You’ve made accessibility a priority for your company’s website. You have a budget; you have buy-in. All stakeholders are on board, and you have already completed (or are near the completion of) the first round of remediation. Now it’s time to ensure that any changes you make to your website will not create any new barriers to assistive users and that you maintain WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliance.
So you have taken the first step down this path. You have your starting point. Now comes the maintenance work—design considerations, code updates, retest, and release. Below, we outline our five star best practices to maintain accessibility:
1. Don’t Wait Until Your Website Is Perfect to Tell Everyone You Care
Communication about your web accessibility priorities is critical for internal buy-in and external acceptance by your customers. It will also help you avoid being the target of law firms that are looking to take advantage of slack ADA definitions. One of the most effective tools to accomplish this is an accessibility statement. At its heart, this document acts as an honest reflection of the company’s ambitions, challenges, and plans for the future. Your best practice would be to include the following as part of that statement and post it clearly on your website:
Declare your commitment to this community and that it is a top priority for the company.
Explain in detail your target conformity level and how you plan to achieve it.
Admit that there are areas where you haven’t yet met your goals and recommend alternative methods for customers to access a particular function or piece of content.
2. Automate Testing Wherever Possible
Ensure you have a centralized testing tool that fits your release strategy. Build test cases around user flows and save all the code so teams can review and find solutions together. Criteria of the right automated testing solution should include:
It allows members of the development team to check and validate their work as they code.
It encourages the QA team to verify the development team’s progress and gives it tools to review all the different success criteria of WCAG.
It opens the testing process up to stakeholders from within the disability community—those who will actually use the functionality—whose feedback is essential for successful compliance.
3. Perform Screen Reader Verification on Every Release
Just as you would test your site with mobile and desktop devices, the best way to ensure a site can be used by the disability community is to test releases with assistive technology such as screen readers. Screen reader verification can cover the use case of the majority of users. With a little training, your QA team can perform the tests or consider an outside company. Your best practice would include the following:
Test your top five user flows on every release.
Document the success or any blockers and store with your automated testing.
Train your QA staff on how to use screen readers in order to have a broad base of testing ability.
4. Train Your Team on Accessibility
Accessibility is truly a team effort—everyone from the CEO to the entry-level assistant needs to fully understand and champion these efforts. Just as all employees should be vigilant and knowledgeable about topics such as digital security, so should they be about web accessibility.
Staff training should be an ongoing part of the annual calendar. Provide clear, concise educational materials across the organization that employees can read on their own, in addition to scheduled informational seminars or webinars. The more they know about your efforts to provide access to all, the more they will advocate for them and provide support to the people doing the actual technical work.
5. Conduct Annual Audits and User Testing
Once your newly accessible site is set up, create an annual cycle of third-party verification that includes at least one audit performed by accessibility experts and one round of user testing with members of the disability community.
Your audit should include:
An executive summary for stakeholders that lays out the current state of affairs and addresses in detail the issues that still need to be fixed in order to become compliant
A detailed report for developers that breaks down every possible path through the site and flags unresolved issues that users may encounter along the way
Open access for anyone (internal or external) who wants to review the results
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