A problem we often see is that while people have the best of intentions when it comes to accessibility, they often put off asking for help. It can be a difficult topic to breach, especially if you’re supposed to be the “web expert” in your organization. It can also be expensive, and perceived as a not a good use of resources.
The reality, of course, is very different.
Accessibility is an extremely specific area of design, and it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to know every detail about it. What’s more, it’s always a good use of resources; not only will redesigning your website to be accessible create a more inclusive online experience, but by designing within tighter constraints, you’ll end up with a better solution for everyone, regardless of need.
But first, let’s take stock. Here are 5 signs you may need help with your web accessibility.
1. You’re Not Sure Which Regulations to Follow
Accessibility, in addition to being a human rights issue, is also a legal one. There are regulatory bodies which govern accessibility rules and web design. You need to know which one governs you. For example, in Ontario, there’s something called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which includes legal accessibility requirements for websites. Any company with at least one Ontarian employee is required to meet AODA guidelines.
If you’re not sure which regulatory body you are governed by, you may need some accessibility help.
2. You Think Web Accessibility is all About Colour Contrast
Colour contrast is part of accessibility, and it’s often held up as the thing that’s most important. In reality though, web accessibility is vastly more intricate and complex than just checking the contrast between font and background.
Web accessibility is about making more of the internet available to more people who need it. It's a combination of design, front end development, and web infrastructure. It covers everything from, yes, contrast, all the way to things like how your HTML is coded, how tables are presented, and even how your site loads.
It’s a complex topic, so if you’re sitting there thinking it’s all about colour contrast, you may need a bit of help.
3. You Haven't Updated Your Website in Several Years
Most websites get refreshed every few years, but if it’s been a bit longer for you, then you probably need some accessibility assistance.
Between your last update and this one, accessibility has come to the fore of web design, and the world you’re building in now is very different from the one you were building in before.
So if you’re thinking it’s about time to refresh the site, and it’s been 5+ years, then it may be worth getting an accessibility expert on the redesign team.
4. You Don't Know How to Check if Your Site is Compliant
There are dozens of tools, guides, and resources from organizations like A11y to help you decide if your site is compliant.
But if you’re not sure where to start and you can’t quite figure out if you’re compliant, you might need some help.
Because the first step towards building an accessible website is understanding where you are and where you need to be. By setting a baseline, you can more easily allocate your time.
And if you can’t establish a clear sense of that, then it might be worth talking to someone who can help you clarify what you need.
5. You Haven't Completed Accessibility-Based User Testing
Similar to establishing a baseline, if you haven’t tested your site against users with a range of accessibility requirements, you may need some help.
By seeing how actual people experience your site when they have different needs can be hugely helpful in defining your design requirements.
For example, you might have built your site in a way that makes it easy to use with screen readers. But until you test it, how can you be sure you did a good job, and your design is actually a good experience?
Accessibility is often seen as something you can sweep into a larger project as simply another component to consider.
The reality, though, is that accessibility is difficult. There’s a regulatory component, a design component, a development component, and even a change management component to get internal stakeholders on board. It’s a lot to take on, and oftentimes, organizations will struggle before eventually giving up.
Instead, get a clear sense of if you need help before you start. Look at these 5 signs and, if most of them apply to you, then it’s probably worth consulting an expert.
Like all projects, with accessibility, it’s always better to do it right the first time then have to do it twice.