When you have multiple internal and external websites and applications within your organization, you need a formal program for ensuring accessibility compliance. The following actions will help you create – and maintain – a solid accessibility policy.By developing a clear policy and standards, identifying and prioritizing platforms, and establishing an ongoing auditing process, you can ensure that accessibility is a core part of your organization’s culture and that all users can access your digital content.
Develop accessibility policy
The first step in establishing such a program is to develop an accessibility policy. This should be a documented statement that clearly outlines your organization’s approach to accessibility, including goals, standards, and procedures. This policy should be communicated to all stakeholders within your organization to ensure that accessibility is a core part of your culture.
Here are a few examples of accessibility policies or statements from different organizations:
- Microsoft: “We strive to make our products and services accessible to everyone. This means designing for people of all abilities and disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, have low vision or are blind, have cognitive, motor, or speech disabilities, or have other disabilities. We believe that accessibility and inclusion are essential to delivering on our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
- Google: “Our goal is to make Google’s products and services universally accessible. We are committed to building products that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. We believe that everyone should be able to use the internet to its full potential, and we are actively working to make that vision a reality.”
- The University of Michigan: “The University of Michigan is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all individuals, including those with disabilities. We recognize that accessibility is an essential aspect of our mission to provide excellent education, research, and service to the community. We are committed to providing equal access to all of our programs, services, and activities.”
- Airbnb: “Airbnb is committed to making our platform accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities. We are working to ensure that our website, mobile apps, and other digital products meet or exceed the accessibility standards set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA.”
- The United States Department of Justice: “The Department of Justice is committed to making its websites and other digital platforms accessible to individuals with disabilities. We strive to meet or exceed the accessibility standards set forth in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA.”
Develop Accessibility Standards
Once you have a clear policy in place, it’s time to develop accessibility standards that align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). By covering these points, the standards document can provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of the success criteria for accessibility, which can help ensure that all stakeholders (designers, developers, and content creators) are aligned and working towards the same goals)
Whats included in an accessibility standards document?
Below is an outline of what could be included in an accessibility standards document. It’s important to note that the specific contents of an accessibility standards document may vary depending on the needs and goals of the organization.
- Introduction: Provide a brief overview of the purpose of the document and the importance of accessibility standards.
- Scope: Define the scope of the accessibility standards document, including the platforms and applications covered by the standards.
- Applicable Standards: List the accessibility standards that the organization is committed to complying with, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
- Success Criteria: Describe the specific success criteria that will be used to measure compliance with the applicable accessibility standards.
- Roles and Responsibilities: Detail the responsibilities of various stakeholders involved in ensuring accessibility compliance, such as designers, developers, testers, and content creators.
- Design and Development Guidelines: Provide guidance on designing and developing accessible platforms and applications, including best practices for color contrast, keyboard navigation, and content structure.
- Testing Guidelines: Detail the testing procedures that will be used to verify accessibility compliance, including manual testing and automated testing using tools.
- Remediation Procedures: Outline the procedures that will be used to address accessibility issues that are identified through testing or other means.
- Training and Awareness: Detail the training and awareness initiatives that will be implemented to ensure that all stakeholders understand the importance of accessibility and are equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to comply with accessibility standards.
- Monitoring and Reporting: Describe the procedures that will be used to monitor compliance with accessibility standards and report progress to relevant stakeholders.
What are examples of success criteria?
What are examples of success criteria that may be used within an accessibility standards document:
- Provide alternative text for non-text content (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.1.1).
- Ensure keyboard accessibility (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.1.1).
- Provide sufficient color contrast (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.4.3).
- Ensure content can be presented in different ways (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.3.1).
- Provide captions for videos (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.2.2).
- Provide a skip to main content link (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.4.1).
- Ensure content does not cause seizures (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.3.1).
- Provide clear and concise error messages (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 3.3.1).
- Ensure headings and labels are descriptive (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.4.6).
- Ensure all functionality is available via a keyboard (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.1.2).
Considerations when writing standards
When explaining success criteria in an accessibility standards document, the following points should be covered:
- A clear explanation of the success criteria, including why it is important for accessibility.
- The specific requirements that need to be met to achieve the success criteria.
- Any exceptions or limitations to the success criteria.
- How the success criteria will be tested or measured to ensure compliance.
- The level of compliance required (e.g., A, AA, or AAA).
- Any additional guidance or best practices for achieving the success criteria.
- Relevant references to established accessibility standards or guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Consideration for future updates or changes to the success criteria or related standards.
Develop an audit plan
Step 1: Identify and Prioritize Platforms
Once you have established your policy and standards, the next step is to identify and prioritize the platforms that require an accessibility compliance audit. This includes both internal and external websites and applications that are essential to your organization’s operations and end-users. Prioritizing the platforms is crucial, as it ensures that the most critical platforms are audited first, and resources are allocated appropriately. The ultimate goal is to prioritize enterprise platforms based on their criticality to end-users and the business.
Here are activities involved with this step:
- Inventory all internal and external websites and applications: Identify all the platforms that exist within the organization and their purposes.
- Prioritize the platforms: Once all the platforms have been identified, prioritize them based on criticality to end-users and business. This can be done by considering the frequency of use, the number of users, the impact of platform downtime, and the strategic importance of the platform to the business.
