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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

Retrofitting Web Sites for Accessibility

Page Contents

Note: This document is a draft and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances.
$Date: 2006/01/27 17:31:06 $ [changelog]


The first step in fixing accessibility problems is understanding the basics of Web accessibility. WAI Resources on Introducing Web Accessibility links to documents that cover the basics.

context, intro. overwhelming at first. will find that many are fairly easy, some are tedious, some are complex.

This document provides approaches and tips for fixing accessibility problems in an existing Web site. See also Implementation Plan for Web Accessibility, which [lists considerations for implementing accessibility, many of which also apply to fixing Web accessibility problems in an existing site.

As soon as you have decided to improve the accessibility of your website, let your users know. Simply insert a link to an 'accessibility statement' on your homepage (preferably as the first link that appears in the code). The statement should outline the main problems known about (to manage their expectations of the existing site), and your commitment to improvement. Where possible give a timescale for implementing improvements. In the meantime, also offer an alternative means of contact on this page, such as a telephone number or postal address.

Understanding the Accessibility Issues with Your Site

If you don't already have an idea the scope of the accessibility problems on your Web site,

To help plan a project to improve the accessibility of your site, determine what accessibility problems you have on the site.

don't need to do comprehensive eval on every page - pick: One of each feature or functionality (for example, data table, form); One from each developer or development group,... Tools can help. eval with users very powerful.

Prioritizing to Develop a Retrofitting Plan

When planning accessibility fixes [improvements], consider two parameters for prioritizing which accessibility problems to address first:

[see possible additional text in the "Approach" item of the Changelog, For Discussion section]

Another aspect of prioritizing is determining which pages to work on first. Determine where your initial efforts will have the greatest impact for your users, which often is:

  1. Templates that impact all or many of your Web pages
  2. Elements that impact all or many of your pages, such as navigation
  3. Style sheets that impact all or many of your Web pages
  4. Home page, which is often the first impression
  5. Most important pages, and the path to get there and complete any transaction
    • [??] Pages and functionality that might be particularly useful for people with disabilities, such as search features, contact page, and site index/map
    • [??] Content of particular importance for equal opportunity, such as job opening listings
  6. Frequently-used (high traffic) pages, and the path to get there

Identifying and Addressing the Root of your Accessibility Issues

Determining the source of accessibility problems helps in defining a plan to address them.

Is the accessibility problem throughout your entire Web site, or just certain areas? Is the accessibility problem just a quality assurance (QA) issue (for example,just a few alternative text equivalents are missing from images ("alt text"), or is is systemic (all image are missing alt text)?

What is the cause of the accessibility problem:

Lack of an accessibility policy (that is, developers were instructed asked to make their work accessible)?

Optimizing authoring tools

Authoring tools (software used to develop Web pages) play a role in Web accessibility, as described in Essential Components of Web Accessibility. Improved use of authoring tools can help solve some accessibility problems:

Gaining knowledge of the issues and solutions

Chances are you will need to acquire some knowledge in order to be able to fix the accessibility problems on your site. In most cases, it is best to combine educating in-house staff with bringing in outside expertise.

Anyone developing content for your Web site will need to know some basic things about accessibility.

A qualified accessibility expert can save time and effort in the long run by providing:

Acquiring skills to develop accessible solutions

You might need to acquire additional skills through training existing staff, hiring additional staff, or engaging a consultant. A common need for additional skills is CSS.

Improving evaluation and testing througout development

specific areas of the evaluation resource suite, including involving users. do early & throughout development (not just wait until the end)

Developing an accessibility policy

Developing Organizational Policies on Web Accessibility

Tips for Implementing Accessibility Fixes

[advise people to look for the *recommendations* in the evaluation report, ask them whether the recommendations are there, and to look and see how detailed they are, so that they know how much additional analysis they'll need to do]

depending on types of issues and staff to fix, often makes sense to split up tasks based on skills. for example, adding alt text requires some knowledge of the content and minor skill with the authoring tool. where as fixing dynamically generated navigation requires programming skill.

validate solutions before investing in implementation - that is, once you think you have it figured out, check first before you spend the time & effort to do it in all your pages. accessibility expertise & user involvement.

Evaluation and repair tools can also help with fixing accessibility problems. Some tips to optimize evaluation tools include:

"Ongoing monitoring" section of the "Evaluation Approaches for Specific Contexts" document

The Implementation Plan for Web Accessibility" to help ensure it won't happen again, such as developing an accessibility policy, on-going training, and monitoring accessibility.

@@ after done wtih first pass, do more. have to keep watching it.