What does Website Accessibility Look Like?

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  • 8/16/2017

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    Website accessibility is at the forefront of almost every conversation we have with our clients. It’s no longer a “check-the-box” topic. Instead it’s a constructive discussion around designing websites with accessibility in mind and a desire from clients to learn more.

    There’s no denying the increase of legal involvement concerning accessibility. There have been many accessibility cases in the news. Most of the stories gained traction on the slippery slope of a website lacking accessibility.

    For example, Winn Dixie, a southern-based grocer, was issued the first accessibility trial verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Its crime? Not having a navigable website that blind users could use.

    Steep punishment for a once industry trend that’s now a mandatory requirement. Website accessibility may seem like a daunting task, but below we’re walking you through our progress with the concept. 

    Education on-the-go

    We view website accessibility as a journey with our clients. Along the way there are many opportunities for on-the-spot education, open conversation and like any journey the path is not set in stone.

    Following in line with one of our four pillars, client education, we work diligently to keep clients included and educated on accessibility throughout the process.

    For example, if a client wants a feature that violates one or more of the accessibility guidelines, we course correct and offer a variety of alternatives to achieve the same effect. Ultimately the client makes the final decision, but we play a key role of technical adviser and educator on accessibility compliance and best practices.

    In the end, most clients feel relief with our increased level of involvement and conversation throughout. It results in fewer unexpected hurdles during the final mile of a project and most feel they have a better grasp on the finer details of accessibility.

    Long-term

    Long-term maintenance and accessibility re-testing is often overlooked at the start of a new website project. The initial build-out of templates and installation within the CMS is only half of the story. Content editors will add, remove or change content within your website for many years after launch, giving the chance for oversight on important elements.

    Therefore, regularly scheduled or ad-hoc accessibility scans are vital. They help uncover hidden content issues with your website and provide confidence that your website is accessible for users with the latest and greatest in assistive technologies.

    We stand by our quality

    Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. At least that’s our approach on quality assurance (QA) and testing.

    There are a lot of accessibility scanning services where you give it a URL and a computer generates a detailed report. These services are great, we use them and we love them, but they are not comprehensive. They miss out on the human element of a user trying to navigate your website with an assistive technology like a screen reader or magnifier.

    That’s why our accessibility QA process is a combination of automated and hands-on testing to ensure we’ve covered all of the 100+ items on our QA checklist.

    Our Evolution

    We’ve been around the accessibility block.

    In the early days, it started with user-selectable contrast and font size settings for the Cleveland Sight Center website. Now, it has evolved into UX design charting the path in wireframes. Our Visual Design team then ensured consistent use of larger, higher-contrast text.

    Now our Front-end Development team adheres to website standard guidelines for HTML markup. Our Application Developers also configure the templates within a CMS to ensure ease of use for content editors. During this process we also enforce all accessibility requirements throughout the life of the website.

    Throughout this evolution we’ve adopted many day-to-day accessibility best practices. We’ve also developed and refined multiple quality assurance checklists that help us and our clients sleep better at night knowing a new website has been checked, rechecked and gone through with a fine-toothed comb.

    Let’s Chat
    If you want to learn more about website accessibility or hear about all of our accessibility compliance services drop us a note or tweet us! Let’s help get your website into accessibility compliance order.
    About the author:: Jerome Sen is the Director of Development at thunder::tech. He's responsible for the strategic vision and oversight of User Experience Design, Front-end Development, Application Development and Digital Support teams. Currently he's the undefeated cornhole champion of 4+ years.
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