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Is Your Site ADA Compliant?

By Shane Jester, Central Web Support

Do you maintain an official Website at the University? If so, did you know that state Websites are required to be ADA compliant? Do you even know what ADA compliant means?

ADA Basics

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) basically states that those people with either physical or mental handicaps shall not be discriminated against in cases where it is possible to avoid such discrimination.  Because the internet is such a visual experience, it is easy to forget that not everyone can see it. That does not mean that these same people cannot participate and benefit from the internet. There are several "text-to-speech" computer software packages that will translate information on a computer to speech, allowing a person with a visual impairment to hear the content of your Website. However, there are a few things which you as a Web developer must do in order to make this possible.

Making your Website ADA Compliant

  1. If you develop a Website with cutting-edge technology, make sure it is readable by the text-to-speech readers and if it is not, then provided an alternate Web page that is readable. The Web is always changing and new technologies are coming forth every day. However, the software which translates these technologies is not always capable of doing so immediately. 

  2. Remember that a graphic is not something a speech reader can translate. If you use a graphic to display any meaning at all, then place a description of the graphic in the ALT TAG.  This can be done in Microsoft FrontPage by selecting the picture properties and placing the descriptive text in the "Alternative representation Textbox". The speech reader will then read that text when the graphic is selected. 

  3. Avoid the use of frames whenever possible. Although frames can give a very complex Website better navigation features when used properly, they are often unreadable by speech readers. Usually, only one of the frame windows is translated by the software which makes the Website appear incomplete.

Test it out

These are just three of the major pitfalls that have the ability to make a Website ADA non-compliant.  However, these are also the most common reasons that sites fall in the non-compliant category. The way to be sure if your site is ADA compliant is to test it using "text-to-speech" software. If you do not have the money to purchase the software, there are packages installed in the Adaptive Computer Lab located in Chilton Hall room 116. If you have a valid Student or Faculty/Staff ID you can use the computers to test your Website. Whether it is your personal Web page or an official UNT Website, you should always make sure that you can have as many viewers as possible.