As a restaurant owner, you follow all ADA requirements for restaurants in your establishment. But what about your website? Is your site easily accessible and navigable for users with disabilities?
ADA website compliance is becoming increasingly important for all businesses, including restaurants. It’s important to understand why compliance is necessary and how to ensure your site is following the guidelines.
Why is Restaurant ADA Compliance Important for Websites?
When the American Disabilities Act was enacted in the 1990s, there was no mention of websites. However, since 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice has determined that ADA compliance for restaurant establishments and other businesses should extend to websites that accommodate the public.
Sites that fall into that category should be accessible to the disabled.
ADA Restaurants Website Guidelines
Following website guidelines is important. Current ADA guidelines require websites to be:
- Perceivable: Content should be presented in a way that’s easily perceived by users. Adding alternative texts to images and audio or video alternatives will allow users with visual or auditorial disabilities to perceive your content.
- Operable: Your website should be easy to operate via keyboard or assistive devices.
- Understandable: Your site’s content should be easy to understand. Using legible fonts and color combinations will make it easy for users with disabilities to interact with your site’s pages.
- Robust: Your website should be compatible with various browsers and devices, including assistive technology devices.
With these guidelines in mind, let’s look at how you can start making your site more accessible to disabled users.
How Do You Make a Website ADA Compliant?
There is no rigid set of guidelines for creating an ADA-compliant website. However, there are some things you can do to ensure that your site meets the general guidelines above.
Underline and Describe Links in Your Content and Menus
When adding links to your site, describe them and ensure that they are underlined. For example, instead of saying, “Click here to see our new menu items,” you could say, “To find out more about our new recipes, check out our new menu.”
Describing links will ensure that disabled users understand where the link is taking them and what the link is about.
Along with describing your links, it’s also important to underline them. Ensure there’s a color contrast between links and regular text. This contrast will help colorblind users find links on your site.
Avoid PDF Menus
Many restaurants add their menus to their website in PDF format. While it’s possible to add accessible menu PDFs, the better option may be to create a web version of your menu that’s screen reader accessible.
Taking this approach will also make your menu easier to read on a mobile device.
Just be sure to keep your website menu up to date.
Add Alt Text to Photos and Media
When adding photos, videos, or other media to your website, be sure to add alternative text. This will allow you to convey the meaning of the images or media through text. If an image fails to load, the alt text will appear and help the user understand what kind of content should be in its place.
When adding alt text, describe the information and not the picture. If an image contains information, a descriptive alt text should be used.
Build Accessible Order Forms
Online ordering in the restaurant industry has exploded in recent years. In fact, 40% of orders take place online. You need to accommodate those patrons who want to order food online with accessible order forms.
A few hints to make the form more accessible include:
- Add field labels that allow screen readers to help the person distinguish the form fields that they’re navigating
- Form fields, including all dropdown menus, should be navigational by keyboard
- Allow autocomplete options on the form to help users with disabilities fill form fields automatically
- Create detailed error messages for any form issues that will allow the user to know why they’re receiving the error
- Remain cautious with CAPTCHA technology, which is routinely difficult to solve without the use of a mouse or normal finger dexterity
You'll also want to avoid time limits on form submissions. Of course, measures should be put in place to prevent a customer from ordering after hours or too close to closing time.
ADA restaurant requirements are strict, but starting with your forms is always a good way to ensure that you’re not losing revenue and can best serve your clients.
An additional step that you’ll need to take if you have any type of audio or video is to ensure that people with all visual abilities can consume the content.
Add Subtitles to All Media
Audio and video should have one of the following:
- Subtitles and/or
Your website should not auto-play videos that are embedded because they can impact the user’s text-to-speech programs. The text on the video should be able to be adjusted and enlarged to help those who are visually impaired have an easier time reading the text.
Any media, including podcasts or audio, should not be on autoplay and, when possible, a transcript be provided.
The subtitles should be easy to access for the user, too.
Ensure Visitors Can Navigate Using a Keyboard
If you’ve ever been on a website and hit the “tab” button on your keyboard, you’ll notice that a different element on the site becomes highlighted. Why? Because a lot of people with dexterity issues will use a keyboard to navigate the site rather than a mouse.
You can test your site to see if you can navigate it by:
- Clicking on the address bar of the browser
- Tap “tab” until it highlights links on your site
Ideally, you’ll be able to use the tab and the arrow buttons to navigate the site. “Enter” will allow you to go to a specific link that’s highlighted.
An ADA-compliant restaurant must go beyond the basics and also focus on things like its website. If you maintain compliance, you will better serve your customers despite their differing abilities.
If you follow the guidelines above and adhere to an ADA compliance checklist for restaurants, you’ll meet the legal requirements to accommodate the public with your website.