Gotcha! Scary movies rely on catching the audience with what they can’t see or hear coming. I recently had that uneasy feeling of swimming with some scary shark just out of my sight. When it comes to my website, how do I really know my customers are getting what they need and there isn’t an accessibility glitch that sends them swimming away fast. I didn’t know the facts.
“Why don’t more business professionals know the facts about their website accessibility?” I asked Attorney Lainey Feingold. Lainey Feingold is a disability rights lawyer, one of the disability industry’s top thought leaders, and author of Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits.
Atty. Feingold said, “There is still a lack of education among web developers and designers about accessibility and accessible design. The non-profit Teach Access is trying to change that by bringing accessibility education into computer science programs everywhere. Also, people don’t recognize that the lack of accessibility = excluding disabled people.”
Among US Adults, 1:5 have a disability. Sales growth is tough enough to let your business miss out on serving the vast and valuable consumer market that people with disabilities represent. Read more about those with disabilities having big spending power in A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities
I own and manage a business focused on product accessibility. I work with leaders from product design teams, software development, and human resources to bring accessibility to their employees and their customers. Making sure my website is inviting and accessible by everyone is mission critical. I took these three actions which helped to achieve accessibility compliance level WCAG 2.1 AA and the effort didn’t break the business bank account.
Action 1: Choose a content management system that offers accessibility templates for your website.
I chose WordPress.com for its accessible templates that are included with their standard package. If you aren’t on WordPress keep reading about features likely available on your favorite content management system. To be fully accessible, a website must operate under four principles also known as POUR. It must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, no matter what physical and mental abilities.
I reached out to Michelle Langston, Creative Technologist at WordPress.com. She first described her work. “I am on a team whose core mission is to make the world a better place and to democratize publishing and e-commerce, so we are passionate about accessibility. Our team aims for a baseline of WCAG 2.1 AA compliance for all of our websites, and we maintain a set of accessibility standards that are public.”
I asked Michelle, “Does website compliance come across as rigid and inhuman in the customer experience?”
Michelle shared, “It’s still a somewhat common misconception that website compliance can come across as rigid and inhuman. It’s quite the contrary! Not in 2021. Not for many years. If anything, striving to make websites as accessible as possible is humanizing. It forces us to approach our work with empathy, remembering that we are ultimately designing and building for our fellow humans who may have a variety of needs. The more we can incorporate accessibility best practices into our websites and products as a standard feature as opposed to an afterthought, the better they will serve all the people who use them. And there’s nothing less rigid or more human than that!”
Action 2: Hire a professional
If you have a website designer, ask about their accessibility training and how that training is incorporated into your website. When you meet to review content updates ask about accessibility features and have them share their testing process. Many accessibility standards come with business benefits, such as search engine optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.
Since I manage my own content, I hired the professional audit team from Beyond Vision to perform a website accessibility audit. Beyond Vision differentiates themselves by relying on “real-world user experience testing performed by people who are blind and visually impaired and utilize a proprietary process to quantify their experience with your site, as it applies WCAG standards.”
Beyond Vision advised me on the best way to audit my site during our first meeting by educating me on options that prioritized pages with high customer traffic and critical customer actions (like account access and product purchasing). Since my website had less than 10 pages a full audit was priced within my budget. The entire audit process took two months. I received a detailed report with great tools to help me update my site and web design education tips that has made me better trained. I’m happy to share the audit status on my website.
Action 3: Ask your visitors to leave feedback about their digital experience.
I received feedback that users couldn’t find or access my audio content. Without acknowledging the lack of audio content, I left my visitors wondering if they missed out. It was easy to add the sentence, “There is no audio content on this page or on our website.” A screen reader shares this information.
My website includes an accessibility statement. Here’s a free and easy-to-use resource that I used to generate my accessibility statement. Generate an Accessibility Statement | Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) | W3C. The basic components of the statement include measurements, conformance status, and feedback channels. My accessibility status was limited when I first launched my website and I wanted my visitors to know how they could help make it better.
Have a maintenance plan
My content will grow and change over time. My plan to stay accessible includes a prompt response for every suggestion I receive and a review of my website on a regular basis.
At least for this Halloween, there are no sharks lurking!