A Starter Guide For Improving Digital Accessibility
Getting started can be the hardest part of starting a new initiative. When faced with a goal of losing weight, people are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions they need to make to change their lifestyle. How should they modify their diet? How much cardio and lifting do they need to do per week? Which gym should they join? When faced with these quandaries, it’s no wonder that inertia often takes over; the pants remain tight, skirts not fully zipped, and belts are no longer elements of the sartorial equation.
While improving accessibility is quite different from losing weight in practice, the barrier of overcoming inertia is the same. Improving accessibility often falls victim to the same overwhelmed paralysis that consumes people trying to start a leaner, healthier lifestyle. Organizations are often at a loss when attempting to figure out where to start, establishing reasonable goals, and even choosing a potential partner to help them on their journey. This blog post is intended to help firms acquire a better grasp of how to improve their accessibility, one step at a time.
Educate your team on digital accessibility
If you’re not entirely sure what digital accessibility is, don’t worry: you’re not alone. Many organizations may have a vague understanding of the overall concept, but nothing more. Happily, there are many resources available (both free and paid) to help you boost your knowledge on the subject. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has an excellent base for your crash course on digital accessibility. TPG also offers an e-learning solution, TPG Tutor, filled with expert-created modules on everything from code-level best practices to disability etiquette.
Know where you stand – set your baselines
As Peter Drucker once famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.” While you could argue that measuring is only half the battle, without a baseline to start from, your organization will be unable to comprehend the depth of the inaccessibility of its digital content, nor will it be able to document progress. Identifying accessibility failures and prioritizing the remediation plan is critical to tackling the overall project. TPG’s accessibility monitoring and reporting solution, ARC Monitoring, can help with this step. You can also take advantage of its User Flows feature to assess key user journeys like submitting a contact form or purchasing a product.
Create a plan for tracking accessibility conformance
Once you know where you stand, you will need to determine how your change requests will be submitted into the developer cycle for integration. Is there a prioritization matrix? If so, how do you go about ensuring your items will make it into the queue? Use the high-impact items from the baselines to prioritize your initiatives and get buy-in from key stakeholders on the importance of these items.
Be aware that it may take some time to get to your items. Create a running list in your project management software so you can update when items are moved to production so you can track the impact. Monthly accessibility conformance scans can help by automatically sourcing failures to be added to your list.
Build and publish accessibility best practices
Having a knowledge base or repository where you can publish best practices for your team to follow is a critical step in building and sustaining digital accessibility over time. The knowledge you collect should not be limited to just developers; rather, it should include guidelines for other departments. Human resources, marketing, public relations, etc., should all be integrating accessibility with their normal operations; it should not be considered an afterthought. If this is not something your organization has the bandwidth to achieve, TPG’s ARC KnowledgeBase – a comprehensive digital library of accessibility techniques – can help support this initiative with minimal effort on your part.
Enforce design and coding policies
Just because a seatbelt exists doesn’t mean people will use it. Ensure your teams have access to the best practices and policies your organization has established, then create a structure for ensuring teams adhere to them. You can use ARC API to assist with testing against policies. Setting policies is a good way to avoid “boiling the ocean” and enabling your teams to make progress. Slow and steady wins the race.
Getting the most bang for your buck
When it comes to getting the most significant impact for the least effort, you can start by testing common areas and site components. The header, footer, and navigation are most likely present on every page of your website. If you eliminate accessibility failures in these components, you’ll immediately upgrade your accessibility across your site! Assess the accessibility of components and libraries used in products to guide your product teams. Content that is used repeatedly can be fixed once, and the problem is solved for future uses.
Access and publish results on the accessibility of code libraries and third-party tools
Once you’ve evaluated your code libraries and third-party tools, select the tools with the highest level of accessibility to start and work with vendors to improve over time. A remediation plan is a tremendous asset in situations like this and can be implemented internally and externally.
Set a schedule and conduct regular accessibility reviews
Automated testing alone is not sufficient to ensure that your organization continues to maintain and improve its website’s accessibility. A manual accessibility review can fill in this gap, however. An accessibility expert will evaluate a representative sample of pages from across your site and identify accessibility failures. TPG also offers a High-Level Risk Assessment, which can benefit firms that do not have the budget to undergo a comprehensive review. The Risk Assessment is performed on critical areas of your site, and you can switch up the areas over time.
Regularly review testing results to troubleshoot root causes
Digital accessibility is not a one-and-done initiative. Just like code upkeep, it needs to be monitored and reviewed, or the quality will deteriorate. Keep your accessibility up to par by using an expert help solution, like TPG’s HelpDesk, and continue to train teams where there are gaps in knowledge.
Tackling any new project is immeasurably easier when you have an idea of how to get from your current state to an improved one. Contact The Paciello Group today if you need additional help in planning or executing your accessibility strategy.
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