Accessibility & Inclusion

How to Make a Web Accessibility Strategy

June 13, 2023 7 minute read
Unlock the secrets to a successful web accessibility strategy, from initial scans to setting impactful policies. Ideal for enhancing compliance and broadening your reach.

Whether you want to improve your website accessibility because of legal reasons, to expand reach, or simply because it is the moral thing to do, it is imperative that you have a plan for how you will proceed. It is generally best to think about accessibility when you first build your website or during a major redesign. However, it is possible to get an existing website up to compliance. Here we will talk about the two approaches you can take for your website accessibility strategy.

The short-term approach to accessibility

Web accessibility isn’t something that you can fix once on your site and then forget about. To make sure your website is compliant and stays compliant, you will have to incorporate new policies into your overall website strategy. However, not all companies and organizations have the resources to initiate large web accessibility projects. These initiatives can be left until a website redesign. Right now, you can focus on fixing what you can. A website which is 50% accessible is better than a website which isn’t accessible at all.

With the short-term approach to web accessibility, you will follow these three basic steps:

  1. Scan website to find issues: Start by finding out what issues are currently affecting your website so you have an idea of where problems lay.
  2. Prioritize issues: If you can’t fix all of the errors right now, then focus on the high-priority issues. There are a few ways that accessibility issues can be prioritized. One is to fix issues with key processes on your website, such as checkout or registration. Another option is to fix issues on important pages, such as your homepage or most-accessed content. Yet another option is to see what issues can be most easily fixed and return the greatest benefits. For example, you may decide to make transcripts for all of your audio content because it improves accessibility for the hearing impaired as well as improving SEO.
  3. Fix issues: Make sure the staff members in charge of fixing any accessibility issues have the right training and resources to do the job.

Remember that web accessibility requires clear policies and a long-term strategy. Even if you can’t implement this strategy now, it is something that you should be thinking about.

The long-term approach to web accessibility

With this approach, the goal is to build a website which is accessible now and will remain accessible in the future. The strategy can be broken down into three parts with multiple steps under each.

1. Initiate

Congratulations! By reading this and learning about accessibility, you have already started this part of your accessibility strategy. Build on this momentum. Here are some steps to take to ensure your strategy gets off on the right foot:

  1. Learn the basics about accessibility.
  2. Hold a meeting to raise awareness about accessibility and gather support. Make your case about how this will benefit the company or organization. You want all the major stakeholders to be on board!
  3. Use a website optimization tool to scan your website. Note what the current issues are and where your strengths are.
  4. Further your knowledge. Once you know what accessibility issues your website currently has, you can seek out training and other forms of knowledge related specifically to those issues. Find information which is appropriate for team member’s role.

2. Plan

Before you set out fixing the errors you found on your website, you need to make a plan. We’ve provided a list of steps you can take to build your accessibility plan.

  1. Determine your resources. Your resources will probably start with establishing a budget for web accessibility. This budget can then be used for tools (such as Monsido by Acquia) that help your team identify and execute on web accessibility opportunities. Also, evaluate whether your website can handle such a revamp. Some sites may need to plan for a redesign to build a more accessible web presence. 
  2. Prioritize issues. Determine which issues should be dealt with first. It's advisable to prioritize tasks that are easy to implement but have a high impact on accessibility. For example, you may also choose to prioritize certain pages on your website — typically this is based on traffic or brand importance. And, lookout for any legislation and deadlines that might affect your strategy (such as the European Accessibility Act) and plan around that as well.
  3. Set clear goals and milestones. One good strategy is to set goals for each role, such as setting a goal for content creators to use alt text on all future images and developers to fix high-impact issues in code. You can also set site-wide goals, such as a goal to work your way up the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) website compliance levels. For example, you might aim to have your website level A accessible within one year and level AA accessible within 18 months.
  4. Set policies. This is one of the most important parts of the planning phase, so make sure that you are dedicating ample time to set policies. You will need an overall website policy for your website (such as, “meet level AA”) as well as policies for each role. These policies will likely be incorporated into your existing policies. For example, you may amend your content policies to include a rule that all content creators must use heading tags according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  5. Assign roles and responsibilities. There are many different team members who are affected by accessibility. Define these roles as they apply to your business/organization and assign responsibilities.
  6. Gather resources. It is a good idea to set aside time to train your teams on all of the available accessibility resources. And don't forget to reserve time for creating or amending resources to make them specific to your processes and organization. 
  7. Set up a monitoring system. To make sure you're meeting your goals, you'll need to monitor progress. Determine when and how monitoring will take place. With Monsido, for example, you will have a weekly scan and report as well as the option for on-demand scans.

3. Implement

Remember that web accessibility isn’t something that you do once. Implementing your accessibility plan will take time and even after the initial plan has been executed, you'll need to review your site regularly to ensure success. There will also be updates in standards, legislation, and technology that you'll need to plan for. Here are some steps to account for during implementation and beyond.

  1. Put new policies into practice. You've worked hard to determine your web accessibility strategy so be sure you keep it going strong. Implementing, reviewing, and optimizing policies to support your strategy will go a long way in maintanining everything you've built. 
  2. Assign tasks. Tasks have been identified but now they need to be assigned. Let each team know what they are accountable for and train them on their new tasks. 
  3. Evaluate progress and analyze results. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommends that accessibility evaluations be done at the same time as other evaluations, such as regular quality assurance evaluations. Your accessibiliy tools likely have reports that can be very valuable in analyzing your results, too.
  4. Update your milestones. As you implement your accessibility strategy and have success, your priorities are bound to change. Make sure these new priorities are reflected with milestones. You may also come across unforeseen issues and will need to prioritize and resolve them.
  5. Communicate success. Make sure that stakeholders know how you're progressing and what achievements you’ve made. This is vital for getting the support and resources you need to sustain accessibility.
  6. Sustain progress. Web accessibility is an ongoing process. You will need to monitor your website for errors (this is one more way that Monsido helps). Legislation could change, so make sure you know what standards apply to your website.

Getting started

While there's a lot that goes into a web accessibility strategy, the best thing you can do it to get started. You won't be perfect out of the gate, and no one is expecting that, but it's important to take small steps that will lead to a bigger impact down the road. If you're curious to see how compliant your website is, request a free site scan today. 

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