March 02 2018

Comparing Website ADA Levels

comparing website ADA levelsWhen you provide an ADA conformant website, you embrace the 38% of Americans with disabilities that are actively surfing the web. You also protect your business from the increasing threat of lawsuits. Despite the DOJ announcement in July 2017 to not immediately make this a definitive law, making a website conformant to WCAG 2.0 is not only a way to protect a business from potential lawsuits, but is also the right thing to do for the millions of disabled website visitors.

Website ADA compliance is not one size fits all. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline three standard conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA. Similar to baseball, level A is weaker and AAA is stronger. While you might immediately want to strive for the strongest level, it is important to understand that the level of conformance can affect your site’s current design, feel and functionality. We’ve outlined a few things to consider when deciding which ADA level to strive for:

  • Level A conformity has minimal effect, but also minimal impact. While WCAG 2.0 Level A allows screen readers to more effectively scan a site, it will not make your site compliant to the current standards the DOJ or lawyers want to see.

  • Level AA is a happy medium that most businesses currently strive for. Level AA conformance satisfies all Level A criteria and more, while still allowing for more flexible design choices, making this level not too light but not too restrictive in its effect on your site design. This is the most popular level of conformance most projects strive for.

  • Level AAA captures all conformance factors at the highest level. While this is the most comprehensive level of website conformance, it is also the most restrictive on key interactive elements which can contribute to design and functionality of your site.

Below is a broader comparison of exactly what website features are configured on a site to meet each level of conformance included in the WCAG. If you have questions on website ADA conformance or are looking to talk services with us, our team at ZAG is happy to help you.

Feature Level A Level AA Level AAA

Provide text alternatives for any non-text content

Provide alternatives for video-only and audio-only content

Add captions to all prerecorded videos with sound

Describe movements that provide extra information in prerecorded video that not are audibly explained in the video.

Live videos include captions


Provide sign language translations for videos



Record alternative video with extended audio description



Provide a transcript for video and audio content



Include closed captions with live audio



All content has intuitive page structure and formatting

Use meaningful sequence of content

Provide instructions via more than one sense

Do not rely only on color to convey information

End-user control of audio

Use minimum color contrasts


Resize text up to 200%


Limit images of text


Contrast is at least 7:1 relative to the background


Limit background noise on video and audio content



Allow users to customize their view



Restrict images of text



All parts of a site must be keyboard-accessible

Allow keyboard user to navigate away from all parts of a site

All parts of a site must be keyboard-accessible with no exceptions



Time limits are user adjustable

Moving, blinking, scrolling, or auto updating can be user paused, stopped, or hidden

No time limits are enforced



Ensure no interruptions of content consumption



If re-authentication is necessary, data entered is saved



No content may flash more than three times in a second

No content may flash more than three times in a second with no exceptions



Provide Skip to Content links

Page titles must be descriptive

Focus order must be logical


Every link’s purpose is clear

Multiple ways exist for users to find pages


Headings organize content and all elements are labeled


Keyboard focus must be clear


Ensure user always knows location on the site



Every link’s purpose is clear even when using the link out of context


Every new topic has a heading



Every page has a defined language

Language changes on a page are communicated


Avoid or explain all jargon



Explain all abbreviations



Write for reading level of 9 years of school



Explain words that a screen reader will have trouble pronouncing



Content does not change on focus

Content does not change on input

Menu usage is consistent across site


Icons and buttons are obviously icons and buttons


Elements on the site do not change unless the end-user asks



Clearly describe form input errors

Provide clear form input instructions with labels

Clearly describe form input errors and how to fix them


On forms, validate input and allow input to be changed

Provide instruction for completing tasks, especially forms



On forms, validate input and allow input to be changed without exception



HTML is validated against standards

All content generated by scripts must be accessible

  • Legal Watch
  • Website Compliance

posted by
Dan Seagull
Dan Seagull
Sr. QA & Certified Accessibility Analyst

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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