Establish Web Accessibility Enterprise Processes

When you have multiple internal and external websites and applications within your organization, you need a formal program and processes for ensuring accessibility compliance. The following actions will help you create – and maintain – clear policy and standards and establish a set of processes and tools to 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

  1. Introduction: Provide a brief overview of the purpose of the document and the importance of accessibility standards.
  2. Scope: Define the scope of the accessibility standards document, including the platforms and applications covered by the standards.
  3. 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.
  4. Success Criteria: Describe the specific success criteria that will be used to measure compliance with the applicable accessibility standards.
  5. Roles and Responsibilities: Detail the responsibilities of various stakeholders involved in ensuring accessibility compliance, such as designers, developers, testers, and content creators.
  6. 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.
  7. Testing Guidelines: Detail the testing procedures that will be used to verify accessibility compliance, including manual testing and automated testing using tools.
  8. Remediation Procedures: Outline the procedures that will be used to address accessibility issues that are identified through testing or other means.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:

  1. Provide alternative text for non-text content (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.1.1).
  2. Ensure keyboard accessibility (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.1.1).
  3. Provide sufficient color contrast (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.4.3).
  4. Ensure content can be presented in different ways (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.3.1).
  5. Provide captions for videos (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.2.2).
  6. Provide a skip to main content link (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.4.1).
  7. Ensure content does not cause seizures (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.3.1).
  8. Provide clear and concise error messages (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 3.3.1).
  9. Ensure headings and labels are descriptive (WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 2.4.6).
  10. 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:

  1. A clear explanation of the success criteria, including why it is important for accessibility.
  2. The specific requirements that need to be met to achieve the success criteria.
  3. Any exceptions or limitations to the success criteria.
  4. How the success criteria will be tested or measured to ensure compliance.
  5. The level of compliance required (e.g., A, AA, or AAA).
  6. Any additional guidance or best practices for achieving the success criteria.
  7. Relevant references to established accessibility standards or guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  8. Consideration for future updates or changes to the success criteria or related standards.

Develop 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:

  1. Inventory all internal and external websites and applications: Identify all the platforms that exist within the organization and their purposes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Percentage of web pages or digital documents that meet a certain level of accessibility standard, such as WCAG 2.1 AA or AAA
  2. Percentage of mobile apps or software products that meet a certain level of accessibility standard
  3. Number of accessibility issues identified and resolved during an audit or testing process
  4. Percentage increase in user satisfaction for people with disabilities after implementing accessibility improvements
  5. Number of employees who complete accessibility training or certification
  6. Percentage increase in website traffic from users with disabilities after implementing accessibility improvements
  7. Reduction in legal risks associated with accessibility lawsuits or complaints
  8. Number of accessibility-related inquiries or feedback received from customers or stakeholders
  9. Time required to complete tasks by users with disabilities compared to users without disabilities, before and after implementing accessibility improvements
  10. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.\

Establish your accessibility auditing process


Having a formal web accessibility audit process is critical to ensuring that people, processes, and tools are in place to identify accessibility issues and address them effectively. This process allows organizations to identify and fix accessibility issues before they become major problems, which can save significant time and resources in the long run. By establishing a systematic approach to auditing, organizations can ensure that accessibility is integrated into their standard work processes, minimizing the likelihood of missing critical accessibility issues. It also helps organizations to stay up-to-date with changing accessibility standards and guidelines, and to ensure that their digital platforms are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Ultimately, a formal accessibility auditing process is an investment in creating a more inclusive and equitable digital environment, which benefits everyone.

Once you have identified and prioritized the platforms, you can start the auditing process. There are many auditing tools available that can help automate this process, including manual testing, automated testing, and user testing. It’s important to remember that the auditing process is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process to ensure that your platforms remain accessible.

Here are steps for establishing an accessibility auditing process:

  1. Identify target platforms: Determine which platforms (websites, applications, etc.) your organization is responsible for and should be audited for accessibility. This may include customer-facing platforms, internal tools, and other digital assets.
  2. Determine audit frequency: Decide how often each platform should be audited. This may depend on factors such as the complexity of the platform, the frequency of updates, and the risk of legal action.
  3. Select auditing tool(s): Choose an auditing tool or tools that meet your organization’s needs and can test for compliance with relevant accessibility guidelines and standards.
  4. Establish audit criteria: Develop criteria for evaluating the results of each audit. This may include a checklist of accessibility issues to look for, such as missing alt text or color contrast issues.
  5. Assign roles and responsibilities: Determine who will be responsible for conducting audits, reviewing results, and making corrective actions. Depending on the size of your organization, this may involve a team of dedicated accessibility specialists or assigning roles to existing team members.
  6. Conduct audits and document findings: Perform audits on each platform according to the established criteria. Document the findings, including the issues found, their severity, and their location on the platform.
  7. Develop a remediation plan: Prioritize the issues found and develop a plan for addressing them. This may involve assigning tasks to different team members, determining timelines for fixing issues, and establishing a process for testing fixes.
  8. Track progress: Maintain documentation of the remediation process, including any changes made to the platform and decisions made. Keep track of progress over time and update the accessibility report card as changes are made.
  9. Re-audit and reassess: Regularly re-audit platforms to ensure that they remain accessible and address any new issues that arise. Reassess the auditing process itself periodically to ensure that it remains effective and efficient.

