Website builders are supposed to take the hassle out of building websites, but they often fall short with regards to accessibility. I know – this is the last thing you want to hear when you’re trying to find the easiest way possible to get your business online.
But with ADA-related litigation on the rise, it’s essential that you understand how to make your website accessible to users with disabilities. With that in mind, I tested Squarespace to see if it’s possible to design an ADA-compliant site with its builder alone.
The unfortunate truth is that Squarespace’s accessibility support is severely limited.
Sure, you can work towards ADA compliance. It’s easy to add alt text, remove animations, and input custom code on your website. But that’s all you can really do.
With very little in the way of built-in accessibility solutions, you’ve got three options. You could write custom code solutions yourself; you could hire a developer to make the modifications for you; or, you could go the quicker and easier route by using accessiBe.
Settle in, and let’s take a look at how to achieve Squarespace ADA compliance with accessiBe.
Squarespace Accessibility Score: How Easy Is It To Get ADA Compliance?
Accessibility Score: 2 / 5
Squarespace might be a good website builder, but I was surprised at how limited the accessibility features were when I tested it for this article.
Thankfully, Squarespace does have some built-in accessibility features. DOM ordering – the order in which screen readers will move through the elements on your pages – is handled automatically. Pressing the tab key will also automatically show a Skip to content button.
Squarespace doesn’t offer any templates designed specifically for accessibility. You can’t even run a custom search for “accessible” in the template library. And, while it’s easy enough to add alt text to images and manage your headers without having to touch a single line of code, that’s nearly the full extent of Squarespace’s native accessibility functions.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Squarespace is a good builder if you want to build a modern website as easily as possible. But it comes at the cost of built-in accessibility solutions. Fortunately, there are several ways to deal with this issue, so you don’t have to abandon your Squarespace website.
Quick Solution To Make Your Squarespace Website Accessible
There is a quick solution to make Squarespace accessibility-friendly. accessiBe has a fantastic Squarespace extension called accessWidget that implements accessibility features for you. This AI-powered extension scans your website every 24 hours for accessibility issues and automatically fixes them for you according to the latest standards.
Take it from someone who has read through the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – there’s a lot of technical information in there that can be hard to decipher if you don’t have any coding or development expertise. The experts at accessiBe stay on top of the latest WCAG updates so you don’t have to.
On top of that, accessiBe also offers closed captioning and audio transcription services, which may come in handy if you have a website with a ton of media content. Given that Squarespace is one of our favorite website builders for making polished online portfolios (check out our Squarespace review for more on that), this may prove to be a super-helpful add-on service.
You might have neglected your site’s level of accessibility during the website building process, particularly if you’ve never experienced problems with accessing online content yourself. However, building an inclusive and accessible website is your responsibility as a website owner. I don’t have time to cover every aspect of this topic here, so read our full guide to web accessibility for more complete information on that topic.
Having tested its built-in accessibility features, as well as any additional tips and tricks to get Squarespace sites up to the current standard, I’ve come up with the following guide to achieving full ADA compliance with Squarespace.
Turn Off Image Effects
Squarespace’s image effects add motion to your website. This can include navigational motion effects, such as parallax scrolling, or continuous animations such as the Film Grain effect. While these animations can make your website more engaging for most users, they can also have a negative impact on users with vertigo or other motion processing issues.
Fortunately, image effects only apply to section background images. To check if you’ve got image effects enabled, mouse over the section you want to edit and click the pencil icon.
Click Background, scroll down to the Image Effects dropdown menu, and select None. And that’s it!
Make sure to repeat this process with every section containing a background image as there’s no universal toggle to turn off these image effects.
Add Alt Text To Images
Alt text helps users with visual impairments understand the content of images on your website. Not only that, but search engine crawlers – the bots that influence how your website is categorized on search engines – use alt text to decipher the content, too.
Fortunately, adding alt text to your images on Squarespace is really easy. As in the previous tip, simply mouse over the section that contains your images. This time, click the Edit Content button. Click Content to bring up a list of all the images contained in that section.
Click on the image you want to edit, and scroll down until you see Image Alt Text. Add your alt text in this box. Keep it short – no need to add phrasing like “Image of…” or “Picture of…,” for example. Alt text should be a very concise explanation of what is in the image.
I recommend adding alt text as you build your Squarespace website, as you’ll then be less likely to miss any images.
