Creating and maintaining a fully accessible online presence isn’t like flipping a switch; it’s often a journey that requires constant and ongoing effort from an organization.
If you’re starting from the beginning or trying to navigate the process, having a digital accessibility roadmap to get you from point A to point B is important.
We’re well-versed in guiding our clients to develop a fully accessible online presence, and we always recommend following our standard digital roadmap to accessibility along the way.
Editor Note: This blog is based on our March 10, 2020 Webinar, featuring Jeff Adams, Director of Accessibility Operations and Jason Taylor, CIO at UsableNet. Watch on-demand here.
Who to Include In Your Accessibility Plan
Before we even start laying out the plan itself, it’s important to remember that it will take multiple team members working together because accessibility doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it will impact multiple departments in different ways.
Here’s who you need to engage with your plan:
- Executives, who prioritize it in the company
- Product owners and project managers, who ensure that it will be prioritized in all projects and ongoing maintenance
- UX & UI designers, who will design and maintain the digital properties (including mobile apps)
- Marketing and content teams, who will need to create accessible content on an ongoing basis
- Developers, who must code to WCAG standards
- QA, who must test with assistive technology
- Customer service, who must be trained in assisting users with disabilities if they have concerns about the site
Your developers, UX and UI team, and content team will often be the most hands-on in terms of handling accessibility issues.
The Three Phases of Your Digital Accessibility Plan
The three phases of your accessibility roadmap really can be broken down into basic concepts of “Assess where you’re at, get to a good place, and stay in a good place.”
Let’s take a look at each phase.
1. Improve Accessibility & Reduce Risk
You need to access where you’re at and what needs to change. At this stage, look for the low-hanging fruit of issues that are high-risk for lawsuits and easy to change.
We recommend doing the following:
- Assess all digital experiences, including your site, apps, videos, and PDFs
- Look at top user tasks, your homepage, and your header and footer
- Perform an initial test conducted by a screen reader user, a test with keyboard navigation, and an automated testing tool
- Start training your teams
- Have an accessibility expert you can reach out to
- Make sure all videos have captions
- Document what you’ve found, what needs to be changed, and your ongoing efforts
2. Core Remediation
After addressing immediate issues, you can more on to more significant and structural changes.
At this stage, you’ll want to do the following:
- Conduct a complete WCAG audit using both automated and manual testing to find every issue
- Integrate reporting into your ticket system
- Prioritize remediation based on high-visibility issues or major barriers
- Establish teams responsible for issues
- Perform user testing with members of the disability community
- Verify remediation
3. Ongoing Monitoring & Releases
Accessibility isn’t a one-and-done task; it requires ongoing maintenance and monitoring. This stage of vital to the continual accessibility of your site.
Here’s what happens during this stage:
- Prioritize accessibility for new projects and maintenance so ADA-conformance isn’t at risk
- Build UX personas and development standards
- Implement user testing regularly (either monthly or at every release)
- Automatically monitor WCAG compliance in the background for your top ten pages
- Create a simple way for users to report issues
Key Documentation is so Important
Documentation for your accessibility efforts are crucial; this can’t be overstated.
It keeps your team on the same page, it helps you monitor your progress while giving you a clear roadmap, and it also has legal benefits; if anyone files a lawsuit, having a clearly documented accessibility plan can be your saving grace.
Make sure you’re documenting at every stage of the accessibility roadmap.
Final Thoughts: The Key to a Successful Digital Accessibility Program
Most sites aren’t static; new products, new pages, or new content is uploaded at some point. Mobile apps roll out, videos are shared. As a result, you’re never “done” with accessibility.
Accessibility programs, therefore, are necessary, as they facilitate the collaborative effort and ensure that all key team members are prioritizing accessibility at every touchpoint.
Interested in learning more about our digital roadmap to accessibility and how to document each stage? Watch the webinar and download the slides here.