Three keys to developing your accessibility plan for the new year.
It’s 2022, and many companies are planning new business strategies for the coming year. Don’t forget about the benefits of improving the accessibility and usability of your website or digital assets. According to the last census, 20% of the population in the U.S. identify as having a disability. A more accessible website or app means more user-friendly experience for everyone!
Here are some short-term and long-term accessibility strategies that you can adopt this coming year.
Focus on small, manageable tasks.
Accessibility can seem very overwhelming. Especially if you approach it by thinking you need to redesign your website. That’s one reason people avoid it: it looks pretty daunting and time-consuming.
First, focus on fixing just one type of issue to make it easier to manage.
When we audit a website or app, we always find multiple instances of the same type of issue. Work on addressing these common and easy to fix accessibility issues:
- Add Alt+Text (descriptions) to images. The most common issues in a PDF or website. To fix these:
- All images that provide meaning or set a mood should have an Alt+Text description.
- Keep it short and make sure it conveys the purpose and context the image is used in.
- Use Heading levels. These allow users to easily navigate your page with a screen reader or keyboard. Websites, Word documents, and PDFs should all have heading levels. To fix, approach it like an outline where:
- The main idea is the <h1> and each topic is the <h2> level.
- Sub-topics get a <h3> and so on.
- Headings should go in order and not skip a level.
- Only have one <h1> at the top of your page.
- Hyperlinks that indicate their destination. Screen readers will read the entire hyperlink link if you post it, letter-by-letter. This can be very confusing for disabled users. To fix:
- Embed the hyperlink into words that describe the link’s destination.
- Replace ambiguous links like “click here” or “find out more” with more descriptive words.
- Users should know where each link goes. So, think WCAG 2.1 Guidelines instead of https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/ .
Develop an Accessibility Statement
Next, an Accessibility Statement is a great way to show you are focused on inclusion. An Accessibility Statement lets users know you’ve committed to providing an accessible and inclusive experience. A more detailed Accessibility Statement gives information about how accessible your product or website is. Including what technology works best with your site or app.
An example of a detailed Accessibility Statement can be found here at Accessiblu Accessibility Statement. Here are some points to consider:
- The commitments you are making to ensure accessibility?
- Which standards you are using to ensure accessibility (WCAG, 508, etc.)?
- Who to contact with problems or questions?
- Any known limitations your product has.
- Technology you recommend for the best experience.
- Any technology you have tested your site or product with.
Once complete, your accessibility statement should be made publicly available and easy to find on your website.
For what it is worth, all of the clients we’ve worked with who have received an ADA demand letter did not have an Accessibility Statement when they received that letter.
Plan a long term accessibility goal.
Once you are ready to plan a long-term accessibility goal, consider one of the following:
- Adopt accessibility training. Training for your staff is a great way to ensure that accessibility is built into your company’s culture. Especially those who develop digital content because It helps ensure that everything they create is accessible.
- Adopt accessible practices. Federal 508 guidelines ensure that government agencies buy accessible products. However, buying technology that meets these standards is a good practice for everyone. Make sure you purchase accessible software or technology by requesting a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or Statement of Accessibility Conformance.
- Conduct an accessibility audit. Consider having an audit done If your company has a website, digital documents, and/or develops software or mobile apps. A detailed audit – conducted by an experienced professional – can tell you exactly how accessible your website or documents are. It can also tell you how to improve them.
Avoid an Overlay…Please!
A quick note about overlays. If you are thinking about an accessibility overlay, Stop! If you already have one, get rid of it! Overlays are those buttons that run on top of websites that magically make a website accessible. Avoid these snake-oil solutions as they often do more harm then good. Not only do most fail to conform to ADA laws and WCAG guidelines, they often violate privacy laws and end up making your website less accessible.
You can find out more on our blog, The Truth about Accessibility Overlays.
Tips if you are considering an accessibility audit.
Planning a formal audit? Choose an expert with experience conducting a formal audit. Look for credentials such as the Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) Trusted Tester or an International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) certification. You should also think about what you would like from your audit.
- A reputable accessibility audit can provide:
- Testing against WCAG, 508, PDF/UA criteria.
- A detailed Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).
- Instructions for remediating issues.
- Details about which disabilities may be impacted.
- A completed VPAT.
- An Accessibility Statement.
A thorough audit typically costs between $5,000 and $10,000 and should take about two weeks. Of course, each audit is unique and depends on the number of pages tested and the types of documentation you need. A basic audit may cost less while a more complex web or app audit may cost upwards of $50,000 and take a month or longer.
Remember, a reliable audit done by an experienced professional(s) involves extensive manual testing. Beware of any company that uses only automated testing as accessibility is a problem that impacts people and therefore requires a human solution to ensure that it works…for people!