Your dispensary website has to do a lot of things. At its most basic level, it needs to provide potential customers with the information they need to order from you online or visit you in person. Ideally, of course, it does more—much more, as these selected case studies demonstrate—but at the very least, your website is something like a digital business card that helps people remember, find, and interface with you.
So, all that said, would you print a business card that only some people could read?
If you lack an ADA compliant dispensary website, that’s essentially what you’re doing. While many of us associate the ADA—otherwise known as the Americans with Disabilities Act—with wheelchair-accessible entryways and other physical measures, a good deal of the act relates to those with impairments that affect their sight, hearing, and other faculties.
How many people are we talking about? One estimate places the number of Americans of all ages with a disability at 37.3 million, or roughly 12.1% of the non-institutionalized population. That’s why it’s important that your website should meet ADA accessibility standards to make it easy to read and understand.
Why does this matter? If your business employs 15 or more people, it is legally required to maintain a website in ADA compliance; while it’s unlikely you’ll be cited, you could potentially be vulnerable to lawsuits. Just as crucially, a dispensary website that loses visitors due to accessibility issues—and believe us, it happens a lot—is losing leads, conversions, and ultimately money.
So, what’s involved with creating an ADA compliant dispensary website? Some measures are relatively easy to implement, others a bit more technical. Let’s dive into what ADA compliance is, why it matters, and how to make sure your website is user-friendly for everyone.
Dispensary Website Best Practices: What is ADA Compliance?
First enacted in 1990, the ADA is a sweeping set of provisions designed to make it easier for those with disabilities to participate at all levels of society. Amended and updated several times since then, the current standards for accessible design date from 2010.
The most authoritative guidance on what constitutes compliance comes from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 rubric, a venerable but still-relevant set of recommendations for website design. The core principles include:
- Perceptibility: Users should have the ability to perceive all the information that appears on your site. That includes text, images, video, and more. If a user can’t see your website’s text or listen to your website’s video, you need to provide an alternative.
- Operability: Users should have the capability to navigate your site and use every one of its features. Any user, for example, should have the means to use your main navigation, as well as any site tools, like calculators and other widgets.
- Comprehensibility: Users should have the means to understand your website content, including text, images, videos, and tools. As an example, your website might include instructions for using a feature such as a contact form.
- Robustness: Users should have the ability to receive the same experience as any other visitor, even if they’re using assistive technologies. People reading your content versus those employing a voice reader, for example, should receive the same content even though it’s delivered differently.
How Can I Build an ADA Compliant Dispensary Website?
So, that said, what do I need to actually do to be in compliance?
At Foottraffik, much of our work centers on creating high-converting themes for dispensary websites. In addition to being compliant with all state and provincial laws, they’re attractive. More to the point, they’re all ADA compliant and accessible.
Fortunately, the document we referenced a moment ago—WCAG 2.0—provides some specific guidance. Its “Level AA” guidelines, which are described as helping build a website that almost all users can access, include these key action items:
- Captions: All video content—live and pre-recorded—should include captions. This can be done using software or professional services.
- Audio descriptions: All pre-recorded content should include audio descriptions. One strategy is to include a link near the content that directs users to an audio description.
- Contrast ratio: Website should maintain a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and images of text, with some allowable exceptions.
- Text resizing: Websites should allow users to resize site text (without assistive technology) up to 200%. Any resizing should not incur a loss of content or functionality. This ADA compliance item doesn’t apply to captions or images of text.
- Images of text: In general, you should avoid using text-heavy images, unless users can customize the image or the image is essential. If you want to use such images—such as for pull quotes—you can substitute them using CSS, which can stylize text.
- Navigation options: Website should include multiple options for locating pages. An exception is pages that are the result of or step in a process, such as online checkout. These options can include an HTML sitemap, site search, and a consistent navigation menu.
- Headings and labels: Headings or labels help describe the topic or purpose of specific content. Making them descriptive and straightforward aids navigation and comprehensibility, as does labeling all site elements such as contact forms.
- Focus visible: Any visitors to your website using a keyboard should have the ability to see the keyboard focus indicator—aka the outline that appears on a form field—on such site elements as links, form fields, and menus. Again, this is usually accomplished using CSS.
- Language: For any content that isn’t in your default language, you can add a language attribute to the page. In parts of Canada, for instance, a site written in English may add a language attribute for a page with content in French.
- Consistency of navigation: Websites should provide consistent navigation location and organization for users. A site menu, for instance, should always appear in the same spot and using identical menu items in identical order.
- Consistency of identification: Website elements that exhibit the same function should have consistent identification. These elements can be labeled and named, for example, and then use identical alt text for all those with the same purpose.
- Error suggestion: Smart websites offer visitors suggestions for fixing input errors, such as the format of a phone number in a contact form. You can provide correction recommendations via text.
- Error prevention: Last but certainly not least, any pages that generate financial transactions, modify, delete, or otherwise involve user-controlled data, or submit user responses must be reversible, checked for errors, and confirmed before submission. Examples include order confirmation page, for example, or allowing users to cancel orders within a specific period.
Dispensary Websites and ADA Compliance: In Conclusion
Whew! That’s quite a lot, and we haven’t even cracked into the WCAG 2.0 “Level AAA” guidelines, which delineate the steps needed to create a website that “all users can access.”
As we made clear earlier, not only is building an ADA-compliant dispensary website the right thing to do in terms of accessibility, but it’s a way to increase conversion rates as well. If you need a little guidance, we’re here for you. Reach out to us anytime; we’re here to help.
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