Champion Accessibility as the Minimum Viable Product for Your Website*
Marketers serve as a vital link between the company and the customer, and that’s a powerful place to sit. We all know the “Peter Parker Principle: with great power comes great responsibility.” When you’re designing your company’s (or your client’s) website, documents and other digital assets (and when you’re selecting portals and applications), make sure you design for your ALL customer users too. That means ensuring website accessibility as a baseline rather than a “nice-to-have.”
The good news is that when you embrace inclusive design, you also improve user experience (UX) overall, contribute to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and protect your company from potentially costly legal issues related to compliance with Section 508, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
With that in mind, we assembled ten simple questions anyone should be able to answer to determine if a website or other asset has been built with accessibility in mind. If you can answer (and document) “YES” to all ten, you’ve taken the first steps towards website accessibility as a minimum viable product (MVP) and towards becoming an MVP (most valuable player) for all concerned.
Your MVP Website Accessibility Checklist
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know what you don’t know about website accessibility and compliance. There are no shortcuts, but there are many resources that can help you. Here’s a good place to start. Ask yourself the following 10 questions (spoiler alert: YES to all 10 provides a great baseline of accessibility to build toward full compliance):
- Is my website responsive?
This means that regardless of screen size, proximity or zoom in/ out, all images and words are sized appropriately. The navigation and menus respond dynamically regardless of screen size, so the user doesn’t have to scroll left and right. This is also essential for SEO. It’s easy to spot unresponsive design.
- Do I maintain ONE version of my website, NOT a separate version for mobile?
Creating a second “mobile” version was once popular, and many still think it is useful, but it is neither compliant nor optimal for humans or SEO.
- Do all my images have the appropriate alternative (alt) text?
These must be descriptive of the IMAGE not focused on the key phrase. You put a lot of thought into your images to help readers understand and relate to your copy. ALT Text allows images to do that for ALL readers equally.
- Are all documents (Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel, etc.) available through my website accessible?
Many of these platforms have accessibility-related tools built-in but be sure that THOSE are certified for website accessibility before you use them as well. Beware though – the built-in tools are helpful, but not perfect. Have you ever used Google Translate? If so, then you know it can get you the general idea, but it doesn’t interpret fully the way a human can. Documents require manual human testing to identify issues and nuances.
- Do all videos on my website have captions, transcripts and/ or audio descriptions?
There are tools that can help with this but be sure to include a manual review to avoid issues lost in translation. Also, it’s critical to know which tools to use. For example, Jaws is a popular free screen reader tool, but according to a WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey, most blind users aren’t using it. Back to the drawing board.
- Has my site has been manually tested by a certified vendor?
This point is bigger than it looks. There are many “off-the-shelf” tools that claim to test for website accessibility. They can be helpful, but it’s no substitute for manual testing by trained, qualified testers. They will test for accessibility beyond what the individual tools can catch, and consider all aspects of disability including auditory, visual, blindness, motor, cognitive, seizure, and mental impairments like dyslexia.
- Has that vendor provided me with an Accessibility Statement?
This can come in the form of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or other conformance documentation. The VPAT is a component of Section 508 compliance, which is required for all federal government entities and vendors who serve them. Even if you’re not serving the government, this documentation can apply to WCAG and ADA compliance.
- Do I know which integrated 3rd party providers (chat-bots, maps, advertisements, etc.) are causing accessibility issues on my website?
You may not be able to find 3rd party providers that are fully accessible for everything you need to do. In this case, your accessibility statement will specifically call these out as exceptions, which is important to do as part of website accessibility compliance. We maintain a list of 3rd party providers and can work with yours upon request to make them compliant as well.
- Can I navigate my website using only a keyboard (tab and enter keys) just as effectively as with a mouse?
This is one of the easier things to test yourself. If your cursor skips sections, hops around out of order or won’t navigate at all, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Each element should have visible focus indicators, like an outline, to be compliant.
- Do my slideshows, animations, and videos all have a ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ button for user control?
Without this simple functionality, website accessibility and user experience plummet. A common issue based on a current trend is to use a video as your web banner background. It may look and feel cool to you, but it is unusable for many and a definite compliance no-no.
The Bottom Line on Website Accessibility
If you can’t confidently answer and do not have the documentation to support “YES” to all 10 questions, then you are NOT compliant and need to seek expert advice to get there. If you CAN answer “YES” then you have a good foundation, but remember, there are 60+ guidelines required by WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, so don’t stop here. Contact an expert to understand remaining gaps and how to achieve full compliance.
We’ll dive deeper into each of these topics in future blogs. To cut to the chase, please reach out to contact us about website accessibility and how to receive a complete assessment to ensure your website and other assets are accessible and compliant.
*For the purposes of this article, we focused on Websites. However, the same principles apply to Applications, Documents, and Platforms.