Businesses interested in growth don’t generally turn away customers and set out to incur government fines. But non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can lead to exactly that. Since ADA was enacted in 1990, it has grown to embrace our changing national landscape, and that covers the Internet and digital access.1 If your institution hasn’t made accommodations across its digital offerings, awareness of the penalties should incentivize you to take steps now.

Department of Justice (DOJ) civil penalties have jumped to a maximum of $75,000 for a first violation, with additional accrued expenses in damages and legal fees ranging in the thousands to hundreds of thousands.2 This is clearly trouble best avoided. Beyond that, think of the clients you are bypassing by not providing a means through which to work with you. You and your board of directors wouldn’t think of denying movement disabled patrons access to your facility via a wheelchair ramp. Shouldn’t all disabled patrons be welcomed with accommodating digital offerings?

While the DOJ’s binding rules for ADA compliant websites are expected in 2018, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG-2.0) include a broad range of recommendations for accessibility relating to visual, auditory, speech, cognitive and movement limitations, photosensitivity, and learning disabilities, as well as combinations of these.

Taking steps to comply with the ADA will empower your clients and your institution. As one senior citizen commented, “As people age, they lose patience. So the easier any financial transaction is, such as paying a credit card bill, the faster it is, the more seniors will use that company or service.”

Here are some ways that specific disabilities may easily be accommodated within your company’s website and mobile app.

  • For individuals with hearing loss, audio content may not be perceived. Therefore captioning and transcripts are essential. Your public webinars can embrace more users when the transcript is posted along with a captioned video or audio cut.
  • Screen readers and/or voice dictation software may be the needed bridge for individuals with cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia or ADHD. Challenges with understanding instructions or distractions can be assuaged with these tools. Screen readers are also valuable for blind and low vision patients, as are Braille display and screen magnification software.
  • Those who are mobility impaired may have difficulty entering information. Pinching or zooming on mobile devices, along with using a computer mouse, may also be beyond their reach. Eye tracking or voice dictation software may be their key to accessing your website.

Best practices as related to the above include:

Visual & Audio Accommodation:

  • Include descriptive captions to identify an image, or alt text within the code. Without the added text, a blind person’s screen reader would not know if the image is a logo, link to another page, or a stock photo.
  • Don’t rely on color as your site’s navigational tool; colorblind users and screen readers will not be able to differentiate based on color alone.
  • Ditch the pdfs. Image based formats cannot be read by screen readers or text enlargement programs.
  • Avoid including content that flashes more than three times, including flashes within videos, as this may cause seizures for the photosensitive.
  • Where there are sound prompts, include a visual message.
  • Allow font size and color adjustments throughout the site and app. High contrast color settings or very large fonts may be necessary for the visually impaired.
  • Don’t set videos to play automatically; include text captions for the deaf, as well as narration and transcripts for the blind.


  • Provide keyboard shortcuts for all website functions.
  • Design tabbing order to be smooth and logical.
  • Make sure that pages relying on plugins return to the parent page or offer exit instructions.
  • Present content in multiple ways.

Online Forms – Be sure code is executed thoughtfully:

  • Make instructions easy to find.
  • Clearly label fields, and indicate required fields.
  • Provide visual and audio error messaging that explains which fields need to be fixed and why.
  • Extend session timeouts.

As you steer your company toward full digital compliance, it is wise to identify individuals who will be tasked with overseeing and ensuring web accessibility, and to include training for web and content development staff.

Want to know if your site is ADA compliant? Click here for a free assessment.