How do you know if your web accessibility strategy is effective? If your team is empowered to address issues and find solutions, you’re probably on the right track.
Self-sufficiency is crucial for digital accessibility. Remember, your goal isn’t to hire third-party experts to test your website and remediate barriers every time you make a change. While accessibility experts can support your strategy, your employees should be performing most of the work.
Web developers, designers, and content creators have a responsibility to follow the best practices of accessibility. When digital products are created with this mindset — and users with disabilities are not treated as an afterthought — those products are more robust. Code is cleaner, and teams spend less time remediating issues.
But achieving self-sufficiency requires an organizational change. In this article, we’ll introduce a few key principles to keep in mind when building your strategy.
Web accessibility begins with a commitment
Too often, organizations treat accessibility as a secondary consideration.
In 2022, Twitter competitor Post News gained headlines for declaring that their team was “not focused on" accessibility, with founder Noam Bardin writing: “We want to do it all but first, let’s get everyone in.”
This is the wrong approach. Accessibility costs less when prioritized early, and remediating issues after-the-fact can be expensive. As your organization grows, so does your accessibility debt — unless you make a firm commitment at an early stage.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Start talking about accessibility early and often. Make sure every member of your team understands the importance of inclusive design.
- Use the four principles of accessibility when designing websites and other digital products. When content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, every user benefits.
- Build accessibility testing into your user experience (UX) testing process. Don’t wait to fix barriers — address them as soon as possible.
- Discuss disabilities when writing your mission statement. Declare inclusivity as one of your organization’s values, then back up your values with strong policies.
- Wherever possible, involve people with disabilities in the planning process.
When accessibility is a core value, your team will feel empowered to make decisions that benefit your users. However, if you treat accessibility as a secondary concern — a checkbox to mark off at the end of your project — you’ll face an uphill battle.
Don’t assign accessibility to one person
Many organizations have an on-staff “accessibility expert,” which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If you have talented individuals who understand the standards of digital accessibility (namely, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, often abbreviated as WCAG), they can play an important role in your journey.
But if accessibility is only assigned to one person or team, your strategy is not truly self-sufficient. What happens if your accessibility expert leaves your organization? What if your team finds an accessibility barrier that affects the core functionality of your website, but they don’t have the specific skills needed to address it?
Ultimately, any on-staff accessibility experts should guide your approach — they shouldn’t be solely responsible for your product’s success or failure.
An accessibility partner can help you build a sustainable strategy
Every organization can adopt the best practices of inclusive design, and an accessibility partner can make this process much easier.
At the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, our long-term goal is to help developers, designers, and content creators adopt an accessible mindset. We provide on-site training and self-paced training courses, which promote the principles of accessibility by providing practical examples of barriers and remediations.
Through our four-point accessibility audits, we provide thorough performance reports with guidance for addressing issues. Feedback from senior developers, manual testers with visual disabilities, and accessibility subject matter experts (SMEs) give your team practical steps for fixing barriers and preventing future issues.
Our approach enables our clients to achieve truly sustainable results. When your organization focuses on real-life users, you can meet your accessibility goals — and maintain your success over time.