Do your digital assets offer full and equal access to users with disabilities? If you haven’t considered it, probably not. If you’ve already set the journey towards accessibility in motion with our robust AI-powered Web Accessibility Solution, this is your next important step. With a manual accessibility audit, experts evaluate your online collateral and present an assessment of existing issues and how to remediate them. This is very much a hands-on process.
Who Needs an Accessibility Audit?
Well, it’s fair to say just about every business or organization with a digital presence could benefit from one, whether on the web or internally. Enterprise and medium to large businesses certainly need one, as do government, education, and non-profit organizations. Businesses of any size can consider an audit a high-return investment.
Even if you aren’t worried about the risk of a lawsuit, although that’s certainly a concern, providing excellent service to all clients and potential clients is the best way to grow and stabilize your business. And, of course, making sure all your users can fully access and enjoy your sites, apps, software, videos, and documents (among other assets) means you’re creating a better customer experience, reducing bounce rates, increasing conversions, and making sure both your organization and your users don’t lose opportunities.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Approximately 15% of the world’s population, or about one billion people, have some form of disability. For adults in the United States, it’s 26% or 1 in 4. That’s a lot. Do these people want or need to access your business or organization? Very likely. Do they deserve full and equal access?
Absolutely. For many people without a disability of any kind, equal access issues may remain unnoticed or even dismissed. However, when lack of access becomes an obstacle for you or someone you care about, you suddenly recognize how many unnecessary barriers there are in basic services, both in-person and digitally.
Various laws and sets of standards have arisen as governments and organizations around the world have come to the same conclusions: accessibility is not just important, it’s critical, and everyone has the right to full and equal access to services. In the United States, for instance, civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act have respectively been interpreted and expanded to include digital as well as physical accessibility.
Federal enforcement agencies as well as countries around the world typically set their accessibility standards according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) established by W3C.. It’s clear that digital accessibility is the way forward. For now, while not everyone is fully aware of the legalities and the inherent risks of ignoring them, there are those who have chosen to lead the way with accessibility.
It’s in every business and organization’s best interest to be among those leaders: it also avoids the pitfalls of a possible lawsuit. This is not early adoption, either. Accessibility for all is well underway, and we don’t want you to miss the train.
Ultimately, offering equal access is about doing the right thing, but it’s also the best thing you can do for your business. From a financial standpoint, by providing all users with access, you also significantly boost your potential market share. The disposable income for working-age people with disabilities in America totals approximately $490 billion. That’s some serious purchasing power. And people with disabilities are not alone: family and friends of people with disabilities recognize the value of accessible products and services. So that’s a choice you make: be more competitive in the market, or don’t.
What’s the bottom line for your business? We believe the bottom line is accessibility, which when calculated in dollar signs, works out to a tremendous positive for your business or organization.
Making Accessibility Happen
Once you decide universal accessibility is the way to go, you’ll want to get things moving along.
Automated Solutions: Widget and Scanner
We at UserWay offer an AI-powered automated solution with Human-in-the-Loop technology. This covers a lot of ground, and it can be added on an existing website without refactoring code or requiring an extensive amount of labor or technical knowledge.
The Widget is a multi-capable tool that can overlay a current site or app code as it is, and make it more accessible in real time through customization. Yes, we said overlay. It’s not a dirty word. It’s a very functional solution that establishes user-triggered remediation.
The most popular features include:
- Dyslexia-Friendly Font
- Larger Text
- Color-Contrast Adjustments
- Language Translator
- Pause Animations
The solution allows for overlapping of these options, which when combined together make your site functional for guests no matter their ability. People don’t fit into single, neat categories, and neither do disabilities. For example, a user might choose a contrast boost and color changes that make for easier screen visibility, as well as a more readable font that is helpful for dyslexia.
UserWay’s Scanner steadily crawls your site or app, correcting some issues automatically, and flagging others to be remediated and reviewed by an admin. As the scanner “learns” how to fix more and more issues, it propagates fixes as needed to all users. Naturally, privacy comes first, last, and always, and all data is depersonalized.
Our Monitored Services combine our scanner with the expertise of our team members to help you get your fixes set up and completed.
With input from your site admin, and a guided check-through available with our teams, the possibilities really are extensive. Full to-the-letter compliance and conformance may require a scrutinized approach, checking where errors appear as new pages or content added, making sure that new designs or code updates have not broken your users’ ability to access all services.
