If you’re planning to start a new business, you’re probably planning to have a great web presence to go along with it. As people increasingly prefer to research and buy online, you want to reach as many customers as possible, so you’ll find creative ways to design effective and compelling web solutions — but will your website be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities?
Every new business needs to understand ADA and web accessibility requirements. Incorporating accessibility into your business plan from the beginning will make the process easier and your website more compliant.
How to plan for accessibility with your new business: 10 tips
Hire for diversity.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and celebrates the talent and contributions people with disabilities make to our economy and workplaces. It also serves as a good reminder that the best ways to avoid common myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities are to include them, get to know them, and hire them. Your company will be better-suited to compete and thrive when the talents and perspectives of all are considered and valued.
Hire content creators and developers with accessibility knowledge.
Not everyone is going to be an expert on web accessibility, and that’s okay. What you should strive for, though, is filling your team with people who have some experience creating accessible content and websites — or who are willing to learn. Part of why this is so important is that considering accessibility changes the whole content and design process and mindset. Content creators who have a foundation in digital accessibility will already have a plan for how to build compelling content that everyone can use.
Learn the basics of web accessibility.
Perhaps the most obvious and perhaps one of the most overlooked concepts is to understand the rules of the game. What is it that makes a website accessible, or inaccessible? What are the requirements for using colors? What about videos, images, and infographics? How will people who don’t use a mouse or who use assistive technology get around and understand the content? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most-known and accepted standards, and they answer all these questions.
Require ongoing education.
The rapid and constant advancements in technology require staying current with the latest trends and solutions. Consider formalizing education requirements with self-paced training. Subscribe to industry blogs to stay connected with updates and thought leadership. You may even encourage your team members who have digital accessibility as one of their day-to-day responsibilities to attend one of the major accessibility conferences.
Build accessibility into the culture.
Maybe a little vague, but this is incredibly important — bake accessibility right into the formula. Rather than an afterthought, or an expense, or a risk, approach accessibility as a welcome aspiration. Creating accessibility advocates who genuinely understand and care about equal access to your company’s information will benefit everyone and make the accessibility journey a smoother one.
Define accessibility requirements from the beginning.
Set the expectation that a new web page or product cannot be published without meeting defined accessibility standards. Define and enforce the requirements from day one and communicate that accessibility should be considered as both an opportunity and a risk — like privacy and security.
Do your homework when selecting vendors.
If your website, social media, or any part of your digital presence will be handled by a third-party, ask questions to make sure they take accessibility as seriously as you do. How do they care for accessibility on their platform? What accessibility guidelines do they follow? Who tests for accessibility and who is in charge of addressing any issues that are found? Remember that just because a vendor says their products or platforms are accessible doesn’t mean you should take them solely at their word and assume you’re covered. Finally, require that they commit to accessibility and have a plan to fix things as needed.
Include people with disabilities in research and development.
If you want to create experiences that attract, convert, and sell, you need to know why and how people make the decisions they do online. What transactions are people comfortable making on a mobile device? What steps are they taking, start to finish, through your online platforms? What information are they looking for, and at what point in the process? As you do this research and begin to develop use cases, user stories, personas, and so on, include a broad audience that represents as closely as possible the diversity of your potential customers — people with disabilities should be part of this.
Prepare an accessibility statement.
An accessibility statement is your chance to make a powerful declaration on your commitment to web accessibility. It should present clear information about your company’s target level of accessibility and the methods used to reach that target. Accessibility statements are now expected on all public websites.
Plan for maintenance and keep a relationship with the experts.
Remaining compliant takes maintenance and regular accessibility checks. As your business — and its digital presence — develop and change, it’s important that your accessibility efforts keep pace.
Tools like the a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator and a free and confidential web scan are great self-service check-ups. If you want to align yourself with leaders who can help you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance, talk to us.