After you’ve audited your website for conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), you’ll have a list of issues that you’ll need to address.
However, even if you’re dedicated to providing a better experience for users with disabilities, you probably can’t fix every single problem at once. Most organizations have limited resources for making improvements, so you’ll need to determine which issues deserve immediate attention.
WCAG provides some guidance here. The guidelines are organized into three levels of conformance: Level A (least strict and most likely to have a severe effect on users with disabilities), Level AA, and Level AAA (most strict, but least likely to impact browsing experiences).
A simple accessibility remediation plan will focus on Level A criteria first, followed by Level AA criteria. However, this isn’t always a complete strategy — you’ll need to consider the unique characteristics of your content. For example, a Level AA failure on your homepage probably affects more users than a Level A failure on a blog.
To make your site as user-friendly as possible, you’ll need to plan carefully. Below, we’ll discuss a few ways to set your remediation priorities. For more guidance, contact the Bureau of Internet Accessibility to speak with an accessibility remediation expert.
1. Prioritize accessibility fixes on high-traffic pages
Accessibility issues on certain types of pages are more likely to impact the user’s experience. You’ll probably want to prioritize fixes for the following components of your website:
- Site-wide template issues
- The home page
- Checkout pages and user registration portals
- Contact & feedback pages
- Video players and other components that appear on multiple pages
After fixing accessibility issues that affect multiple pages, you can begin addressing barriers that affect individual pages. Once again, you’ll want to focus on higher traffic pages.
2. Prioritize accessibility issues that limit functionality
If people with disabilities encounter issues when interacting with your website — or when navigating from page to page — they’ll probably go somewhere else. Pay attention to features that are essential to website functionality. For instance:
- User registration portals
- Navigation elements (such as a header and footer menus)
- Complex or dynamically generated content (such as web apps)
Prioritize fixes that improve keyboard accessibility. Many people with disabilities use a keyboard alone (no mouse) to navigate the internet; if your website can’t be operated with a keyboard, you’ll want to address the problem immediately.
Related: What is Keyboard Accessibility?
3. Prioritize the “easy" fixes first
Many accessibility improvements can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. There’s no shame in doing the easy work first — especially if your efforts will improve the experiences of real-life users.
Some examples of easy accessibility improvements include:
- Adding alternative text (also called alt text) to images
- Adding captions to videos
- Changing background colors to meet WCAG’s color contrast requirements
- Adding descriptive titles and subheadings for each page
- Adding instructions to forms
- Adding appropriate labels to form controls
Once again, your website’s content will determine whether these fixes can be classified as “easy.” For example, changing background colors on a single web page usually isn’t difficult — but if your company’s sitewide branding uses poor color contrast, making the change could be a major project.
4. Think about the user — not the checklist
The immediate goal of accessibility remediation is to reach a certain level of WCAG conformance (typically, Level AA, which can demonstrate compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability non-discrimination laws). However, while WCAG conformance is essential, it’s important to remember that your decisions will affect real people.
Adding alt text to images satisfies WCAG requirements, but it also improves the experiences of people with vision-related disabilities. Updating your forms can make your website compliance, but it also provides crucial accommodations to people with mobility and neurocognitive issues.
When you’re building your remediation checklist, make sure you’re focusing on your users. Track your progress and set clear goals for your remediation team. If you’re working with an accessibility remediation expert, they’ll handle much of the hard work — but if you’re not actively thinking about the user, your long-term results will be limited.