August 22, 2016
Time for an Accessibility Check Up - And Action!

“A person with a disability must be able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability, and be able to do so in an equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use.”

This statement is from the beginning of The Ohio State University’s Web Accessibility Policy and Standards. And this one of the best definitions of web accessibility that I have seen.  

Recently, there has been a surge of interest in ensuring your web presence is accessible. Especially in a university or college setting, we must provide an experience online that resonates for all users, regardless of disability.

Does your site meet Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), depending on the type of organization? Fundamentally, both standards have quite a bit in common. Examples include: Any non-text element (images, video, audio) should have a text alternative, organized data (tables, formatted text layouts) can be read chronologically and with description, and dynamic or scripted content has a similar alternative.

It is important to remember the greater community that you are serving. Those with disabilities that limit site interaction may be prospective students, they may be donors, they may be potential faculty or staff, or even current members of your campus community.

On top of providing a more inclusive user experience, you will also be rewarded with potentially better search rankings. With a better content structure and more explanatory text, search crawlers will have an easier time determining page relevance.

We are three steps away from our site meeting the requirements for Section 508 and WCAG:

  1. Determine how our site scores currently.
  2. Develop and implement a plan to address page-level and site-level errors.
  3. Discuss a plan to stay ahead of requirements.

Step One: Determine how our site scores currently

There are a number of page-level tools to test your site to determine compliance. Any search on “accessibility tools” will provide plenty of options. There are some we like, use, and recommend, including AChecker and Wave. There are also some site-wide tools you may already have on campus, such as SiteImprove.

Regardless of your accessibility scanning tool, you’ll find recurring errors (site-level, potentially) and unique errors (page-level) when reviewing reporting across the page types.

Collect all the reports into an easy-to-reference format as you move to Step Two. No errors? Move directly to Step Three.

Step Two: Develop and implement a plan to address page-level and site-level errors

There are three roles needed to resolve the existing accessibility issues on your site: authors, designers and developers.

Your site authors will be able to address the page-level, content-related errors. Alt text for images, video and audio transcriptions, and—to a certain extent—formatting issues.

It is time to develop a plan of attack. At a minimum, this involves setting parameters on all known problems from Step One. What should be fixed? Which items require training? What is outside your Accessibility Guidelines (if your institution has published these)?

Assign leads by page or by issue and develop a timeframe. Plan to retest your site once all changes are in place. If some of these changes require third-party help, include them in the planning phase.

Be sure to include reporting approvals in your plan. If this initiative was driven by leadership, there must be a deliverable to show all is well. Plan for questions.

It is now time to execute the plan. This is the most tedious part of the process. Put your team in action. Once this phase is complete, run a new test of the pages to ensure all known problems are resolved. Deliver a clean report to the proper stakeholders.

You are ready to move to Step Four.

Step Three: Develop a long-term plan to stay ahead of requirements

Finally, let’s ensure this doesn’t happen again as time passes. The baseline you have developed will allow you a comparison test when it is time for a periodic review. Plan at least an annual review. Depending on the frequency of template changes and how much media is added to the site, this may require a more frequent review.

Training is essential, especially in a distributed authoring environment. Add an accessibility section to your author training. This is especially helpful for infrequent users and new staff. Spend more than just the “how” and encourage the authors to understand the “why.”

Review tools that will help you stay ahead of the learning curve. What does your web partner offer? For Ingeniux customers, we provide a custom “Section 508 Checker” tab for all pages as they go through the authoring and publishing process. Also, as part of a site audit, Ingeniux can provide an accessibility report.

One last step is to incorporate accessibility research into your regular readings. Here are some of my favorites:

If you are headed to the 2016 Ingeniux User Conference in September, Derek Featherstone (Simply Accessible) will be giving a keynote. Learn more about the annual Ingeniux User Conference at www.ingeniux.com/userconference

Ingeniux Accessibility Consulting

Now is the time to take action. Review your site to determine where you stand and come up with a plan to tackle the issues in both the short term and the long term. The effort is well worth the outcomes.

And if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Ingeniux offers accessibility consultations. Interested? For more details get in touch with me via email or give us a call at 877 445 8228. 

Posted by Eric Hodgson
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