- Conduct a risk assessment: After prioritizing the platforms, conduct a risk assessment to determine the level of risk that non-compliance poses to the organization. This can be done by considering the likelihood and impact of non-compliance, and the potential legal, financial, and reputational consequences.
Step 2: Set KPIs and targets
Establishing accessibility KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is an important step in ensuring that your organization is making progress towards achieving its accessibility goals. By setting clear metrics, you can measure the effectiveness of your accessibility efforts, motivate teams to work towards improving the accessibility of their platform, and track improvements over time. This can also help you to identify areas that need more attention or resources.
Here are activities involved with this step:
- Document business goals: Start by identifying the goals of your accessibility program. These goals may include improving the user experience for people with disabilities, reducing legal risks, or promoting diversity and inclusion.
- Establish a scoring model: Build a scoring model based on pre-established audit criteria, such as WCAG guidelines. The model may weigh different criteria differently based on their importance. Additionally, the model should be transparent and easy to understand for all stakeholders.
- Set KPIs and Targets: After identifying your business goals and scoring model, determine the specific metrics that will help you track progress towards them. Establish a benchmark that you would like all platforms to achieve. This sets a standard towards which teams can strive, and helps ensure consistency across platforms.
Below are some examples of accessibility targets or metrics. Note that these targets or metrics should be aligned with your organization’s accessibility goals and priorities.
- Percentage of web pages or digital documents that meet a certain level of accessibility standard, such as WCAG 2.1 AA or AAA
- Percentage of mobile apps or software products that meet a certain level of accessibility standard
- Number of accessibility issues identified and resolved during an audit or testing process
- Percentage increase in user satisfaction for people with disabilities after implementing accessibility improvements
- Number of employees who complete accessibility training or certification
- Percentage increase in website traffic from users with disabilities after implementing accessibility improvements
- Reduction in legal risks associated with accessibility lawsuits or complaints
- Number of accessibility-related inquiries or feedback received from customers or stakeholders
- Time required to complete tasks by users with disabilities compared to users without disabilities, before and after implementing accessibility improvements
- Number of third-party vendors or partners who comply with your accessibility policies and standards.
Step 3: Understand current state of all platforms
To ensure that all platforms are meeting the organization’s accessibility goals, it’s important to understand their current state. By understanding the current state of all platforms, organizations can identify gaps and prioritize resources to improve accessibility across all platforms. This can be achieved through conducting quick audits and creating a current state report card. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
Here are activities involved with this step:
- Conduct quick audits: Conducting quick audits is an important first step in understanding the current state of all platforms. These audits should be designed to provide a general score based on a high-level review of the platform’s accessibility. If necessary, professionals can be hired to conduct the audit. It’s important to remember that these quick audits do not have to be perfect but should provide a general understanding of the platform’s accessibility.
- Create a current state report card: Once the audits are complete, it’s important to document the score for each platform. A report card can be created to rate each platform against the established accessibility KPIs and targets. This report card can serve as a valuable tool for identifying which platforms require more attention and resources to meet accessibility goals. It’s important to ensure that all stakeholders have access to this report card to facilitate transparency and accountability.
Step 4: Create an Accessibility Roadmap
To ensure a systematic and comprehensive approach to achieving accessibility compliance, it is important to determine the target platforms and create a roadmap for auditing and fixing any accessibility issues identified.
Here are activities involved with this step:
- Determine target platforms. Start by identifying the platforms that will be audited based on priorities, risk, and general accessibility score. Consider the platforms that are critical to your organization’s business and end-users. Once you have determined the target platforms, you can move on to creating a roadmap for auditing and fixing any accessibility issues.
- Create roadmap. The roadmap should outline which platforms will be audited and when, taking into account platform owner alignment and their technology roadmaps. It is important to communicate with platform owners and ensure they are aware of the audit and potential fixes. Keep in mind that addressing accessibility issues will require developer time, so it is important to adjust their technology roadmaps accordingly.
As a note, you should regularly review and update the roadmap to ensure that it remains aligned with the organization’s goals and priorities. The roadmap should also take into account any changes in technology or standards that may impact accessibility compliance.
Step 5: Develop Audit Plans
To ensure that your organization’s platforms are audited for accessibility compliance, you need to develop a comprehensive audit plan. By developing a comprehensive audit plan, you can ensure that your organization’s platforms are audited for accessibility compliance in a systematic and organized manner.
Here are the key steps to follow:
- Create project plans: Start by determining which audits need to be completed based on the roadmap that you have created. Establish a timeline for completing each audit for every platform. Ensure that the timeline is realistic and takes into account the availability of resources and personnel.
- Allocate resources: Allocate resources based on the prioritized platforms and the results of the risk assessment. Assign more resources to the platforms that pose the highest risk to the organization. Consider the expertise of the team members and allocate resources accordingly. If necessary, secure the services of external experts.
- Align teams: Ensure that all teams are aware of the upcoming audits and that they are included in their technology roadmap. Align the teams by setting clear expectations for their involvement in the audit process. Provide them with the necessary resources and support to ensure that they are successful in meeting the audit requirements.