Accessibility remediation refers to the process of removing barriers that affect people with disabilities. In other words, remediation means fixing the problems — and ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other laws that require organizations to make reasonable accommodations for disabled users.
For websites, mobile apps, and other digital content, remediation occurs after auditing for conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In some cases, remediation is simple; unfortunately, that’s not always true, particularly if developers have several options for addressing a certain barrier.
If you’re preparing for web accessibility remediation, here are some quick steps to help you plan the project.
Create a list of WCAG failures and proposed solutions
Before attempting remediation, you’ll need to audit your website. We’ve written extensively about the importance of accessibility audits — and provided some tips for performing thorough audits by using a combination of manual and automated methods.
WCAG is the consensus international standard for digital accessibility, and the W3C provides detailed guidance for addressing each type of issue. Before starting remediation, list WCAG conformance failures along with relevant success criteria.
- Our homepage fails WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria (SC) 1.2.2, “Captions (Prerecorded)” because our promotional videos do not have accurate captions.
- Our eStore fails WCAG 2.1 SC 3.3.2, “Labels or Instructions" because the shipping form does not include examples of acceptable input for form fields.
- Our header fails WCAG 2.1 SC 1.4.3, “Contrast (Minimum)” because the text fails to meet the recommended contrast ratio of at least 4.5.1.
If you’re working with accessibility consultants, they should provide you with detailed descriptions of each issue and guidance for making the necessary improvements.
Don’t treat accessibility as a checklist
While checklists play an important role during remediation, remember that your decisions will affect real users. Your goal is long-term WCAG conformance, and if designers, developers, content writers, and other individuals have an accessible mindset, you’ll spend fewer resources on remediation in the future.
Every person involved in remediation should understand the importance of web accessibility. You can build the right mindset by clearly defining the scope of your project. Have discussions with your team and focus on why each change is helpful.
For example, improving the contrast ratio of your text will help you meet WCAG standards — but why is that important for your users? People with vision-related conditions may have trouble reading text with poor contrast; by changing your color scheme, you’ll enable these users to find the information they need.
Focusing on real users will help your team stay motivated — and help them adopt better practices that improve content for all users.
Related: Accessibility Is Not a Checklist
Establish priority for remediating accessibility violations
Some accessibility issues are more serious than others. For example, WCAG 2.1 SC 2.2.6, “Timeouts,” alerts users of an impending page timeout, which is helpful for users with mobility-related and cognitive conditions. Adding timeout notifications is a good idea — but if your website isn’t accessible for people who use keyboards to navigate the web (as required by WCAG 2.1 SC 2.1.1, “Keyboard"), that’s a much more important issue.
Fortunately, WCAG provides guidance for prioritizing remediation. The guidelines are organized into three levels: Level A (least strict), Level AA, and Level AAA (most strict). Level A standards are considered essential for ensuring accessibility.
Keep these tips in mind when establishing your priorities:
- Prioritize issues that have a high impact on users. Generally, this means addressing all Level A guidelines first, followed by Level AA guidelines.
- Begin with the “easy" fixes. If adding alt text to images requires fewer resources than adding captions to videos, start with the alt text.
- Prioritize accessibility barriers on high-traffic pages and on pages that are essential to site operation.
- Some types of web content cannot conform with all Level AAA standards. However, by following as many Level AAA standards as possible, you’ll reach a wider audience — even if you cannot earn full Level AAA conformance.
You may have several options for addressing certain accessibility barriers
Occasionally, an accessibility issue can be addressed in several ways. Every potential solution might conform with WCAG, but one option might provide a better experience for users with disabilities — or reduce long-term development costs by maintaining the simplicity of your code.
In general, the simplest fix is usually the best choice, but once again, you’ll need to consider the experiences of real-life users. An experienced accessibility partner can help you evaluate each issue to find the right solution.
For more guidance or for remediation support, contact the Bureau of Internet Accessibility to speak with an accessibility expert.