategy. These principles help create cleaner, more user-friendly interfaces, benefiting all users.
  • Positive reputation: Positive reputations are essential to a business's success. Compliance with ADA is one of the critical factors in building trust. It signals an organization's commitment to inclusion and accessibility. In return, it fosters positive brand perceptions, increasing trust, loyalty, and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Search engine advantages: Search engines like Google consider website accessibility a ranking factor. The ADA often requires websites to be well structured, with headings, alt texts, and more. The presence of these elements on a website can help search engines better index content. Thus, the website receives more organic traffic, better rankings, and search visibility.
  • Future readiness: Standards for accessibility evolve as technology advances. ADA compliance guarantees that websites and applications remain compliant with future regulations. It enables organizations to stay current with technological changes and maintain accessibility standards. Also, upgrading inaccessible digital assets can be both time-consuming and expensive. Thus, prioritizing ADA compliance can help organizations save valuable time and resources.

Understanding ADA Testing

Accessibility testing ensures equal access for all. It evaluates a digital product's accessibility and usability for people with disabilities. Examples of these digital products include websites, applications, e-books, videos, and more. It makes digital content accessible to vision, hearing, or motor-impaired users, for example. This results in broader customer reach helps boost SEO, and improves user experience.

The primary aim of accessibility testing is to make digital products more inclusive. This process involves integrating various accessibility tests into quality assurance (QA) practices. It helps identify any accessibility challenges within the digital product. These difficulties can be visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive barriers.

They complicate navigation, interaction with multimedia elements, and more. Also, adherence to accessibility standards, like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), is vital. It ensures that any user can access all content on a web application, regardless of ability.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

ADA does not expressly specify technical standards for accessible websites. However, courts and legal professionals rely on WCAG, which acts as a gold standard for evaluating website accessibility by ADA regulations.

The WCAG is a set of internationally recognized standards for improving web accessibility. Offering comprehensive guidelines, they ensure online content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. It encompasses various aspects of web content, such as text, images, sounds, and more. As a result, the WCAG facilitates accessibility for all, particularly users with disabilities.

The WCAG was first published on May 5, 1999, by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It was a notable step toward establishing accessibility standards and boosting digital inclusion. As technologies and user needs have evolved, WCAG has undergone revisions and updates. The most recent version of the WCAG is WCAG 2.2, released in October 2023.

The Core Principles of WCAG Accessibility Testing

The POUR principle of accessibility testing.

Creating inclusive and user-friendly software products requires accessibility testing as a core principle. There are four core principles to WCAG accessibility testing, often called POUR:

  1. Perceivability
  2. Operability
  3. Understandability
  4. Robustness


The basis of accessibility testing for digital products is the perceivability principle. It ensures universal digital content access for everyone regardless of their sensory abilities. This principle makes information and interface elements perceivable through visual, auditory, and touch.

Example 1 - The perceivability for users with visual impairments

One way to make visuals accessible is by providing alternative text (alt text) for images. Images are often used to convey information on websites and applications. However, users with visual impairments may require image descriptions to comprehend these images.

Adding alt text to images helps these users get what the images are all about with the help of screen readers. Alt text is a written description of an image that tells you its meaning and function. Well-written alt text can also enhance SEO and search ranking for users of all abilities.

<!-- Image with alt text -->
<img src="tree.jpg" alt="Blue skies and a majestic black oak tree with green leaves">

<!-- Image without alt text -->
<img src="tree.jpg" >
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Contrasting text and background colors are also crucial for creating visually accessible content. It helps users with low vision or color blindness to discern between elements in a website. WCAG requires equal color contrast ratios between text and background. Many color contrast tools are available, like webAim, Coolors, Accessible Colors, and more. These tools are essential for evaluating and maintaining color contrast in digital content. They ensure compliance with accessibility standards and improve the inclusivity of web experiences.

Example 2 - Perceivability for users with auditory impairments

Users with auditory impairments may be unable to understand multimedia (audio, video) content. Captions for audio and video are helpful in this situation. Captions provide a text-based representation of spoken content in multimedia files. Auditory information, such as dialogue and narration, helps these users understand multimedia content.

<!-- Video with captions-->
<video width="320" height="240" controls>
<source src="html.mp4" type="video/mp4">
<track label="English" kind="subtitles" srclang="en" src="path_to_captions.vtt" default />
<!-- fallback for browsers that don't support video files -->
Your browser doesn't support HTML video. Here is a <a href="htmlvideo.mp4" download="htmlvideo.mp4">link to the video</a> instead.

