The Impact of Web Accessibility Laws on Drupal Development

29 Aug 2023

One of the characteristics of a modern website is accessibility which means that anyone, including people with disabilities, can use your website without any problems. WHO estimates that 1.3 billion people, or one in six people worldwide, have a significant disability. This is a massive audience for your website. They will purchase your products and services if you make your WCAG Compliance website available to everyone.

Why is website accessibility important in 2023?

Still, why should website owners care about accessibility? This issue requires additional effort, time, and money from the company and its employees. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Law. In some countries, at the legislative level, it is required to make online services accessible. For example, the United States established The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). According to this act, users can take legal action if they are not satisfied with the accessibility of the site. In 2022, 8694 lawsuits were filed.
  • Profit. If users have a disability, this does not mean they have no money and will not want to purchase your goods and services. There have even been studies on the subject. The Click Away Pound Report claims that e-commerce in the UK loses £17.1 billion in revenue annually because nearly 70% of shoppers can't use the website.
  • Reputation. The user wants to purchase goods and services from a socially responsible company. Remember the impact of importance on hiring employees. A bad reputation for a company with 10,000 employees can cost up to $7.6 million in additional wages, according to research done by LinkedIn.

 What is web accessibility?

Website accessibility is widespread in the USA, the UK, and the EU. These countries have enacted laws requiring equal rights for people to get information, regardless of the physical and cognitive difficulties they may experience due to temporary or chronic impairments and illnesses.
Public accessibility, as a principle of developing and supporting information systems, is aimed at removing barriers and providing access to information for every person using information technologies. Such barriers can be:

  • Deterioration and disorders (e.g., vision, hearing, mobility).
  • Difficulties in learning.
  • Speech and cognitive impairments.

These barriers may arise due to health problems or be innate. Ignoring the problems that occur when people with disabilities use information technologies is not only an ethical issue. Laws that support accessibility principles require information service companies to take reasonable steps to reduce the difficulty of using their services by people with disabilities. It is illegal to refuse services to such people. 

The requirements on web accessibility and the ADA

WCAGs are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for digital products. In many countries, web accessibility laws for sites and apps are based on guidelines from the WCAG, usually WCAG 2.0 or 2.1. 
If the law applies to your company, simple recommendations become strict requirements. For example, all U.S. public sites that do not comply with the ADA exclude large groups of users. And there is always the risk of facing lawsuits. The U.S. currently uses the March 18, 2022 "Web Accessibility and ADA Guidelines" that commercial websites are subject to Title III of the ADA.

Wcag website compliance standards

WCAG contains basic user-oriented requirements for digital product design. The principles briefly describe the basic needs of users with disabilities.
The most recent version of WCAG 2.1 has four principles. They are easy to remember by the acronym POUR, which comprises the first letter of each principle.
P —  Perceivable
The interface is perceived by different senses, such as eyes, ears, and skin.
O — Operable
The interface can be interacted with in different ways, for example, using the keyboard or voice.
U — Understandable
The interface and its contents are easy to understand. It is clear how to interact with elements.
R — Robust

The interface complies with technical specifications and works across different devices and browsers. In practice, the principle of perceptibility is reflected in the video subtitles or the description of the pictures. Operability is site navigation from the keyboard or a pause in the video. The principle of understandability is simple texts or a clear explanation of errors, and stability is the correct semantic markup.

How to know if your Drupal website is ADA-compliant?

To check the accessibility of your Drupal site, follow a few simple steps:

  • Check which modules can be used. Starting from version 7, Drupal has various modules available to improve accessibility.
  • Conduct an accessibility audit. A professional website accessibility audit will let you know if you have problems and how to solve them. To get started, you can use Accessibility Checker, a free website audit service.