Select and setup accessibility auditing tools


Audit tools are software programs that can automatically or semi-automatically evaluate web content and applications against accessibility guidelines and standards. These tools can scan web pages and provide a list of accessibility errors or warnings, and suggest ways to fix them. They can also provide insights into the accessibility of specific elements of a web page, such as images, links, forms, and tables. Audit tools can be helpful in identifying common accessibility issues and provide a starting point for addressing accessibility concerns. However, they should not be relied on solely for accessibility testing as they can also produce false positives and miss important issues that require manual testing.

Here are some steps for setting up accessibility auditing tools:

  1. Research the available tools: Start by researching the different accessibility auditing tools available in the market. Understand the features and capabilities of each tool and identify the ones that are best suited to your organization’s needs.
  2. Determine which tools to use: Once you have a list of potential tools, evaluate them based on factors such as cost, ease of use, and compatibility with your existing technology stack. Select the tools that are the best fit for your organization.
  3. Create a list of auditing tools: Once you have determined which tools to use, create a list of the specific auditing tools you will be using. This may include automated testing tools, manual testing tools, and tools for monitoring accessibility compliance over time.
  4. Train the team on the tools: Provide training to the team members who will be using the tools. This will help them understand how to use the tools effectively and maximize their benefit.
  5. Integrate the tools into the workflow: Integrate the tools into your workflow to ensure that accessibility is considered throughout the development lifecycle. This may involve setting up automated testing during development, manual testing during quality assurance, and ongoing monitoring of accessibility compliance after deployment.

By establishing a clear process for selecting and using accessibility auditing tools, you can ensure that your team has the necessary resources to identify and address accessibility issues in a timely and cost-effective manner. This can help improve the overall accessibility of your digital products and services, while also reducing the risk of costly accessibility-related legal challenges.

Establish accessibility roles & responsibilities


Multiple people are involved in ensuring accessibility, each playing different roles. The goal is to embed accessibility into standard work processes and roles. Here is a breakdown of responsibilities for each role:

  1. UX researchers and designers: As the first line of defense against inaccessible design, UX researchers and designers have the crucial responsibility of conducting accessibility audits to identify issues and recommend solutions. They should build accessible design systems and wireframes from the start, ensuring that accessibility is integrated into every aspect of the design process. They need to be knowledgeable about the latest accessibility standards and guidelines, as well as understand how users with disabilities interact with digital products.
  2. Developers: Developers play an important role in ensuring accessibility by making sure that new experiences and capabilities align with accessibility standards. They need to learn how to develop sites with accessibility in mind and ensure that any fixes needed are implemented promptly. They should have a solid understanding of web accessibility standards and best practices, and be able to use assistive technologies themselves to better understand how users with disabilities interact with digital products.
  3. Testers: Testers are responsible for adding accessibility checks to the testing criteria and using assistive technologies during the testing process. They need to understand the different types of disabilities and how they affect the user experience, and how assistive technologies help overcome these barriers. They should test accessibility at various stages of the development process, from early design mockups to final code, to ensure that any issues are identified and resolved before launch.
  4. Leaders: Leaders are responsible for making sure that the accessibility vision and business case are well-understood across the organization. They need to ensure that accessibility is given the priority it deserves and that the necessary resources are allocated. They should support and reinforce the efforts of the accessibility champion and ensure that accessibility is integrated into the organization’s culture and values.
  5. Accessibility champion: The accessibility champion is the person responsible for ensuring that everyone understands what accessibility is, why it is important, and how to implement accessible experiences. This person should have a deep understanding of web accessibility and should be able to train others in the organization on accessibility best practices. They should work closely with UX researchers and designers, developers, and testers to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all processes and workflows. They should also communicate the benefits of accessible design to the organization and build a strong business case for accessibility.

Establish a process for ensuring compliance


Establishing a process for tracking web accessibility health is essential to ensure compliance. This process can help ensure accessibility compliance, provide a reference point for future audits, and demonstrate the organization’s good faith effort towards accessibility.

Here are some steps to complete the process:

  1. Create a web accessibility report card: A report card can list all platforms, their respective owners, and their current accessibility score. This score can be determined based on audits conducted to evaluate the platform’s accessibility compliance.
  2. Maintain records: It is crucial to maintain records of all audits, findings, issues, recommendations, changes made to each platform, and the decisions made. These records help track the progress of each platform and serve as a reference point for future audits.
  3. Share report with key parties: Collaborate with platform owners to help them improve their accessibility score. Share the accessibility report with leadership, emphasizing the importance of accessibility across the organization.
  4. Regularly track your accessibility scores: Making accessibility scores a key performance indicator (KPI) helps prioritize accessibility improvements. Tracking accessibility KPIs can motivate teams to work towards improving the accessibility of their platforms. Regularly tracking and reporting on your accessibility KPIs can help you to identify areas for improvement and ensure that your organization is making progress towards its accessibility goals. By setting measurable targets and regularly monitoring progress, you can create a culture of accessibility within your organization and demonstrate your commitment to creating inclusive digital experiences.

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

See the full Web Accessibility for the Enterprise resource.

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