<!-- Audio with captions -->
<audio controls>
<source src="htmlaudio.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
<track src="path_to_captions.vtt" kind="subtitles" srclang="en" label="English">
<!-- fallback for browsers that don't support audio files -->
<p>Your browser doesn't support HTML audio. Here is a <a href="htmlaudio.mp3" download="htmlaudio.mp3">link to the audio</a> instead.
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The snippet src="path_to_captions.vtt contains the caption text in WebVTT format. A caption appears at the bottom of the video, allowing users to read along with the video's dialogue. They benefit individuals with impaired vision, textual learners, and those in noisy environments. Audio descriptions narrate visual cues like actions, settings, and scene changes. Thus, ensuring that the captions accurately match the audio is essential. That way, everyone can have an enjoyable viewing experience, no matter who they are.

Example 3 - The perceivability principle for touch

Perceivability for touch refers to improving touch-based interfaces and keyboard navigation functionality. It aims to make these technologies more user-friendly for individuals with motor disabilities. Thus, the interface must be easy to use, whether via a touchscreen or other means, such as a keyboard.

Many users use touchscreens, like smartphones and tablets, to interact with digital devices. To interact with these devices, they tap, swipe, or pinch to zoom using their fingers or styluses. These gestures are fundamental to navigating applications, selecting options, and interacting with content. However, users with motor disabilities, like limited dexterity, may find touchscreen interaction challenging. Thus, touch-based components like buttons and links should be easily distinguishable and operable. They must be well-sized and spaced to make tapping easy and accurate for these users. It improves interaction accuracy and efficiency by reducing accidental taps and gestures.

Also, providing tactile feedback and clear visual indicators enhances touch-based interaction perception. Users need to know what's going on when they tap a button. Visual indicators like color changes or animations enable users to confirm their actions. It is especially vital for people with limited finger control, who rely more on visual cues. Using gestures like tapping and swiping may be convenient for some users but not others. Therefore, if your application uses gestures, provide alternative methods, such as keyboard input.

Keyboard navigation is vital for people with motor disabilities who struggle with touch screens. Improving keyboard navigation requires several steps, including providing shortcuts for frequently used actions. It also involves using logical navigation sequences like keyboard arrows or tab keys. Furthermore, users with motor disabilities can be further supported by integrating assistive technologies. It may include ensuring compatibility with adaptive switches, sip-and-puff devices, and other devices. Doing so can significantly improve the accessibility of touch-based interfaces and keyboard navigation.


The operability principle ensures digital interfaces and content are fully functional and navigable. It provides accessibility for all users, regardless of their abilities. Thus, digital products are usable by users with cognitive, motor, and vision impairments.

Operability includes several essential components, such as:

  • Keyboard Accessibility: An essential aspect of operability is keyboard accessibility. It guarantees that a website's or application's core functionality is keyboard-accessible. Thus, you can use keyboard shortcuts and tabs to navigate menus, click buttons, fill out forms, and more. It is vital for people who find it hard to utilize a mouse due to motor disabilities or other impairments.
  • Focus Management: A key component of operability in accessibility testing is focus management. A focus indicator highlights a webpage or application's active or focused element. Proper focus management allows users to identify and interact with web elements easily. It ensures the focus indicator moves seamlessly through elements like buttons and links. Thus, it is vital to distinguish the focused element by using borders, colors, or other visual cues. This way, users with keyboards or screen readers can know where they are in the digital interface. Also, the focus should move from one element to another, following a logical flow. It is essential to avoid abrupt jumps or shifts that may cause frustration for users.


The understandability principle emphasizes the clarity of information and user interfaces. It ensures everyone can understand them, regardless of their knowledge or cognitive abilities. This principle involves using precise language, organizing content logically, and providing predictable behavior. It aims to make digital content and user interfaces clear and intuitive for users. Thus, the website or application becomes more inclusive and accessible, improving user satisfaction.

There are two main aspects of the understandability principle:

  • Readable Text: Clarity and simplicity are crucial when creating digital content. Using overly technical terms or jargon may confuse users with diverse reading skills. Hence, it is essential to use everyday language to convey your intended message. Also, matching your content's reading level with your target audience is vital. The best practice is to offer many versions of the same content, varying in complexity. Use headings, subheadings, and lists to organize the content logically into manageable sections. It will make it easier for users to scan and read the content. If your audience speaks different languages, consider providing translations of your content.
  • Predictable Interactions: An essential part of understandability is the predictability of interactive elements. It involves using layouts and elements users are familiar with from other interfaces. An interactive element, such as a button, link, or form field, should behave predictably. Users should be able to rely on them, regardless of their familiarity with the interface. For instance, when you click a button, it should always do what it should, like submitting a form. The users should know what will happen when they interact with these elements. There should be no confusion or uncertainty regarding the expected outcome. Also, it is vital to provide clear explanations for functionalities and interactions. Whenever possible, avoid confusing error messages and provide easy-to-follow instructions.


