#1 Digital accessibility!

#1 Digital accessibility!

#1 Digital accessibility!


While it is important to understand the legal risks your business may be facing by not making digital content accessible, it is crucial to focus on the opportunities it may be passing up by not reaching those with a disability. In this podcast, I discuss how to develop and adapt your accessibility policy in order to minimize your online risk and maximize digital opportunity.

Episode number:
Date Published:
January 6, 2020

Welcome to the very first podcast which fittingly comes at the beginning of 2020.

And you know what is really powerful? Digital accessibility.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, organizations of all sizes scrambled to make their businesses physically accessible. At the time, the internet was still in its infancy, so nobody gave much thought to digital accessibility.

But much has changed since then. A number of courts have ruled that the ADA applies to digital spaces as well as to physical spaces, and lawsuits against non-compliant organizations are on the increase (from 814 in 2017 to 2,258 in 2018!). Similar legislation is in force in other countries, such as Australia, Israel, Canada and the UK. And the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG) put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) address accessibility on a global level.

And while it is important to understand the legal risks your organization may be facing, it is crucial to focus on the opportunities it may be passing up by not making digital content accessible to those with a disability. Consider that:

Making your content inaccessible means that you are passing up great opportunities, by alienating all of these individuals as prospects and potential customers. What’s even worse is that each of those people have the ability to say good things about your products or services to family, friends, coworkers or on social media. So if your content is not accessible, you are choosing not to target slews of people who have purchasing power.

All this makes digital accessibility a top priority for organizations.

So what do you need to do?

First and foremost, you need to:

  • Post an accessibility statement to your organization’s digital channels. And.. you need to
  • Begin adding accessibility tags added to content in digital channel(s)

Let’s break these two immediate action steps down.

1. First Create an accessibility statement. What do I mean by that?

Each page of your website should, in the footer, include a link to a page containing your accessibility statement. The statement should cover these five points:

  • Your organization’s commitment to providing a website that’s accessible to everyone.
  • The steps you’ve taken toward accessibility.
  • Any areas that don’t yet meet your accessibility goals.
  • A way for anyone having difficulty with your website to get assistance (contact information, a form, etc.)
  • How frequently you will update the statement as you make progress

Your accessibility statement need not be complicated. In fact I urge you to keep it as simple as possible. Short and to the point, with your accessibility objectives and how to report inaccessible content is key.

2. Make your digital properties content accessible

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to achieve basic accessibility:

  • Add closed-captioning to any videos on your website (YouTube’s automatic captioning is very good in most cases, but take the opportunity to review and edit where necessary).
  • Make sure there’s adequate contrast between your site’s text and the background. Faint text on a busy background can present an obstacle for people with decreased vision—even people in their 50s with typical vision for their age are often frustrated by gray text on a white background.
  • Make sure your site can easily be navigated with just a keyboard—this ensures you’ve properly coded the page content to be accessible to those with a disability.
  • Add captions and alt-text to images—so they can be read by assistive devices.

Documenting the policy

The next step­—whether it’s a formal policy or a simple checklist—sets the rules for future content. It should cover things like:

  • The steps employees must take before posting any non-text content (podcasts, videos, images, etc.)
  • The steps the organization will take to ensure that content provided by partners, vendors, etc., meets the same accessibility standards (I recommend including it in contracts, work agreements, etc.)
  • How digital content will be monitored for compliance
  • How non-compliance will be handled
  • How user complaints will be handled
  • How often the policy will be reviewed to make sure it still meets standards

One of the questions I am frequently asked is about accessibility exceptions. And reality is that sometimes, you just can’t get all content accessible, or not to the point where you would ideally like to be accessible. So let’s talk about exceptions, especially of old content.

There is a benefit to what I call "grandfathering" content and not trying to solve accessibility issues for all of your legacy content. It is simply too large of an issue to tackle at once, and usually, you have to keep the business going, which means no looking back. Consider focusing first on the new content you are creating (or will create if developing a new marketing campaign or taking on a website redesign) and then take on actual content. My advice is to establish a practice of making content or pages accessible every time you update something else on the page. In other words, need to update the "About Us" page with the name of your new CEO? Go for it, and make sure to tap your accessibility checklist for other changes you need to make to the page while you are there.

And you might need to make exceptions or prioritize current content. But make the exception request process hard on content owners, making them not only demonstrate a true business case for doing so, but a plan for making that content accessible in the future. Having a solid plan, over an aspiration, is key to getting and staying on top of accessible content. If everyone takes just a little time and focuses on making content accessible, then you will soon see a difference not just in accessibility, but in related areas such as SEO, and overall user experience.

Need more help?

Feel free to get in touch and I can provide you with a sample accessibility template. If you are trying to get digital policies started in your organization, head over to thepowerofdigitalpolicy.com and grab the slew of free resources I’ve provided.

And stay tuned during the entire month of January as I interview subject matter experts, including James Baverstock a Senior Accessibility and Usability Consultant at AbilityNet, on what matters in accessibility and how to make your digital content accessible to all.

Until next time, be well.

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