Accessibility is more than just luck, and it’s not a one-click fix. Accessibility includes research, knowledge, skill, and testing. If these are skills you or your team do not currently have, act now! It’s only a matter of time before you have to face the issue. Did you know the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled in 2018 compared to 2017! Over 2250 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA in 2018.
What does this have to do with your digital documents? The Section 508 refresh clarified that agency official communication must be accessible. Additionally, the refresh stated the following nine types of documents must be compliant with accessibility standards:
- An emergency notification
- An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding
- An internal or external program or policy announcement
- A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action
- A formal acknowledgment of receipt
- A survey questionnaire
- A template or form
- Educational or training materials
- Intranet content designed as a web page
The only exception listed in the refresh pertains to records maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to federal record keeping statutes, which documents are not required to conform unless they are public facing.
If you’re counting on luck to keep you flying under the radar of federal law, you need to also be ready to go through discovery, summary judgment, and possibly trial. We believe it’s best to avoid accessibility lawsuits altogether and get accessible now. Remember, accessibility is a continual process, not a project. When it comes to document remediation, many organizations can become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s important to keep the end goal in site, which is to provide your information to everyone regardless of ability.
As mentioned previously, research, knowledge, skill, and testing are all necessary elements for providing accessibility. Let’s briefly discuss each one.
If you’re still reading, good job! You are already starting your accessibility research. Stay organized with your research. Start with these steps:
Learn why accessibility is important. Understanding why we do something will create a desire to learn more and help you develop empathy for the people to whom you are giving access. In my experience, “because I said so” isn’t great motivation for implementing or understanding how to apply the standards. But learning the whys of accessibility from the beginning will provide greater success for learning, applying, and maintaining accessibility standards.
Learn accessibility standards. We know there are numerous websites providing instruction on digital accessibility. How is one to know which one provides the most accurate information and techniques? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the internet. W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), so if you want to know what the standards are, we recommend starting here by going straight to the source.
Learn how to apply the accessibility standards and techniques to your digital content including websites, apps, and electronic documents. Depending on the digital platforms your organization uses, this may require additional training with your specific developer.
Of course, if you are one of our clients, we handle it all for you. Basically, you provide the documents and/or information you need on your website, and we develop it accessibility for you. Sound too good to be true? Here’s where luck is on your side since we handle all of these steps for you. If you prefer to handle it yourself, keep reading to learn what to do with the research you complete.
You’ve done the research, understand what accessibility is, why you need to apply it, and how to do it. Now it’s time to put your knowledge to use. Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” To earn the interest from this new found knowledge, remember that knowing about accessibility has no value until you apply it.
The best time to apply accessibility is when you create a document. Think of it like building a house. If your foundation isn’t strong, you will spend a lot of time during the rest of the building process trying to “make it work” to account for the lack of underlying support. A little extra time and effort in the beginning provides the support you need to add all the additional elements that will end with a beautiful home that everyone can enjoy. Similarly, we find it’s much easier to apply accessibility while writing digital content than having to remediate it later. Whether you use Word, Excel, Google Docs, or any other software, apply accessibility as you develop your documents. If your end result will be a PDF document, you can finish the process using a program such as Adobe DC to adjust tagging structure as needed.
The more you create accessible content, the more your knowledge of standards and techniques will increase, and the easier it will become. It’s also important to remember that just as the World Wide Web continuously evolves, so do accessibility techniques. Continue to increase your accessibility knowledge by staying up-to-date with new standards. (Tip: Subscribe to our news feed to help you stay informed.)
With all this new found knowledge, your skills have already begun to evolve. Apply your knowledge, and apply it continuously. A skilled accessibility developer is not a part-time job. A little time and luck are not equal to the sustainability of skill.
Additionally, if your goal is to continuously maintain accessible digital content, you will quickly learn it involves a team of skilled developers. For example, to provide our clients with complete digital accessibility, we ensure all our teams continuously learn how to apply accessibility, including our
- project coordinators;
- graphic and user interface (UI) designers;
- content and graphic updaters;
- document remediators; and
- essentially, everyone!
How do you know if you did it right? The only true way to evaluate accessibility is to test for it. Use both automated and manual techniques. In addition to your own testing, we also recommend using a team of disabled users. This will give you true results and allow you better insight into what causes accessibility barriers. The article we posted on our School Webmasters News page, Automated vs. Manual Accessibility Testing, will help you understand the importance of both techniques.
Once testing is complete, test again. As mentioned previously, accessibility is a process and not just a project. Test your content each time it’s updated. This is another reason why it’s important to ensure all your teams are trained in accessibility. Let each team implement testing during their individual processes. As a result, you will always have accessible documents from the beginning that you never have to worry about fixing later.
Contact us before your luck runs out!
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, you’re not alone. Unless you are actually in the business of digital development, we’ve learned that no matter how much we attempt to simplify digital accessibility, it’s always better to leave it to the experts. That’s us. Our expert team will work with your documents to make sure your content is accessible day in and day out. Imagine the relief your IT department will feel when you tell them you have someone to handle all things accessible so they can focus on the network skills they were hired to perform in the first place.
Has your luck already run out? Do you find yourself in the midst of an accessibility lawsuit? Of course, we can help you with this too! Whether it pertains to your documents or your website, we can provide you with an accessibility audit and the tools you need to remediate your digital content, allowing you to comply with current ADA laws, increase SEO, and create peace of mind knowing you are doing the right thing.
Contact Get ADA Docs today to learn more!