How do you know when you’ve successfully adopted the best practices of accessibility?
This is one of the most common questions we receive — and one of the most difficult questions to answer. Digital accessibility isn’t just about fixing every barrier that affects users with disabilities; it’s about adopting a long-term mindset that brings those users into the wider conversation you’re holding with your audience.
Gauging your organization’s mindset isn’t always easy, and depending on the type of digital products you provide, you might need to use different methods to evaluate your success. Below, we’ll look at a few ways to determine whether your accessibility initiative is on track.
WCAG conformance should be an accessibility goal, but it’s not the end of the road
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the international consensus standards for digital accessibility for a reason: They address many of the most common barriers that affect people with disabilities.
WCAG is organized into three levels of conformance. Generally, content that fulfills all WCAG Level AA success criteria are considered reasonably accessible (read more about WCAG conformance levels). However, you’ll need to consider the nature of your content when setting a conformance goal.
For example, if you’ve got a mobile app with complex, desktop-like functionality, full conformance with WCAG might be extremely difficult — but if you’ve consistently prioritized users with disabilities and removed as many barriers as possible, you’re taking the right approach. You should inform users of known issues and keep making improvements, but your accessibility initiative isn’t necessarily a “failure" if you’re not perfect at launch.
On the other hand, if you have a simple website with basic features, WCAG Level AA conformance is certainly attainable and should be a primary goal. But to truly offer your users an inclusive (and equitable) experience, you can take additional steps: publishing an accessibility statement, optimizing social media posts for accessibility, and involving people with disabilities when planning your website’s features.
Your digital accessibility strategy should be sustainable
Let’s say that you’ve tested your content against WCAG Level AA, and you’re confident that you’ve addressed every potential barrier. That’s great news — but if you update your website’s design or add new features, you might introduce new issues.
Digital accessibility must be sustainable. Ask these questions when planning for long-term success:
- How often will you audit your content against WCAG?
- How will you train your team to follow the best practices of inclusive design?
- Which team members are accountable for finding and remediating accessibility issues?
- What happens if those team members leave your organization?
- How can users submit information about accessibility issues, and how will you handle those reports?
If you don’t have answers to these questions, you probably need to reassess your approach. Remember, accessibility isn’t a one-time project; it’s an ongoing set of priorities.
Your accessibility strategy should be self-sufficient
We strongly recommend working with an accessibility partner to develop a long-term strategy. Experts can help you avoid bottlenecks and plan for accessibility testing and remediation, which reduces the cost of your investment while allowing for optimal results.
However, your digital accessibility partner shouldn’t simply perform audits and fix barriers: They should help your team develop their skills.
You may always need a partner for certain tasks such as manual testing, which is most effective when performed by experts who live with disabilities — but as your team understands the underlying logic of the best practices, they can address barriers and perform basic tests without relying on third-party assistance.
When your accessibility initiative is mostly self-sufficient, it’s more sustainable. You’ll spend fewer resources and enjoy more of the benefits of inclusive design.
Successful digital accessibility requires a consistent approach
At the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, our goal is to help organizations create sustainable, self-sufficient strategies for digital accessibility. We provide on-site training, self-paced training, and four-point accessibility audits, which can help your team build a better approach — and identify key metrics that demonstrate success.