Developing Organizational Policies on Web Accessibility

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Introduction

This guide helps you develop a policy for creating, managing, and delivering accessible websites. Refer to Planning and Managing Web Accessibility to learn about how such policies form part of a broader approach to implementing accessibility.

Designing a policy

Your web accessibility policy may be standalone or integrated into other policies, such as non-discrimination or equal opportunity policies. Ideally web accessibility should also be reflected in related documents, such as brand guidelines, coding standards, and project management frameworks. This helps accessibility to be considered as a core feature rather than an afterthought.

Your organizational policy may be an internal document and not suitable for the public. To communicate your effort, consider providing a public accessibility statement that reflects your policy, goals, and achievements.

Example of simple policy

ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring that its website is accessible to 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.

Reference standards

Reference specific standards in policy documents to ensure clear criteria for accessibility.The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides a set of accessibility standards that are commonly recognized by governments and organizations from around the world. These include:

Referencing Approaches

As technologies and standards continually evolve, it is important to keep policies current. Including accessibility requirements within the text of policies causes them to become outdated more quickly, and introduce gaps between current accessibility standards and older policies. Ideally a policy would reference the W3C/WAI standards, and define a mechanism to transition to newer versions of the standards when they become available.

Referencing options are explained in Referencing Guidelines and Other Technical Specifications.

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Define conformance levels

W3C WAI guidelines provide three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. The generally accepted level of conformance in many countries is Level AA. Selecting a conformance level that is realistically achievable for your particular organization is critical for the success of your policy. Once selected, specify what level of conformance is to be achieved for each referenced standard.

Examples

Simple example of referencing WCAG

ACME Inc. seeks to make sure our website conforms to W3C WAI WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

Example of reference to WCAG and ATAG

At ACME Inc. we seek to ensure all of our websites and web applications, both customer-facing and for internal use, conform to all Level AA success criteria of W3C WAI WCAG 2.0. We also aim to ensure that our authoring tools conform to all Level AA criteria of ATAG.

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Define scope of policy

Clearly state the scope of your policy, and how it applies to different parts of the websites in scope. This includes third-party, legacy, and mobile content and applications provided as part of these websites. Your policy may apply to websites internal to the organization, such as intranets, and to websites for external audiences. It also includes the tools used to create and to access your website.

Note that broader policies, for example for public websites and services or for access to workplace, may impact your scope considerations.

Examples

Simple example of content scope

This policy applies to all new, updated, and existing web content on http://www.acme.inc/ and all content provided internally at http://intranet.acme.inc/.

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Set conformance milestones

For all items in scope of your policy, define clear and measureable milestones, including dates, by which each will be met. If the policy is already achieved, then indicate when the content was last reviewed. Deadlines should be realistic but issues should not be left too long.

In some cases, a phased approach might be appropriate by first quickly fixing significant accessibility barriers, then implementing fixes for other issues, for example, as part of a planned maintenance update. Clearly outline any details of this type of approach in your policy.

Information on factors to consider when prioritizing issues is available in Improving the Accessibility of Your Website.

Examples

Simple example of conformance milestone

By February 1, 20XX, ACME Inc's web content will meet WCAG 2.0, Level AA conformance.

Example of staged conformance milestones

By November 1, 20XX, ACME Inc's websites will meet WCAG 2.0, Level A conformance; and by May 1, 20XX web content will meet WCAG 2.0, Level AA conformance.

Example of supplier milestone

By June 1, 20XX, all vendors of content management systems (CMS) used by ACME Inc's should provide information regarding their plans for ATAG 2.0 conformance in future versions of their software. By June 1, 20XX ACME Inc. will preferentially purchase ATAG conformant authoring tools.

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Consider third-party content

Procured or syndicated third-party content needs to be considered as part of your accessibility policy. This is particularly relevant for third-party content that provides essential parts of a website. For example, this could include credit card payment services, video streaming channels, or online mapping services.

While website owners may not have full control over such content and services, they are responsible for ensuring accessibility or for providing accessible alternatives. For example, social media feeds may need to be monitored or moderated to ensure accessibility. See the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirement for complete processes and the concept of conforming alternate version for more background.

Examples

Example including third-party content scope

This policy applies to all web content produced or updated by ACME Inc. In addition, ACME Inc. will ensure third-party content providers are aware of our web accessibility policy. ACME Inc. will also favor providers based on their accessibility conformance claims.

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Define monitoring and review process

Progress towards policy goals should be reviewed 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 all web content and tools in scope to ensure that the target level of accessibility is maintained.

Capturing feedback from users who might find accessibility barriers can help you identify issues that need to be fixed. Your policy should include information on what mechanisms will be included and how feedback is to be handled and responded to.

Examples

Example simple review policy

All areas of the ACME Inc. website will be reviewed annually using the process described at Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology. Reviews are the responsibility of the ICT department. Accessibility checks will be incorporated into the publishing workflow for all new content.

Example of feedback policy

Each page of the website will include a link to a form allowing users to submit feedback on the site; this information will be compiled and considered during the review process. Any submitted feedback will be responded to within 48 hours.

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Example policies

Example of simple policy

ACME Inc. is committed to ensuring the accessibility of its web content to people with disabilities. All of 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.

Comprehensive policies

More comprehensive policies may capture broader information, such as how the policy might be implemented, who or what departments are responsible, specific exclusions.

An example comprehensive policy is provided.

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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 and intranet to people with disabilities. New and updated web content produced by our organization will meet [link to standard] [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 our site by third-party developers will meet [third-party content standard] [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 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

If your policy includes milestones and references to particular standards by version number, then review the policy regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date. Any review should check if milestones have been met, as well as checking if any changes are required due to new or updated standards.

Consider whether the scope of your policy needs to be adjusted due to new content or significant changes to the structure of your website. Changes in authoring tools or processes may also need to be thought about.

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Longer 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.

Planning and Managing 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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