Rethinking the Accessibility Imperative
January 24, 2022

Ray Carey
Optimere

Over 2 billion people globally live with a disability and in the United States, 26 percent of adults have some form of disability. Therefore, creating accessible websites is a critical part of creating a more equitable society. However, many organizations struggle to turn the vision of delivering more inclusive digital properties into a reality. The key reason is that making online services accessible is challenging and there is no quick fix.

Rather than waiting on litigation or a fine to jump-start efforts, organizations need to start now on their journey to creating more inclusive websites and apps. To deliver more accessible digital properties enterprises, need to look at the design, code and content and should focus efforts on these three areas:

1. People

Training is a vital part of delivering more accessible sites. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a blueprint for how organizations can approach creating more inclusive sites. Everyone that adds functionality or content needs training to understand the best practices in accessible design and content principles. These include providing Alt tags for audio and visual content to adding labels to buttons so that users with a screen reader can navigate the site and designing forms for accessibility.

As standards and regulations continue to change, training must help teams understand the new requirements and update their skills.

2. Technology and testing

Numerous technology solutions can aid enterprises in their quest to increase accessibility. And many have turned to widgets, overlays, and automated testing in an attempt to meet web accessibility standards. However, these tools are not enough to achieve full compliance. Instead, organizations need to deploy a mix of automated and guided manual testing. Those entities leading accessibility efforts are deploying focus groups consisting of users with disabilities to test websites and digital assets to ensure the needs of everyone are met.

As part of a DevOps environment, software is continuously being developed and released, and as a result, accessibility testing needs to be a continuous process. Building accessible code is a critical component of delivering inclusive digital properties. So instead of looking at accessibility, once websites and apps are built, it needs to become part of the software development process.

When selecting a technology, organizations should look for an option that continuously audits accessibility and provides detailed reports about any problems according to the WCAG guidelines. In addition, a roadmap of how to fix specific issues can help accelerate both the identification and remediation, ensuring an inclusive experience and supporting the rapid release of software.

3. Mindset shift

As ever, change management is another vital part of improving accessibility. An organization's culture needs to re-orientate around accessibility and make it part of the company mission. Tactics like creating and publishing a web accessibility policy and educating every employee on why accessibility matters will help support the transformation.

In addition to creating a more equitable and inclusive society, improving accessibility provides several tangible business benefits. These include providing a competitive advantage by increasing the population's footprint that can access your products and services and can also help attract and retain employees. A commitment to accessibility should be imperative for every business.

Ray Carey is CEO of Optimere
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