Ground-Up & Top-Down Accessibility
The best way to ensure accessibility, of course, is to bake it in from the beginning, from the ground up. And design and development teams and management should be educating themselves on what building with accessibility in mind means for the projects they’ll be planning and executing. But, reality check: ground-up accessibility is not always possible. It can’t be, because not every site is brand new. And digital accessibility as an accepted standard is, itself, relatively new.
In the real world, sites can’t always start their accessibility journey from step one, especially large sites with many older pages. In many cases, accessibility has to be added after the fact, and sometimes cautiously shoehorned into place to fit without restructuring and redesigning your site entirely.
Automated scanning and remediation do a lot. However, some accessibility blocking issues will have to be examined and adjusted manually. For instance, sites might appear to be compliant to even an expert’s eye, but a blind or otherwise disabled tester will experience the site completely differently, and may find violations or blockers that would not be found with an average examination.
That’s when you’ll need to take a top-down approach, going through your digital assets as they are in a full accessibility audit, with an eye to how breaks and fixes can cascade downwards. And since we’re mentioning cascade, let’s discuss working both waterfall and Agile-style. Yes, this type of accessibility auditing works with Agile, Agile-like, or waterfall-type project management, and can be tailored to fit your work style(s).
How a Manual Audit Happens
A manual audit may build on partial automated information, and in some cases, on flagged items, but it is still very much a hands-on project. This extensive and in-depth effort remains manageable in both time and labor expenditure at both ends because most sites and apps are built on style and layout templates. They follow a pattern that’s coherent with the brand’s look and feel, thus avoiding the necessity to build out a completely new page or screen every time one is needed.
With that in mind, testing can be done on representative pages, components, and templates, such that any blockers are caught, and all issues are captured and set for remediation. Fixes radiate throughout the site or app, once put into place. With this outflow or ripple effect, each issue fix is exponentially more impactful. And, tests can then check that all issues have been fixed wherever they appear.
Let’s review UserWays comprehensive 10-step auditing procedure:
1. Audit Request
The client signs up for an audit. Our intake is a simple process: we determine, with you, the audit type and size you need. You’ll choose the approximate range of your audit, we set you up to get taken care of, and payment will be made at this time.
Our team requests the specific scope, including all screens or URLs. Audit clients confer among their teams, or consult with us, and decide how to prioritize and organize the pages and screens to be audited based on a high-level assessment of usage, level of importance, presence in the various user flows, and template origination. In this way, the scope of the audit is decided.
3. Scheduling Management
Scope confirmed and in hand, our audit team estimates work flow and the possible windows for each step of the audit, as well as its approximate delivery date. We’ll communicate this to the client, and make sure that all deadlines on the client side can and will be met.
Our auditors then test and analyze each page or screen and each flow or user journey. They’ll write this up as they go.
5. Quality Assurance
The resulting report then undergoes a thorough quality assurance assessment and overhaul by accessibility experts in our audit team, ensuring that nothing has been missed, and no unnecessary issues have been flagged.
6. Language Review
The report goes in for review, and is tidied up and edited for easy, pleasant readability.
The full report is delivered by our team to the client, and distributed by them to their various stakeholders.
8. Review and Remediation
The client team reviews the accessibility audit report. Their developers and designers can start implementing remediations immediately.
Our experts are available for any questions or clarifications required. Although this is listed as Step Nine, it is available anytime during the process. We provide office hours for walkthroughs, flyovers, or for any specific questions and assistance the client may find they need. The time available to you will depend on the audit size and the package purchased. Additional office hours can also be added at an hourly rate.
Your remediated issues are validated and verified by our team. We confirm that your fixes work, and that your site is now accessible.
We recommend that your site undergo verification and issue validation before your Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is issued. However, if we have performed an audit, your site is eligible for an assessment and a VPAT. The VPAT is a document that lists a site’s conformance to accessibility standards as set by the U.S. Rehabilitation Act’s Section 508. If you have purchased a VPAT or require one, we will create it, depending on your audit and verification results.
In brief, a VPAT is a checklist of a site, app, or digital asset’s level of compliance to key accessibility requirements, usually incorporating WCAG guidelines. Our expert testers then sift through your site or app to determine how to list each relevant item. The purpose of the VPAT is to provide a quick high-level assessment of conformance with accessibility requirements. Government and non-profit organizations will generally request a VPAT from their vendors or partners during a RFP or bid process.
Although a VPAT’s purpose is to provide a snapshot of how compliant a site is at the time it was issued, it can also include partially supported items listed as such, with a note given on when the item will be fully remediated or supported. This can be critical for a more extensive or complex site or app that is undergoing redesign or larger-scale remediation, and demonstrates good faith effort and a commitment to accessibility to courts should litigation arise.