Eighty-five percent of websites across the globe are estimated to have inadequate accessibility. This statistic is startling considering the clear moral, economic, and legal incentives that are well-known to any organization with a digital presence today.
Fix Your Cycle, Fix Your Site
The numerous challenges brands encounter on the path to maintaining an accessible website generally fall into three major categories:
Prioritization: If accessibility is not identified as a priority on the list of items that need to be tested and confirmed before launch, it will always be hard to ensure it gets the right focus.
Process: Moving accessibility efforts from a short-term repair to a long-term sustainable solution takes a change in process. Accessibility design, development, and testing need to be inserted into current release checkpoints.
Resources: Teams need tools and expertise that ensure they become comfortable with the tasks required and can perform these tasks quickly as a team.
As with all progressive business philosophies, digital accessibility should always be considered an integral part of the company’s DNA, one that affects decisions at every level. Budgets should be calibrated appropriately to provide ample resources to departments that require them, and the teams within need sufficient training in all areas of accessibility practice.
Embrace these principles, and you will find yourself in good company—JPMorgan Chase Bank and American Airlines, for a start. These award-winning corporate giants recognized the value (both moral and financial) of digital accessibility and then made it a priority in their web development process.
Ignore or put off these initiatives, and you may open up your company to potential cost overruns, schedule delays, lost revenue, unhappy customers, and a damaged reputation. You can easily avoid that scenario by making sure each of the following phases of your development cycle has accessibility fully integrated.
UX and Design
Development begins and ends with design and UX. Get this right, and the rest of your process navigates down a smoother road. Training is key at this stage. If your UX and design teams have accessibility in their heads as a primary motive, they will more easily overcome barriers to success.
If your teams treat the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA as gospel, they should be well-equipped to design an interface that is both elegant and accessible. The core principles to keep in mind include:
Perceivable: Present information and interface components so that users can easily perceive them.
Operable: Create navigation and interface components that are fully functional across platforms.
Understandable: Offer clear, understandable information and intuitive operation.
Robust: Put out robust content that is easily interpreted by assistive technologies as well as many types of user agents.
After your teams have these principles well in hand, your next step is a UX accessibility review of prototypes and wireframes that are on the docket. In addition to a valuable test of these principles, this is also a good opportunity to update your internal usability guidelines.
In an ideal world, these teams would then sit in on user testing of these functions. It’s one thing to analyze results on paper; it’s another to see people using your tools firsthand.
Developers get into the thick of your code and, as a result, need the most intensive training on the principles of WCAG 2.0 AA to gain expertise on how to manipulate it properly in order for each page of the site to correctly function. When in doubt, consult with outside experts.
One of a developer’s most important tools is adequate testing integrated into his or her environment, including the release management solution. An example is a Chrome extension that tests active code and code that’s in progress.
When you test for accessibility, you take the work of your designers and developers out for a spin. You see if it meets all requirements and guidelines. As with the previous steps in this process, training and tools are vital. Share resources across departments and keep communication fluid and consistent to ensure a timely launch.
Compliance, Legal, and Management
Now that you have created and implemented accessibility beautifully across your site, it’s essential that you submit timely reports and updates to compliance officers, as well as your management and legal teams. Track test results and maintenance schedules in a central location so that all stakeholders experience your transparency and clarity of purpose at all times. Have reports at the ready that reflect the current state of your site’s compliance and the timeline for completion.
Accessibility is on track to match security as a top concern for companies across the globe. As with matters of security, don’t hesitate to bring in outside expertise to ensure your fixes are done right the first time.
Consider an Easy, Powerful Testing Platform: UsableNet AQA
UsableNet’s unique accessibility management platform smoothly integrates testing, remediation, and reporting directly into your development lifecycle. This intuitive system streamlines accessibility communication and project management for every member of your team: UX designers, developers, project managers, and QA professionals.