 Ada Compliance Audit Best Practices

With an ADA-compliant Drupal website, you can make your digital assets fully accessible to people with disabilities. To make your website ADA-compliant, you need to follow a few steps:

  • Download the latest Drupal modules. At the moment, it is Drupal 9.
  • Enable accessibility modules. They will help make your site not only more accessible but also faster, as well as improve SEO performance.
  • Use third-party services to make your website ADA-compliant, such as Userway and EqualWeb.

Accessibility in the Drupal development process

Caring about accessibility standards in the 21st century is entirely natural for modern and progressive people. Drupal tries to solve accessibility problems at the development stage. Its core is fully compliant with the latest WCAG guidelines. Accessibility issues can block a Drupal release. Therefore, it is imperative to comply with its principles.

Top 6 Drupal accessibility features

How Does Drupal Help? Drupal CMS is one of the most popular modern SaaS web platforms that can systematically manage an organization's web content. The core principles of the World Wide Web include ATAG 2.0 for development tools and WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 for web content. 
Drupal CMS has been built according to both guidelines. The introduction of accessibility tools started with Drupal 7. Drupal 8 and Drupal 9 have the best accessibility features:

  1. WAI-ARIA makes web pages easier to understand for screen readers and provides other assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.
  2. Unique ARIA attributes (roles, properties, and states) are added to HTML elements to improve their semantics. Thanks to this, you can understand the hierarchical structure of tables or lists, receive notifications of dynamic content updates, and have many more critical tips for easy site navigation.
  3. HTML5 is much cleaner and easier to understand for both assistive devices used by people with disabilities and search engines. ARIA and HTML5 work together to make web pages more accessible.
  4. Buttons instead of links. Many sites use anchor texts as CTA instead of buttons. But buttons are more convenient and more action-oriented than links. Drupal 9 provides the ability to use buttons.
  5. Tabbing Manager. This feature directs non-visual users to essential elements of a tabbed page. The tool is specifically designed for people who prefer to use the Tab key instead of a mouse.
  6. Sound alerts. This is a function that informs the user about significant changes that have taken place on the page.

Top 7 Drupal accessibility modules

Web Accessibility and Drupal help you make your site better thanks to several modules:

  • Text resize module. This tool increases or decreases the font size, allowing users to customize the page to suit their vision.
  • Automatic Alt text. Without seeing the picture, you can know what is shown on it with ALT text. This is critical not only for accessibility but also for search engine optimization.
  • CKEditor Abbreviation. This module adds a button to CKEditor to insert and edit abbreviations in the given text. 
  • CKEditor Accessibility Checker. Another Drupal 9 tool that allows you to identify problematic issues that worsen website accessibility and WCAG compliance.
  • High Contrast Module. Users suffering from color blindness can correctly perceive the info by switching between the active version and the high-contrast theme.
  • HtmLawed. This module uses a PHP library that allows you to customize HTML markup flexibly.
  • Style Switcher. This module helps create themes or websites with alternative style sheets. Most accessibility issues occur at the topic level. But thanks to this module, anyone can choose the style that suits him.

 How much does a Wcag audit cost?

The cost of an audit directly depends on the complexity and size of your website and the goals you want to achieve. Before ordering an audit, think carefully about whether you just want to avoid future lawsuits or if you need as much involvement as possible. Most importantly, decide on the amount you are willing to spend to make your site accessible to a wide range of users.
The average cost of an audit is usually in the range of $500-$30,000. If necessary, you can also split the audit into several stages, spreading your costs. To reduce costs, you can start by auditing your key pages. This will allow you to fit into the declared budget. A human audit of even a few key pages will provide useful results, and feedback developers can apply in their future work.

Create accessible websites with Drupal and the Golems team!

Remember that accessibility is one of the most important criteria when developing websites. It is not enough to create just a beautiful and bright website. It is necessary to make it convenient so that any user, including a person with disabilities, can correctly perceive, use and manage the interface, including with the help of assistive technologies (screen reader, keyboard, voice, etc.)
Try to pay maximum attention to the accessibility of your website at the initial development stages. This will help you to increase the audience, get more profit, and avoid problems with the law.