Having a web accessibility program and team alone won’t solve your enterprise accessibility challenges. If your organization has multiple internal and external websites and applications, you need a formal program to ensure accessibility compliance. This program should include a set of processes and tools for identifying and fixing web accessibility issues on an ongoing basis. The following actions will help you create and maintain a robust accessibility program.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.