Short Term Website Accessibility Improvements
This guidance helps you to address some of the most severe accessibility barriers on an existing or in-development website. It typically leads to temporary solutions with significant limitations. It may also not be suitable in siutations with complete lack of accessibility.
A companion guide, Planning and Managing Web Accessibility, provides guidance on integrating accessibility throughout the design and development process for more effective and efficient accessibility improvements.
Understand the Basics
A first step in addressing web accessibility is understanding the basics.
- W3C - Accessibility — Introduces concepts, rationale, and resources.
- Accessibility Principles — Overview on the requirements and guidelines.
Explore the Issues
Get a rough idea of the type and amount of barriers on your website.
- Easy Checks — A First Review of Web Accessibility — Simple steps to help you identify some basic issues.
Define your Scope
Depending on your situation, you may not be able to address all the issues on every part of your website at once. You may need to prioritize specific parts to improve right away, and address the remaining parts in later stages. Consider prioritizing:
- Key processes, such as registration, purchase, or checkout processes. Include all steps in these processes.
- Key content, such as frequently accessed content and content that is particularly relevant to people with disabilities.
- Reported content, that is known to have barriers, for example through website users feedback or other channels.
- In-development content, such as areas of the website that are currently being redesigned, to avoid the creating of new barriers.
Define your Target
The generally accepted target for accessibility is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. This may already be the standard specified in your organizational policy or it may be a legal requirement for your website.
In some situations, you may need to define a multi-tiered target with different dates for different levels. For example, meet particular WCAG 2.0 success criteria in the next release, and meet Level AA success criteria in the following release.
Sometimes also Level AAA success criteria may be achievable with minimal efforts. For example, selecting appropriate link (2.4.9) and heading (2.4.10) text may be easy to do while content is being re-written to address other issues.
You may need help from people with more expertise in web accessibility from outside your team. These could be individuals working in other parts of your organization or consultants external to the organization. You might not need help with every task. The more background you have in accessibility and the skills available in your team and organization, the better you will be able to leverage them.
Also consider involving people with disabilities as a source of expertise. Seeing how people with disabilities use the web, even if briefly, can lead to much better understanding of the issues and solutions, and save you valuable implementation time. Some disability organization offer such services.
- Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility
- Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility
Evaluate your Content
Evaluate the content defined in scope, to the defined accessibility targets. Thoroughly evaluate shared elements such as templates, style sheets, and any consistent items that are repeated, such as navigation bars and footers.
Thorough evaluation requires accessibility expertise, especially for websites with more complex functionality, such as dynamic content. The Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM) provides a structured approach to help evaluate websites for accessibility.
Web accessibility evaluation tools could be helpful for evaluation. However, they can also be confusing without sufficient background in the accessibility requirements. Some tools provide guidance within the web content, which may be more helpful for learning about the issues, while others generate reports, which may be more helpful for developers.
Prioritize the Repairs
If you are not able to fix all issues right away, consider prioritizing why you repair by:
- High-impact repairs
- Appear on multiple web pages, such as navigation bars
- Appear on frequently-used web pages, such as the home page
- Are critical to complete processes, such as purchase forms
- Are specifically relevant to people with disabilities
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level A issues
- Low-effort repairs
- Require less amount of time, cost, or skills to repair
- Requires less regression testing and validation by others
- Requires less testing with users (user experience repairs)
Implement the Repairs
Once issues are prioritized, you will be better able to plan how long it will take to fix them based on the estimated effort. This gives a clear indication of what is achievable given the project resources available.
- Leverage the skills in your team — For example, designers could help select better colors and content authors can help improve links, headings, and text alternatives
- Communicate requirements across your team — Ensure that everyone involved in repairs understands the basics and the specific requirements they need to address
- Validate solutions as early as possible — Ensure that any solutions adequately address the issues raised to avoid implementing changes that do not work in practice
- Optimize your Tools — Explore and configure accessibility settings in the authoring tools you use to create web content, such as your content management system (CMS)
Some useful resources include:
- Tips for Getting Started — Basic considerations for designing, writing, and developing accessible web content
- Web Accessibility Tutorials — More comprehensive guidance in addressing accessibility requirements
- Selecting and Using Authoring Tools for Web Accessibility — Considerations for selecting web authoring tools
Longer Term: Planning and Managing
This guidance covered the most basic essential to help you get starting with web accessibility improvements. A broader and more comprehensive plan is required to integrate accessibility throughout the design and development process. The companion guide helps you develop such a plan:
- Planning and Managing Web Accessibility — Guide on accessibility implementation tasks and considerations