Steps To Get Started with Accessibility
Before you make any decisions, budget for, or call a developer to update your website, you should have an understanding of the process. This is what a review (often called an Audit) of your website will provide. It usually consists of:
an overview summary of key areas that need to be addressed
a detailed list of all the points that need correcting.
This audit can be done using either a computer, a human or a combination of both computer and human.
While automated computer software tools can easily catch technical issues (for example, color contrast level is only 1.2 instead of 4.3), they are too literal and can’t interpret design concepts as a human brain would.
Since your website’s clients/customers are human, it is highly recommended to have both computer software and a human check your website. To quickly assess how your website ranks on the accessibility spectrum, use “Tota11y” service, one of my favorite tools, to check your website:
tota11y: Free. Results are the easiest to understand. Scroll to end of the page, and drag the box to your browser bar to add. To use, simply click its icon when visiting the page you want it to analyze.
Keep in mind this will only provide technical results. Some items flagged as “issues” really aren’t, while other issues that should be fixed won’t register as technical issues. This is where a human interpretation can save you time fixing unnecessary items and catching the items the software missed.
TIP: In case of a lawsuit, even if a website is technically compliant (as deemed by a computer audit), if the human customer/client can not access or correctly use the website, it can still will be ruled as non-accessible!
For most small business and entrepreneurs, most common changes will focus on content:
Images need alt text labels
Videos need captions
Audio files need transcripts.
There often are minor structural changes that are quick fixes, such as font choices, font size, line spacing, color contrast and more precise link descriptions.
Now that you have a clear scope, you can accurately estimate time and budget needed to bring your website up to basic “A-AA level” compliance.
For tech savvy website owners comfortable with HTML, CSS and know where and how to change settings, planning will simply come down to allocating enough time to get all work in multiple batches. Remember, it will always take longer than you think, so 2 hour blocks each week are better than an intensive 2 day weekend.
For those not familiar with how to edit their website or who may have a large number of issues, hiring a professional who can offer creative solutions and assist in updating the website is a safer strategy.
DIY or Who to Hire?
While this topic can fill an entire article on it’s own, here is a brief summary to understand your best options to help make your website compliant.
Do-it-yourself: If you work in technology, can research best practices and have a decent knowledge of HTML and CSS, you can probably handle updating your website alone.
Budget friendly but may cost you a hours of work, depending on how much older content will need to be updated! If you have over a hundred videos or thousands of photos, consider hiring a freelancer or intern to do this basic manual task for you.
Freelancer: If you are a one-person business, side gig or very small website than your edits may be quite low in number in which case hiring a freelance designer or developer will probably be sufficient. Most often a developer will work best when working strictly with code issues. A designer will be more useful in situations where the website layout, design and solutions are the most prominent needs to be updated.
Some designers are also developers so it pays to ask or look at profiles for details.
Hiring those who have built websites within your industry is a big +.
Agency: There are numerous agencies that offer an array of services for businesses. These professionals are recommended if your regularly subcontract to the federal government, work within an industry that is highly regulated or have a larger small business, start up or website with more than 25 pages. You will benefit from a complete team and specialized knowledge they will have access to convert a wide array of multimedia content and structure of your website. In this case it is important that the agency have prior experience with ADA Accessibility compliance. If they don’t know what your talking about, which is still common, keep researching until you find someone who can help.
Most agencies are highly detailed and expensive as they specialize in full-service and quick turn around.
Getting it done right the first time, can save you thousands later on.
Specialty: A last option are companies who specialize in just Accessibility web design, audits and re-designs. Prices can vary drastically depending on how large the business is and how long they have been in business. Having already run your own preliminary computer based audit, you can compare to their recommendations and have the ability to opt out of services you could handle on your own.
Timing is of the essence with accessibility, to have a paper trail as proof that you are making a true effort to correct your website. Even if your website takes a year to completely update, you have the proof that you have been working on it all along can be enough to deter from being served a lawsuit in the first place. But more importantly, it will demonstrate to all your users and customers that you are thoughtful and want to serve them the best way possible.
To get started right away and demonstrate the beginning of your effort to make your website fully accessible, you can add an accessibility tool that will help some disabilities to access your website easier. Please understand that this tool will not make your website accessible! It instead demonstrates awareness of the issue and a temporary solution while you work on correctly changing your website.
Userway.org : Free, but requires you to give your email address in exchange. To try out, click the blue eye at the top right corner of this page.
Also recommended is to create a page titled “Accessibility” that will live next to your Privacy and Terms pages in your Footer. This accessibility page will define your pledge to create accessible content, your current progress and pages you acknowledge are not fully accessible due to the use of 3rd party content or tools which you cannot control how they are displayed. If you need to continue to use these tools, you should still make an effort to offer the same content in an alternative form also. This type of accessibility document along with your Privacy statement and Terms + Conditions can go along way towards documentation should any lawsuit be presented against your website during or after your website update to Level A or AA accessible.
Questions? Visit our FAQ for Common Questions