Creating a Website Accessibility Testing Plan
Now that you understand the different levels of conformance and types of testing, it’s time to put digital accessibility at the top of your to-do list and create a plan. If you’re wondering what to test, who to involve, or how to communicate your intentions and goals, here are five simple steps for creating and launching your accessibility testing plan:
Step 1: Prioritize Your Digital Assets
One of the most difficult steps in planning your accessibility strategy is prioritizing your digital assets. When you consider the range of potential accessibility issues across your apps and web properties, where do you even begin? In order for your plan to be achievable, it must be manageable.
Start by making a list of your current digital assets and those planned for the future. These assets may include:
- Mobile site
- Native apps
Next, prioritize each property based on usage, litigation risk, how issues may impact users, your ability to remediate, and other factors.
Step 2: Create an Accessibility Policy and Statement
Next, create an accessibility policy and statement for internal and external stakeholders that covers all of the ways that each of them may use your services. The accessibility policy should explain why accessibility is crucial to your company’s operations, and it should speak to your executives, employees, volunteers, board members, and other internal stakeholders. Executive support will be crucial for raising awareness and making accessibility a priority, as well as obtaining budget and resources. The policy should also clarify each team’s role in the process as well.
The accessibility statement, on the other hand, is for your customers, partners, vendors, and the general public. This statement provides the world with transparency into your company operations and explains your vision, mission, and priorities.
Step 3: Create a Testing Schedule and Train Stakeholders
With your assets prioritized and a policy and statement written, it’s time to take action and create a schedule, which can vary greatly depending on where your website is in its overall development. If you’re starting a new website from scratch, make accessibility testing a priority from the start.
If you’re integrating accessibility testing into an existing website, your teams will need to be prepared for considerable changes to the site and daily tasks. Your staff will likely need additional training to maintain and understand the value of your site’s new level of accessibility. For example:
- Developers may need technical training on accessible web development ranging from semantic HTML to WAI-ARIA.
- QA staff may need training on how to incorporate accessibility testing into their manual and automated testing as well as site monitoring.
- The UX team may need training on inclusive design principles and guidance to update style guides.
- Marketing may need guidance on how the accessibility impacts the content they produce.
- Management may need training on how to help your company become fluent in digital accessibility regulations, guidelines, and challenges.
Making accessibility testing and awareness a core part of these roles can help ingrain the initiative into your organization so it becomes natural.
Step 4: Communicate Your Plan Internally
Accessibility testing is a major undertaking, one that requires active participation from all departments. Buy-in from senior management is crucial for accessibility testing to be truly effective.
Start by sharing your web accessibility policy and plan with your core internal stakeholders, including staff, investors, board members, volunteers, and others who are integral to your company’s daily functions. Make the case for why web accessibility matters for your organization’s success and paint a picture of the impact it will have on the 15 percent of the global population who are estimated to live with some form of disability (including one in four U.S. adults who have a disability that impacts major life activities).
Then, walk each team through its specific role in making web accessibility a reality, so teams feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for achieving accessibility success.
Step 5: Share Your Plan Externally
Lastly, share your plan and goals with your customers, vendors, and the general public. Explain in plain language how you plan to make your digital assets compliant with industry standards and create a dedicated webpage that outlines your accessibility statement. Regularly update this statement with your progress, and include a contact number and email address so that users can reach out with questions, concerns, or appreciation.
Even if your website isn’t yet perfect, it’s OK to communicate your accessibility statement externally. We consider this a best practice, and sharing it externally helps affirm your commitment to accessibility.