From the Experts: Deque’s Approach to Web Accessibility

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keyboardAs part of our continuing series on accessible marketing, Deque recently contributed the following guest blog post for our marketing partners at The Whole Brain Group. We shared our approach to web accessibility based on our extensive experience, and we hope it helps our efforts to make digital content accessible to all users.

Follow #a11ymktgon Twitter to keep up with the content posted during the series. 

Taking a Full Circle Approach to Web Accessibility

More often than not, when a client comes to us they know that accessibility is something they need to address, but what they don't know is how to do it or how it's going to impact their current web and digital content development process.

One of the biggest challenges in addressing website accessibility is the fact that your company's digital presence is constantly growing and changing. Taking the necessary steps to ensure a website is accessible is a large undertaking, and ensuring that it stays accessible over time is an ongoing process.

You have to:

  1. Remediate your existing content for accessibility
  2. Sustain accessibility as new content is added to the site

Remediating Content for Accessibility

Remediation is a big job. We have clients with literally millions of web pages that need to be made accessible. But even if your organization only has hundreds of pages, going through all of that content - all of that code - and correcting every accessibility error is a daunting task. That's why we recommend a combination of automated and manual testing when it comes to remediation projects.

Automated accessibility scans can quickly monitor the breadth and depth of your site(s), coupled with focused manual testing on representative pages and to confirm that key users paths are truly accessible. Based on our experience, the most effective and efficient use of your resources is to employ the 80/20 rule. 80% of your testing effort should be automated and 20% should be manual. For new content, we also recommend monthly automated scans for unambiguous or explicit accessibility issues. These smart scans will alert you if accessibility testing was skipped during development or if obviously inaccessible third party content was added.

Automated accessibility testing is an integral part of accessibility testing, but there are some issues that require manual testing. To get a truly comprehensive testing process, you need to have users experience the page with:

  • A screen reader
  • Speakers and microphone off
  • No mouse

Manual accessibility testing includes running three test cycles: one with "no sight," one with "no sound," and one with "no mouse." If you don't conduct this type of usability testing during the web development process, people with disabilities in the real world become the usability testers, and that is a recipe for unhappy users and lost customers.

Sustain Content Accessibility

The other critical piece of bringing web accessibility to your organization is making sure your team knows how to create accessible content. Our goal is not to have clients dependent on testing tools forever. And if you ask members of the "accessibility community" they will tell you that, in a perfect world, testing tools would be peripheral - more of an insurance policy than the main player in an organization's accessibility plan - because in a perfect world everyone would be creating accessible content in the first place.

Unfortunately, accessibility is still a pretty specialized field. It's unlikely that you're going to find many developers out in the world who already have accessibility expertise. The good news is accessibility can be learned! And many of the basic rules of accessibility are actually pretty intuitive, once you get into it.

The most important thing to remember about web accessibility is that it's a process. It doesn't happen overnight, and it needs to be included in your organization's entire web development planning procedures from start to finish. In the end, integrating accessibility into your entire digital strategy will save your team a lot of headaches and could save your business a lot of money.

Note from The Whole Brain Group - 

Deque really is an expert in web accessibility, and they offer excellent educational opportunities.

  • Web Accessibility 101, a free webinar held for anyone who is completely new to web accessibility and wants a broad overview. If our accessible marketing series has piqued your interest, we highly recommend this session.
  • Deque University, a full range of accessibility courses held both online and in person. If you are actively interested in working to make your website accessible and need education for your developers, these courses are a perfect place to start.
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