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

[Approved Draft]
Developing Organizational Policies on Web Accessibility

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Introduction

An organizational policy on web accessibility defines your goals and targets regarding the development and maintenance of accessible web content and services.

Your policy can be standalone or integrated into other website policies or documents, such as, brand guidelines, coding standards, or project management frameworks. Including accessibility in other general policies helps ensure that it is approached as a core feature rather than an afterthought.

Such a policy forms an important part of a broader strategic approach to accessibility. WAI's Strategic Planning for Web Accessibility provides guidance on how to succeed in that longer term goal.

Example of simple policy

ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring the accessibility of its website for people with disabilities. All the pages on our website will meet W3C WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA conformance. Any issues should be reported to accessibility@acme.inc.

What is this document for?

This document guides you through topics to consider when creating or updating an internal web accessibility policy. You may also consider publishing an external statement of intent for accessibility. It is not necessary that a statement is provided to cover each topic. The topics covered are:

Reference Standards and Define Conformance Level

A standard on web accessibility defines what websites and services need to achieve in order to be considered accessible. W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 is the only internationally recognized standard on web accessibility.

WCAG establishes a set of Success Criteria to define conformance to the guidelines. Success criteria are assigned to one of three levels of conformance; A, AA, and AAA. Level A is the minimum required level of conformance, and Level AAA the highest level. Most organizations set their conformance goal as Level AA, since for some content it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria.

Authoring tools used to create web content can impact on the final accessibility of the content. Consider guidelines for your organization's content creation tools as an important part of your policy statement.

When defining conformance goals there is an understandable desire to aim high. It is better to coordinate with key website teams to set a goal that is achievable.

Note you may wish to reference the latest version of W3C standards without specifying a version number, this is explained in Referencing Guidelines and Other Technical Specifications

What to include

Other considerations

Relevant guidelines

Examples

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Define Scope of Policy

Your organizational policy should clearly identify what website content it applies to. Consider what extent the policy applies to new, updated, and existing web pages. Where your organization has multiple websites, the policy should make it clear which websites are addressed. The policy should specify that it applies equally to web content or components supplied by third-parties.

What to include

Other considerations

Examples

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Set Conformance Milestones

Where the web content in scope is known to fall short of the specified policy, define a date by which it will meet the policy. This helps ensure that focus is maintained on the policy targets.

When considering deadlines, be realistic but also ensure that issues are not left too long. In some cases it may be practical to phase in accessibility. A phased approach might first rapidly address significant and insurmountable barriers, then implement solutions for other issues as part of a planned maintenance update. Details of this type of approach would need to be clearly outlined within your policy.

For large websites, consider prioritizing based on important features or areas of the site. For example, the checkout process of an online store. It may also be appropriate to identify particular types of content, such as video, and specify when they will be accessible.

What to include

Other considerations

Examples

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Define Monitoring and Review Process

Regardless of how the milestones are specified it is important to review progress to address known issues regularly. Any changes in timescale or milestones that have been met should be updated in the policy.

Specify a recommended process and schedule for reviewing websites in scope to ensure that the target level of accessibility is maintained.

Feedback mechanisms are important to support users who might have difficulties with your site and to help gather information on barriers. Your policy should include information on what mechanisms are to be included and how feedback is to be handled and responded to.

What to include

Examples

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Example Policies

Example of simple policy

ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring the accessibility of its website for people with disabilities. All the content on our website will meet W3C WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA conformance. Any issues should be reported to accessibility@acme.inc.

Example of in-depth policy

ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring the accessibility of its website for people with disabilities. New and updated web content produced by our organization will meet W3C WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level A conformance, by February 27, 2015.

Existing web content produced by our organization, and new, updated, and existing web content provided for our site by third-party developers, will meet Level AA conformance by November 27, 2015.

We will initiate an internal monitoring program by June 26, 2015. Vendors supplying software used to develop our site will be required to provide information by June 24, 2016 on conformance to W3C WAI's Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Conformance Level A.

Our home page and our 'about this site' page will include links to this policy. We will review this policy in the future to consider updating it to reference later versions of W3C's accessibility guidelines.

All our site pages will include a link to our 'Feedback' form. This will include an option to indicate the feedback is related to an accessibility barrier or issue. Any submitted feedback will be responded to by our customer services team within 48 hours. Feedback related to accessibility issues will be passed to our Web Management Team for assessment.

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Policy Template

In the template below, the [hints] in brackets are sections for you to complete.

[Organization name] is committed to ensuring accessibility of its website for people with disabilities. New and updated web content produced by our organization will meet [link to standard], Version [version number], [level of conformance], by [compliance date].

Existing web content produced by our organization will meet our standard by [existing content compliance date].

Content provided for out site by third-party developers will meet [third-party content standard], Version [version number] by [third-party content compliance date]. This [does/does not] include user generated content.

We aim to ensure that our authoring tools and processes meet [authoring tools standard], Version [version number] by [authoring tools compliance date]. By [preferential purchasing date] we will preferentially purchase authoring tools that meet or exceed our web accessibility policy.

This policy will be reviewed [review period] on or before the [policy review date]. This policy was last reviewed on [last review date], by [reviewer].

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Next steps: Maintaining your policy

Your policy may include milestones and references to particular standards by version number. Review the information contained within your policy regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date.

What to consider

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Long term: Strategic Planning

An accessibility policy is one part of a broader strategic approach to accessibility. Making accessibility an integral part of your web development strategy is more cost effective and efficient than considering it in isolation. There are several things you can do to help your organization create more accessible websites as standard.

Strategic Planning for Web Accessibility outlines how to integrate accessibility throughout your web development. Ensure that when redesigns or updates are planned, accessibility is included from the start of the project. Accessibility is much less costly and time-consuming when tackled at the beginning of a project, rather than the end.

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