Taking Steps Toward Web Accessibilityby Ascedia
July 26, 2017 2 minute read
Web accessibility isn’t just a nice-to-have feature – it’s an essential component of a website. It’s critical to make sure all users can engage with your website, and an accessibility audit is the first step to uncovering areas that need improvement.
Our goal is to help all of our clients address 2.0 compliance at a minimum. Full and “perfect” compliance is subjective and the guidelines are a somewhat gray area, as the laws around this are not fully in place. For now, we know that as long as we address the key areas we identify in our audits and reporting, and provide means for users with screen readers and low vision to complete their interactions, we have shown support and can avoid litigation.
For web accessibility testing, Ascedia uses a tool that enables us to scan an entire site for accessibility flags and issues. We then consult analytics to organize required updates by priority, based on top-visited and key conversion pages. Tools like the WAVE Web Accessibility Tool allow you to test single pages on an ad hoc basis. (They also have a browser extension to simplify the process.)
Scanning pages is only one part of the puzzle. It’s also important that content creators are educated to keep accessibility in mind when creating new content – the job is never “done.” Think about accessibility for everything: alt tags, headings, images, PDFs, tables, forms, and so on. Here’s where bringing in content experts can help, to provide guidance and best practices along the way.
Another site element that can help avoid liability is an accessibility statement. A link to this page can be published on the home page and/or be included in your footer, similar to how a privacy page would live on the site.
The page should provide an alternate means of contact (phone or email where people with disabilities can get the same access). This provides a “back door” for ensuring effective communication for your disabled customers. Your policy on this page should describe your intent, timeline, and compliance plan, along with noting any specific resources for these customers and how to access them. It may also be helpful to provide a feedback form on this page. This ensures that those customers feel heard and have a way to contact you directly if they need to. Here’s an example of one such page: https://www.johnsonbank.com/Accessibility
One final element that makes all the difference is testing with actual screen-reading software. This allows an accurate quality check to ensure that users are not getting stuck on any key site interaction. Audits and scanning tools will catch a majority of global and on-page edits, but testing with a tool like Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) will allow you to catch any big holes in the experience for users with assistive technologies. Run these manual tests on 5-10 key pages where a user might need to complete an action: filling out a form, downloading a PDF, or reading additional product details.