Add Custom Code To Improve Accessibility
Squarespace gives you various options for adding custom code. You can add code blocks to specific sections or pages of your website. You can make the styling more legible (change fonts, color contrast, etc.) with custom CSS so that it applies to the entire site. Or, you can use code injection to add accessibility metadata to specific functions throughout the site.
I’ve gone into detail on the most useful techniques below, but obviously you’ll need to know at least a little bit about writing HTML and CSS code, as well as about the various categories of ARIA roles. This information is readily available online.
Adding Code Blocks
Code blocks are ideal for adding accessibility code, like ARIA landmark roles that highlight content types to screen readers – this can include form fields or navigation elements, for example.
You can add custom code blocks to any section type except List, Gallery, or People. You can either use an existing section on your template or add a new one.
To add a brand new section, mouse over either of the sections adjoining the space you want the new section to be and click Add Section.
Once you’ve found the section you want to edit, mouse over an element in that section and click the plus button at either the top or bottom. This will open a popup menu. Click Code to add a code block.
Adding custom CSS will change how your template looks and functions, which is ideal if you want to fine-tune certain elements such as fonts, the color scheme, and even the responsiveness of the layout on other devices such as tablets or smartphones.
To add custom CSS, click Design on your sidebar menu, and then click Custom CSS.
From here, you can add your custom CSS code to adjust your Squarespace template.
Custom Code Injection
This allows you to override some of Squarespace’s built-in functionality to make it more accessible. For example, Squarespace’s builder currently only allows you to use alt text on images. With a code injection, you can add alt text or ARIA labels onto elements like buttons, input fields in forms, and links to provide support for assistive technologies.
To do this, click Settings on your sidebar, then click Advanced. Then, go to Code Injection to open the built-in code editor. Here, you can add custom HTML or scripts to your website header, footer, lock page, or order confirmation page.
It’s worth noting that this feature is only available on Squarespace’s Business and Commerce plans.
Use a Third-Party Extension
If you’re not a confident coder, don’t worry – you can still build a fully ADA-compliant website with Squarespace. However, you will need to install a third-party accessibility extension.
I recommend using accessiBe’s accessWidget with Squarespacebecause it takes care of accessibility for you. This AI-powered solution scans your Squarespace website every 24 hours (to evaluate any changes you’ve made to content) and automatically adjusts its code for you, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out responsive design principles or the difference between alt text and ARIA labels.
Installing accessWidget on your Squarespace website is super-easy, too. Follow the steps I outlined above to open the code injection settings and paste the implementation script into the footer. Click Save, and that’s it – accessWidget will automatically get to work.
Don’t Count On Squarespace’s Built-In Accessibility Features
Don’t get me wrong here – Squarespace is a fantastic website builder. But, the fact that you can’t make your website ADA-compliant with Squarespace’s built-in tools is a massive oversight.
While Squarespace takes care of things like DOM ordering, responsive design, and Skip to content buttons, there’s a dire lack of advanced accessibility features. Sure, it’s easy enough to insert custom code if you know what code to add, but using an accessibility extension like accessWidget is so much easier.accessiBe’s extension manages your website’s code for you, helping you build a fully-accessible and ADA-compliant website without needing to know a single thing about website development.
Some website builders offer built-in accessibility scanning. Squarespace doesn’t, so you’ll need to run a manual scan or have your website audited by an accessibility professional. Alternatively, you can use a third-party accessibility extension like accessiBe.
Are Squarespace sites ADA-compliant?
Squarespace websites aren’t ADA-compliant on their own. To reach full ADA compliance, you’ll either need to add custom code to extend or override Squarespace’s functionality, or add an extension. Alternatively, read our guide to building a new website to see if another website builder might work better for you.
How do I add accessibility to my website?
If you’re using a website builder, there’s a good chance you’ll have a suite of accessibility tools that you can use to work towards ADA compliance. However, very few of these builders support full compliance without custom code or outside help. I recommend using accessiBe’s AI-powered website builder extension to make your website fully accessible.
Emma is a freelance content writer who specializes in thoughtful and insightful blogs and articles. Her main passion is the intersection of human behavior and modern technology, particularly in the context of marketing and cybersecurity. Outside of work, Emma loves video games, superhero movies, crochet, and cuddling her German Shepherd.