The Robustness principle ensures that web content is compatible with diverse user agents. These user agents include browsers, assistive technologies like screen readers, and operating systems. It ensures that everyone can access web content, no matter the tools they use or their abilities.

The Robust principle includes several essential components, such as:

  • Compatibility with User Agents: The robustness principle ensures user-agent compatibility. A user agent handles retrieving and facilitating end-user interaction with web content. It includes software tools like operating systems, assistive technologies, and web browsers. This principle ensures that content is accessible regardless of users' preferred web browser. Content must, for instance, function properly on popular (Chrome, Firefox) and lesser-known browsers. They should also be compatible with Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS operating systems. Also, it is essential to ensure compatibility with assistive technologies like screen readers. It ensures that digital experiences are inclusive and accessible to many users.
  • Robust Code Interpretation: The Robust principle goes beyond mere user-agent compatibility. It emphasizes the need for web content to be reliably interpreted by diverse user agents. This process requires adhering to coding best practices, using semantic HTML (


    for headings), alt text for images, and more. If you use custom components, they should be adequately defined and labeled. Also, you must notify user agents when your content changes in real-time. Thus, assistive technologies can adjust their interpretation accordingly, providing a seamless user experience.

The WCAG levels of accessibility conformance

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. These levels represent different degrees of compliance with the WCAG guidelines. Thus, a website must meet all the success criteria at that level to meet a specific conformance level. Below is a summary of the different levels of WCAG conformity:

  • Level A (minimum): This conformance level addresses the fundamental priority accessibility requirements. It addresses accessibility barriers and makes essential content accessible to people with disabilities. Achieving Level A conformance indicates a foundational level of accessibility compliance. It provides basic accessibility but doesn't address all possible accessibility requirements.
  • Level AA (mid-range level): Level AA builds upon Level A by addressing a broader range of accessibility issues. This level of conformance is widely regarded as the recommended standard of accessibility. It provides a well-balanced approach between effort and accessibility benefits. Accessibility features like keyboard navigation can significantly improve usability for users with disabilities. It, in turn, ensures their inclusion and participation in various activities. This level of conformity indicates that the web page meets Level A and Level AA success criteria.
  • Level AAA (highest level): Level AAA represents the highest level of accessibility conformance. It aims to provide an Optimally accessible experience for users of all abilities. Compared to Level AA, Level AAA addresses a broader set of accessibility needs. However, achieving AAA is not mandatory; it demonstrates your commitment to inclusive design. Due to its stricter rules, Level AAA may not be feasible for every website or application.

The Different Types of Accessibility Testing Methods

Accessibility testing is essential to ensuring digital products are accessible to all users. There are various accessibility testing methods available, each with its unique purpose. Here are some common testing techniques:

Automated testing

Automated testing uses software tools to identify accessibility guideline violations in web content. It helps identify and fix common accessibility issues like low color contrast. However, they have limitations since they cannot handle complex problems requiring human judgment. Thus, a thorough evaluation involves a combination of automated and manual testing.

Automated testing tools use algorithms to scan web pages and applications. They analyze HTML, CSS, and other elements to identify potential accessibility barriers. These tools evaluate digital products according to recognized accessibility guidelines, such as WCAG. After completing the evaluation, the tool generates detailed reports highlighting potential accessibility issues.

The reports often rank the issues by severity level and provide actionable solutions. Using these reports, developers can prioritize accessibility fixes and improve their products' accessibility. Popular examples of automated testing tools include Axe, WAVE, and SiteImprove. Also, most modern browsers offer built-in accessibility audits within their developer tools.

Manual Testing

Manual testing helps identify nuanced accessibility issues that automated tools may overlook. It involves human testers manually evaluating a website or application for accessibility compliance. These testers use assistive technologies to identify barriers and assess accessibility features. It helps them experience the user journey from the point of view of users with disabilities. Thus, manual testing involves hands-on examination by trained individuals. It doesn't rely on software tools like automated testing to find accessibility issues.

Note: Manual testing can be time-consuming, repetitive, and subject to human error. Prioritizing manual testing of your applications' or websites' most critical functionalities is essential. This approach helps identify any usability issues at an early stage. Moreover, a practical evaluation involves combining automated and manual testing. Automated testing is suitable for automating repetitive tasks and avoiding regressions. In contrast, manual testing provides a more accurate user experience assessment.

