Can a Widget Make My Website ADA Compliant?

Website ADA non-compliance has been in the news in recent years. Well-known companies such as CVS Pharmacy have been sued for failing to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. Even healthcare companies, who one would think should know better, have not been spared their fair share of lawsuits for the same issue.

In response to the increased number of lawsuits for ADA non-compliance, some companies have begun offering a low-cost, easy fix solution: widgets that will make your website ADA compliant. As with any purported magic pill, there are lots of nasty side effects if you choose this option. Keep reading to find out more about the pros and cons of using widgets for ADA compliance.

What Are Widgets For Website ADA Compliance?

Widgets are small lines of code that can be pasted on your website, ostensibly to make it ADA compliant. In theory, someone will open a page on your website and thanks to that code, they’ll see an accessibility icon box. The user can click it and be presented with a list of features. Among the most common are:

  • Alternative navigation methods
  • Page readers
  • The ability to change text size and spacing
  • Color contrast adjustments
  • Being able to close or stop animated gifs, pngs or other forms of animation that can provoke seizures
  • Alt text, which is used to describe non-decorative images on a page.

Many of the companies who sell widgets for website ADA compliance promise quick and painless implementation. They even tout their use of artificial intelligence in the process, which also makes their product sound cutting edge. It’s not—more on that later.

For many website owners, this no-frills solution to ADA compliance sounds tempting. Yet, when you take a closer look at ADA compliance widgets, they don’t hold up well.

The Pros Of Website Widgets For ADA Compliance

Frankly, there are few positives to using website widgets for ADA compliance. Yes, they can fix some compliance issues. They’re also quick and easy to implement. A website owner who is not tech-savvy might even think that’s good enough. And that’s what these widgets are; slightly better than doing nothing. That’s not the kind of standard you want to meet for your website’s ADA compliance.

The Cons Of Website Widgets For ADA Compliance

The biggest con to using website widgets is that they won’t stop your business or organization from being sued for ADA non-compliance. Many of the companies who offer these widgets are guilty of the sin of omission. They won’t tell you their product doesn’t make your website ADA compliant. They’ll just bury that information somewhere in their sales pitch or not mention it at all. That alone should make you suspicious.

There are plenty of other cons to using website widgets for ADA compliance:

  • Some visitors to your website may not even be able to find the accessibility menu provided by the widget. This makes your website non-ADA compliant.
  • Because they don’t account for every type of disabled visitor to your website, certain accessibility elements will be missing. This also makes your website non-ADA compliant.
  • They can conflict with elements already on your website, such as screen readers. This may not be a compliance issue, but it can turn off vision-impaired visitors to your site.
  • They can slow your website down, which negatively impacts your SEO ranking.
  • You might be told that ADA compliance widgets won’t touch your website’s underlying code. That’s not a good thing. Many law firms scan websites looking for compliance failures. They do this by scanning a website’s code. If no one ever touched your website’s underlying code, all accessibility failures will inevitably come up. That leaves you vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Companies that offer ADA compliance widgets like to boast that their products use artificial intelligence, which sounds impressive. But it’s another reason to not use them. Using AI to describe non-decorative images on your website for vision-impaired users (known as alt text) will produce robotic, sterile descriptions that may not even be in complete sentences. Sometimes they’ll also be wrong. This not only puts you at risk of being non-ADA compliant, it also hurts your SEO ranking.

There is no magic pill that will instantly make your website ADA compliant. Instead, you need to work with a WCAG website compliance consultant who will do the following:

  • Perform a manual website accessibility audit using WCAG 2.0 guidelines for Levels A and AA.
  • Once all non-compliant elements have been identified, perform a WCAG website remediation. In other words, they should fix those elements.
  • Then they’ll perform another manual accessibility audit to ensure all elements have been fixed.

In recent years, the number of lawsuits for ADA non-compliance has skyrocketed. Trying to make your website compliant on your own can be intimidating. You need to know how to perform manual website accessibility audits, be up to date on WCAG guidelines and be able to code. Also, be aware that ADA compliance is strict: just one non-compliant element as outlined by the previously mentioned WCAG guidelines makes your entire website non-ADA compliant.

Fortunately, there are plenty of benefits to making your website ADA compliant. By hiring a WCAG website compliance consultant you’ll have peace of mind, open your website to many more visitors and improve your SEO ranking.