Imagine, what if your business couldn’t be used by a quarter of the population in the United States — simply because it wasn’t accessible? Unfortunately, if your website is not compliant with website accessibility regulations, that could be the case.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 56.7 million people, or 19% of the population, had a disability in 2010. More than half of these individuals marked their disability as severe, on a rating scale. Global internet usage is also common in today’s society. At the end of 2018, 3.9 billion people, or 51.2 percent of the global population, will be using the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union. Odds are those 56.7 million individuals with disabilities are also some of the same individuals who utilize the global internet, which creates an essential need for equal opportunity and proper accommodations for all.

When web tools and websites are correctly coded and designed, all individuals, including those with disabilities, can properly use them. However, currently, many tools and websites are developed with a varying amount of accessibility barriers, making it impossible or difficult for those individuals to use them, creating an unpleasant experience. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including speech, physical, auditory, cognitive, visual, learning, language, and neurological disabilities. Web accessibility ensures that websites benefit all individuals, including those with disabilities, as well as businesses and society, to create a better overall experience.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 was developed to help the fight toward equality, and ensure cooperation around the world. During the development of these regulations, many business websites aged, and some may contain archived material that is not yet accessible to the public. Aged and existing content pose a liability risk to those companies; however, a proactive approach towards addressing these issues can provide leniency if a complaint ever arises in the future. Acknowledging those pitfalls and working towards addressing them is the first act in taking a strategic step forward.

To ensure web accessibility and decrease your liability risk, AKEA will perform extensive audits on your website and other assets. During our evaluation process, we will report on issues of non-compliance and develop a strategic roadmap to create a better experience for all users, including those with disabilities. Throughout our process, we will work with your team and address issues in a series of phases, focusing on high-priority first.

Below, we have outlined our easy three-step web accessibility consulting process, which includes a strategic approach to web accessibility.

STEP ONE: Web Accessibility Audit

To ensure the function and compliance of your website, you must establish a baseline of its current accessibility level. One way to do that is by using a web accessibility audit, which measures the accessibility level against current accessibility standards, as enforced in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 standards.

The goal of the audit is to show you how your website can be improved, as well as how to implement a plan to ensure better accessibility and provide guidance as you decide whether to redevelop the website or fix the identified accessibility issues.  Web accessibility audits are useful first steps in achieving the goal of a more accessible website and improving the capacity within your business.

The first of two forms of web accessibility auditing are software (Automated) audits. Software audits use scanning software and running scripts on a website to report possible issues or non-compliance with WCAG guidelines. It assesses if certain codes are lacking by using a series of scripts. However, despite the ease of these audits, there are limitations to these tools. They may generate false positives and only 20-30% of errors can be reliably found with software testing- i would remove this as we are partnered with a software company that claims it has a higher success rate on automated scans. Software audits are often the first step to ensuring accessibility, and they are often followed by a human review.

Therefore, the second of two forms of web accessibility auditing is manual audits. Not all issues can be identified by software or a machine, and that’s why manual audits are an essential tool. Through the use of manual audits, websites are navigated and reviewed page-by-page by hand and/or with keyboard-only and screen reader specific commands. By using keys such as tab, arrow, space, shift and enter and screen reader keystrokes, accessibility to all content can be assessed. Screen readers can also be used to determine additional levels of accessibility, as non-sighted users generally use screen readers to interact with your website and other applications. This whole section needs to be reworked.

Manual audit reports provide a structural analysis, which includes the functionality of navigation menus. Navigating and operating all the functions of a website without a mouse is essential for many users with disabilities. Additional issues may also be discovered, such as improper coding and the inability to properly employ for maximum accessibility. A content analysis is also provided, which highlights data tables as well as color contrast. Color adjustment may be required because color-contrast issues can make comprehension difficult for some users. Reports also provide navigation analyses to highlight possible issues within headers and/or screen clicks, as well as mobile application analysis and media and digital file analysis, if applicable. Using this comprehensive information, we will present our findings and various reports to create a plan to work toward minimizing risks, resolving compliance issues, and enhancing the users’ overall experience.

STEP TWO: Planning

Following the web accessibility audit, we will develop a roadmap to streamline the work process and establish a plan to maintain future compliance. Throughout the development of this plan, we will set up work assignments and deadlines, as well as identify team members by creating a coordination team with a communication plan.

We will tailor this program the needs of your organization, identifying areas that impact many users by reviewing audit reports and estimating the resources required to address the needs and issues identified in the initial audit. With a focus on ADA and Section 508 legal requirements, we will highlight areas of significant legal exposure and concern, and develop a well-rounded plan to reduce areas of legal risk and ensure future compliance.

Throughout this planning process, we will also work to create a customized plan to address high-impact issues as quickly as possible. We will fully explain what accessibility issues need to be addressed, by whom, in what order, and why, to confirm that those are addressed as efficiently as possible.

Many assets, such as websites, applications, documents, forms, and other media files, can often be remediated directly by your development team or our accessibility consultants. We will create a plan to attest that identified issues are addressed by all applicable parties. It is also important to establish a process for the creation of new features and functions in the future. Developing a plan to conduct ongoing monitoring and periodical reviews of all aspects of implementation for effectiveness and compliance will benefit your organization and its users in the long run.

STEP THREE: Remediation

Throughout this process, we will bring your digital assets, such as websites and documents, into compliance with accessibility standards to provide a better experience for users with disabilities. When addressing some of the issues found, we may find that there are numerous identical issues on various pages. In each instance, the best tactic for addressing those may vary. We value finding the best solution for each situation, as opposed to applying a “one-size-fits-all” fix. Additional resources are also available, which can include a date stamped letter of compliance upon completion of the remediation cycle.

In order to make this process as beneficial as possible for your business, we will utilize a collaborative approach to find the best solutions. We value education, creating a safe place, creating opportunity, and we believe in the adage that children are our future. Promoting organizational awareness and a range of training options will allow for future compliance and additional success. With our help, you can achieve accessibility compliance by implementing necessary changes, broadening your audience to include all individuals, regardless of disability. It’s never too late to start, so contact us today to begin our web accessibility consulting process.