Accessibility isn’t One and Done
Organizations are beginning to realize the importance of adopting accessibility culture and making their digital content accessible to assistive technology users. Reaching everyone is becoming a serious goal. And accessibility is becoming part of organizational culture in the same way diversity did in the 1990s. But just like diversity training and culture, accessibility is not a “one and done” undertaking. Continued training, regular accessibility maintenance and review of digital content and platforms need to be performed. Executive oversight to the process is a necessary component.
Because technology changes, because content is added, because staff is overturned, the accessibility of an organization’s materials and technology must be reviewed regularly. A website that was created to be accessible may now have content creators who aren’t trained to meet WCAG. Be sure to check that new content on a website that was previously remediated is checked. New content is added to most websites, mobile apps, documents, and most organization’s legacy archives every day. It’s necessary to complete periodic audits to ensure that content continues to be accessible and usable. Make accessibility a priority by making your staff accountable for the accessibility of the content they produce. This is a necessary step to adopting accessibility culture within your organization.
The frequency of accessibility maintenance and audits is dependent upon the amount of content your organization is producing. It also depends upon the level of accessibility knowledge possessed by your staff. Organizations whose staff are new to accessibility and still in need of training should have more frequent checks. Organizations that have fewer staff members familiar with WCAG and accessibility principles should be doing more frequent audits to ensure they are compliant and that they aren’t excluding part of their audience.
A retail organization that is constantly rotating product pages on their website should be performing accessibility maintenance and review more often than a company that offers static services such as a law office. Websites that have a constant influx of new pages due to new retail offers or new information (colleges come to mind) should match the frequency of their audits with the frequency of changes made to their website.
Bloggers should check their posts often – it can take only one inaccessible post to bring your organization to the attention of someone who may complain or file a lawsuit because potential readers are excluded. Precede any structural website updates with an accessibility audit before they go live. Be sure your shiny new website is still accessible and usable by those who access it using assistive technology. Accessibility maintenance should be an integral part of your organization’s overall quality control.
If your organization has a mobile app, the app should have an accessibility audit before any major release. A common complaint of blind and low vision smartphone users is that they are wary of updating their apps. New releases often result in apps losing their accessibility features, rendering a daily tool unusable. Just because something begins accessible is no reason to assume it will stay that way. It’s necessary to run checks and make sure apps don’t lose accessibility features and usability. If you’re thinking of adding a mobile app or creating one, be sure your app creator(s) understand accessibility and how to build an accessible and usable mobile app. Don’t complete the work only to find out your new app isn’t compliant and has to be rebuilt.
Organizations that produce a large number of forward-facing documents (example: banks with statements that are distributed, healthcare organizations with lab reports, etc.) should review the accessibility of their content more frequently than a company whose only document distribution is their annual report. No document should be uploaded to any digital platform (website, mobile app, intranet, network) if it is inaccessible. The best way to handle this is regular training for content creators. Periodically spot-check your documents for accessibility. Handle any complaints received immediately. (More on handling complaints in a future blog post.)
Both digital and print marketing materials such as brochures, one-pagers, and emails need to be accessible. These materials are updated for events, with the advent of new products, new initiatives, and branding. Ensure that content is created accessibly by thorough and regular training of content creators in marketing and art departments. Audit these materials regularly to ensure they meet both digital and print accessibility requirements.
Many organizations neglect to ensure their social media posts are accessible. It’s important that all videos are captioned, all images have alt text, and if the social media platform doesn’t allow for alt text, that image is described within the post. Explain links, especially if using Ow.ly addresses. Your social media is often a customer’s first perception of your organization – don’t neglect the accessibility there.
It is not only your organization’s outward-facing content, but also internal content that must be accessible. This means any intranet you use, any network or archive platforms, software tools, and HR materials. The Center for Talent Innovation claimed in a new study that as many as 30% of the US white-collar workforce may have a disability. A previous study by the National Organization on Disability said that only 3.2% of employees would self-identify as having a disability, so it’s likely many companies don’t realize just how many of their employees experience disabilities. That makes it important to ensure your organization’s tools and content are accessible for employees as well as clients, and that they are regularly reviewed.
Don’t Count on Yesterday’s Accessibility Review
As your organization develops accessibility culture, more of your staff will become familiar with accessibility compliance. Regular accessibility maintenance and review are needed until every member of your staff can be accountable for their own accessible content and tools. And even then, periodic audits will prevent slippage. Don’t assume that because your content and tools were accessible the last time you looked, that they still are. Protect your organization from litigation and prevent inadvertent exclusion of people who use assistive technology with regular reviews. This will keep accessibility at the forefront of your organization’s culture and policy.
Looking for help setting up your plan for accessibility? We’re glad to help.