There are two main methods used in manual testing:

  • Manual review: During manual reviews, human testers manually inspect websites for accessibility issues. They conduct manual reviews using various methods to assess compliance with accessibility standards. For instance, they use a keyboard instead of a mouse or touchscreen to navigate the interface. It helps identify potential problems, like unresponsive menus and keyboard shortcut challenges. They also test using screen readers, which convert on-screen text into speech output. Doing this helps identify unclear screen reader instructions, flow problems, and more. Also, it is crucial to check if the contrast ratio between the text and background is low. Specialists use color contrast checkers like WebAIM and APCA to ensure adequate contrast. It gives an in-depth view of the user experience and issues that automated tools might miss.
  • User Testing: A critical part of accessibility evaluation is user testing. It involves recruiting individuals with disabilities to interact with a website or application. Among these individuals are people who have visual or hearing impairments and more. A tester gives them tasks within the website or app that reflect real-world events. They use their preferred assistive technology to interact, navigate, and fill out forms. During the testing, they provide feedback about how easy it is to use and suggest ways to improve it. This feedback allows organizations to refine their designs and prioritize accessibility issues.

Conducting ADA Testing

ADA testing is essential for websites and applications to be accessible to all users. It is crucial for legal compliance, fostering inclusivity, and usability of digital content. Below is a step-by-step approach to conducting ADA testing:

  • Learn Accessibility Standards: Conducting ADA testing requires familiarity with accessibility standards. Knowing relevant accessibility standards, like ADA Title III regulations and WCAG, is essential. It helps you get a good grasp of the accessibility rules that you need to follow. Thus, you can identify accessibility barriers and determine proper evaluation criteria.
  • Develop a Testing Plan: ADA testing requires defining its scope and methods. It involves selecting appropriate tools and testing scenarios to assess accessibility. It includes using automated testing tools, assistive technologies, and more. Also, it is crucial to define various accessibility testing scenarios and use cases. Consider factors like keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, and other WCAG criteria. It is essential to test all accessibility requirements with various users and tasks. Thus, the testing process identifies and addresses accessibility barriers effectively.
  • Conduct Testing: An extensive accessibility compliance evaluation requires manual and automated tests. A manual accessibility test involves a hands-on assessment of the website or application. Testers focus on user interaction, visual design, and content accessibility. In contrast, automated testing uses software tools to scan for accessibility issues. Testers can combine manual and automated testing approaches to evaluate accessibility compliance. In this way, they can use the strengths of each method to identify and fix a wider range of accessibility issues.
  • Analyze and fix issues: ADA testing requires analyzing automated and manual results. Assess whether there are accessibility barriers and any potential violations of WCAG criteria. Not all accessibility issues are equal. Thus, prioritize them based on their severity and impact on users with disabilities. Once prioritized, create a remediation plan to resolve each issue. The remediation plan should provide detailed actions and resources for resolving each issue. It ensures effective and efficient accessibility barrier resolution.
  • Document Testing Results: A critical aspect of accessibility testing is documenting results. It involves recording testing methods, remediation efforts undertaken, and other details. The documentation helps ensure consistency by providing a valuable reference for future testing. Also, thorough documentation can help prove due diligence in addressing accessibility concerns. Documentation like this can be beneficial in case of a legal dispute or an audit for compliance.
  • Maintain Ongoing Accessibility: Accessibility is not a one-time initiative but a continuous process. Websites and applications are constantly changing and updating their content and features. These changes may unintentionally create new accessibility challenges. Therefore, keeping your website or application ADA-compliant requires constant review and update. This results in a reduced risk of non-compliance and legal.

Accessibility Statements for ADA Compliance

An accessibility statement is a crucial component of ADA compliance. This statement is a formal document that outlines a company's commitment to accessibility. It details how they adhere to WCAG accessibility guidelines for users with disabilities. Furthermore, accessibility statements include mechanisms for reporting accessibility issues and requesting help. It enhances transparency and accountability in the company's accessibility practices.

A well-written accessibility statement includes sections that describe the organization's accessibility commitment. It provides accessibility information, contact information for feedback, and highlights ADA compliance. Below is an example of an accessibility statement:

A sample accessibility statement.

The above accessibility statement exemplifies your organization's dedication to accessibility. Thus, it's imperative to develop one for your organization.


ADA compliance is not just a legal requirement. It is a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive digital environment for everyone. Not meeting ADA standards can result in legal issues and harm a business's reputation. Thus, companies should prioritize accessibility testing to ensure confidence when navigating accessibility evaluations. Moreover, it's worth noting that ADA compliance is an ongoing process. Therefore, providing equal access to users with disabilities requires regular testing and maintenance.


The following resources may also be helpful:

Top comments (1)

kmoda1202 profile image

To the point information, thank you for this informative article