Unit 11: Intro to Photoshop
Unit 12: Design Accessibility
Unit 13: Product Design Thinking
Unit 14: User Experience Design
Unit 16: Introduction to Design Portfolios
Unit 17: Portfolio Development
Unit 18: Personal Branding
Unit 19: Case Studies
Unit 20: Portfolio Website Design
Unit 21: Career Coaching
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Conducting Accessibility Audit

In this lesson, let’s talk about accessibility audits.

An accessibility audit will determine how accessible an organization’s digital products are. Most often companies pay attention to products used by customers and not the internal products.

Why Should a Website be Accessible

Web accessibility is a requirement and not an option anymore in the States. With increasing litigation and regulation related to ADA and Section 508, the financial risks of a lawsuit are unwise to gamble on. Scandinavian Airlines learned this the hard way when they were fined $200,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation for creating a separate website for people with disabilities, instead of making their primary website accessible.

In addition, businesses are realizing that “people with disabilities are a minor part of the population” is a myth. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, one in four U.S. adults have a disability. Considering that disabilities become more common over the age of 65, we can expect the percentage of adults in the U.S. And disabled populations exist worldwide, not just in one country.

When Should We Perform an Accessible Audit

The earlier the better, take advantage of the opportunity, and integrate accessibility practices right from the start. It is much easier to prevent accessible issues from the start to go back and fix them. However, if your organization’s website is out there and does not comply with the accessible laws, do not wait around and start fixing it right away.

Improving a site’s accessibility is also a great way to boost its usability across the board. Some of the most loved features, today, were designed for people with disabilities. Autocomplete text and voice control functions on our smartphones, for example.

Lastly, running an accessible audit improves your search engine optimization (SEO). There is plenty of overlap between web accessibility and the usability factors that Google will use to rank your website. A screen reader used by a blind person, for example, would read your website in much the same way that a search engine crawler would. An accessibility audit, therefore, offers a deeper insight into your website’s ease of use, which complements your SEO efforts.

WCAG

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG is a technical standard intended for web developers. WCAG is an international active community of the foremost accessibility specialists and organizations. WCAG compliances are not a legal requirement on their own nor is WCAG specifically cited in the ADA as the technical standard; however, organizations benefit from its compliances. The WCAG standard consists of a set of success criteria. Each success criterion is categorized by its level of conformance, Level A, Level AA, or Level AAA. Level A consists of the most basic and critical accessibility issues and should be a top priority. Level AA is the recommended level of accessibility, as it includes all of Level A issues in addition to other success criteria that address the needs of many types of disabilities. Level AAA is the highest level of accessibility, however, it is not recommended as an organization’s goal for the entire website, as some content cannot ever be made fully accessible. Equipped with this knowledge of conformance levels, you can manage the results of your accessibility audit by prioritizing any Level A and Level AA issues found.

Different Types of Accessibility Audit

There are two types of accessibility audit:

  • Manual Accessibility
  • Manual accessibility audits have a major advantage and are thorough as you can test them with screen readers and assistive devices. However, are that they are labor-intensive, require specialist knowledge, and can be costly, especially if you hire external accessibility consultants.
  • Automatic Accessibility
  • Automatic accessibility audit, on the other hand, saves money and resources. But the only catch 30-40 percent of issues outlined by the WCAG standard. Automatic audits alone are not enough.
  • A hybrid accessibility audit uses both automatic and manual techniques. For example, you can start the website’s audit with a manual process and follow up with routine automatics. This way you have the best of both worlds.

What to Look for in Accessibility Audit

When shopping around for accessibility testing tools, choose one that

  • Can handle a large website with multiple subdomains and thousands of pages.
  • Can categorize issues by WCAG subdomain
  • Can perform an audit on all subdomains; HTML, PDF, and media files
  • Can provide detailed information of the issue
  • Can provide detailed recommendations on the solution and how to fix it.

What to do with an accessibility audit

With an accessibility audit, first, prepare a framework and assign individuals for accessibility in your organization. Assign roles and responsibilities within your organization to ensure everyone is clear. Prioritize which issues to solve first, depending on your accessibility goals, skills, and resources. Maintain accessibility with a sustainable mindset. To maintain your accessibility, set up routine audits or use a tool like Siteimprove to monitor your accessibility in real-time, manage tasks between team members, and even track progress with ongoing reporting.

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