Why is website accessibility such an important topic now?
Because of increased reliance on websites to provide resources and information, accessibility has come to the forefront. In recent years, the growing trend toward environmentally-friendly, web-based resources has exposed the gap in accessibility.
Although the internet was not an integral part of daily life when ADA was enacted in 1990, today, it dramatically impacts the way that American government serves the public and the way business is conducted. A refresh of the government's Section 508 guidelines in 2017, outlines the standards for website accessibility.
What makes a website accessible vs. not accessible?
There are three major components to an accessible website:
- Design must address accessibility best practices for color contrast, design elements, font size, etc.
- Programming must be conducive to assistive technology such as screen readers and keyboard commands.
- Content must be accessible. PDFs, images and documents must be properly described and converted to accessible formats.
Website design, programming and content all work together to ensure there are no barriers to prevent access to information and to address Section 508, WCAG, and ADA Level AA accessibility standards.
Key components to website accessibility:
- Color Contrast
- Font Size
- Image Descriptions
- Keyboard Commands
- Access for Adaptive Technology
- Accessibility Enhanced Documents & PDFs
How do you know if your current website is Accessible?
Accessibility begins with a website scan. Because website accessibility is such a hot topic, a quick Google search displays numerous companies that will offer to scan your site and provide a report.
It is important to ensure you are dealing with a reputable, experienced provider when it comes to accessibility. Your website developer should be experienced with accessibility measures such as accessibility scans, conversion of MS Office documents & PDFs, and site modifications (keyboard controls, navigation, etc.) to ensure your site meets ADA accepted accessibility standards.
An initial site scan and report will alert you to issues with your site's accessibility. Your website provider should be able to assist you with implementing accessibility features on your site.
Depending on the features and type of site you currently have, static or responsive, your site may be able to be modified to address updated accessibility standards. In other instances, your site may need to be redesigned in order to achieve current accessibility standards.
Brooks Jeffrey offers website scans and remediation services.
What about accessible PDFs and documents?
Providing accessible PDFs and documents is crucial to achieving accessibility standards.
Best practices from ADA.gov states:
When posting documents on the website, always provide them in HTML or a text-based format [even if you are also providing them in another format, such as Portable Document Format (PDF)].
For problem PDF documents, the first choice is to eliminate the PDF and instead provide the content from the PDF as live text on your site. You can also:
- correct the accessibility issues identified and replace the PDF online,
- link to a federal or state resource for the content,
- request a quote from your website vendor/third-party service to remediate the PDF
Brooks Jeffrey offers conversion and remediation services for PDFs and documents.
How do you maintain ADA standards?
Once your site has been scanned and corrective measures implemented to address ADA accessibility standards, it is important to maintain this status by ensuring all future website content updates follow the same guidelines, such as:
- Images are tagged with unique, meaningful descriptions
- Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents are saved as accessible files
- PDFs are saved with accessibility enhancements and elements tagged appropriately
- Videos feature audio descriptions and captions
Routine accessibility scans are recommended to help ensure your site adheres to the latest accessibility guidelines.
Brooks Jeffrey can assist with accessibility measures such as accessibility scans, conversion of MS Office documents & PDFs, and site modifications (keyboard controls, navigation, etc.) to ensure your site addresses ADA accepted standards.
What if your staff manages the site content via a Content Management System (CMS)?
ADA.gov's Voluntary Action Plan for Accessible Websites states:
Ensure that in-house staff and contractors responsible for web page and content development are properly trained.
It is important that your site's content managers (whether in-house or contracted) are properly trained to develop and maintain accessible site content. Some CMS include accessibility tools to help in developing site content to maintain ADA standards.
Designating a staff member or two to become certified in document and PDF creation will also help you maintain your site's accessibility standards.
Microsoft and Adobe provide instructions on creating accessible documents. Adobe offers FREE online training courses on PDF creation with accessibility enhancements.
If you do not have the staff resources available to devote to accessibility, document conversion and PDF remediation services are available from Brooks Jeffrey's accessibility-certified content managers.
How do I prove my site addresses the latest Accessibility standards?
WCAG and ADA standards are constantly evolving. Having a person on staff that spearheads your organization's accessibility efforts and documents these efforts is recommended.
Keep records of your website scans and all remediation efforts. Upon request, Brooks Jeffrey can scan your website and provide a detailed report of scan findings.
Should I offer 24/7 phone assistance for disabled users when they encounter issues with content on my site?
Yes. 24/7 phone assistance is just one additional way you can support and improve the user experience.
While the goal is to create accessible sites where everyone has equal access to the information, users may still have issues. One of the first links users should encounter on your site is a message encouraging them to call a staffed phone line if they have any issue with the information or navigation.
The message typically encourages the visitor to call your office during the day or call your website provider's 24/7 number for questions. Brooks Jeffrey provides 24/7 support for all users.
What are user testing and site testing protocols?
During the development process and before we launch a site, we thoroughly test the site's navigation, function, and content for accessibility. Thorough testing helps ensure the site works as intended for all users. Testing protocol includes site scans, as well as hands-on user testing.
As part of our testing protocol, we create information search scenarios so our testers can navigate the site to locate the requested information using screen readers and assistive technologies.
Tell us about your testing protocol for keyboard controls.
When building a website for differently-abled users, we think about the end-user's perspective.
Generally, low vision and blind users may not own a mouse or monitor. They experience the website through a reader that reads word-by-word the content on the site. Instead of clicking through a site with a mouse, they navigate the site with a keyboard.
Testing ensures the keyboard commands follow proper navigation and that screen reader prompts flow through the content as expected.
How do you know that a visually impaired person experiences the information on the website as intended (same experiences for a sighted person)?
For each website we build or content update we make, we put it to the test. One of our testers is visually impaired. She works closely with our web development team to make sure her experience on a site is as intended. She navigates our sites to perform specific functions or find info. We compare her screen reader recordings to the page content, PDF, or whatever she may encounter, to confirm what she hears is correct.
What ADA tools and training does your team have to help them keep up with evolving technology?
Our certified, degreed developers participate in frequent on-the-job training sessions as well as classes and training webinars. In 2019, four of our staff content managers completed Adobe's Online Accessibility Training Program and WebAIM's Document Conversion and Remediation Certification Course.
Below is a list of free, online ADA Accessibility training resources.