Roles and Resources Involved
Issue remediation is the most challenging stage and thus requires the most consideration, in terms of team resources. Accessibility issues should be handled in the same way that you would address regular user issues identified; it requires involvement from each of your teams involved in maintaining your digital experience.
Typically, the teams involved in this stage include project management, UX design, development, and QA testing. The techniques and amount of resources required will vary based on the website or app, but in general, you’ll need UX to make design adjustments, developers to update the code, and QA to verify conformance before deploying changes. Based on the skills, experience, and availability of your teams, your selected accessibility partner may be your resource for team training, developer support, and other remediation services. Some partners provide fully-managed remediation services for companies with internal teams that can’t take on any additional work and need their partner to do it for them. Other companies focus more on audits and training.
As previously mentioned, different channels require different techniques and resources. When it comes to websites, the primary channel for most companies, you have more options at your disposal. There are two main approaches to fixing a website. The more traditional approach, which I’ve laid out above, involves your internal teams updating your website to address the accessibility issues with support from an expert in the areas of accessibility training, accessible design and development.
The second approach that’s gaining popularity is to implement a ‘Conforming Alternate Version’ of your website. A conforming alternate version is a view of an original web page or user flow that is created specifically for users with disabilities. With this approach, a third-party would create a view of your website that conforms to the WCAG 2.0 AA that users with disabilities can navigate to via an easy to find link on your original website.
When determining which remediation approach is best for your website, it’s helpful to look at the pros and cons of each through hypotheticals.
Figure 7: a screenshot of a complex e-commerce website.
If not built in from the start, altering a website for accessibility can significantly impact core functionalities - especially for transactional sites that are highly complex, like Figure 7.
In this case, implementing a conforming alternate version may be the most effective way to practically make their website accessible, especially when time is of the essence.
For a simpler, more informational website that isn’t updated frequently, Figure 8 for example, a better approach would be to simply have internal teams enroll in training sessions and fix the issues themselves with the support of a partner.
There are benefits to fixing the code of the original website to make it accessible. For example, people with disabilities don’t need to take an extra step upon entering your website to find the content and features they can use. In addition, the modifications for accessibility make it easier for search engines to crawl your content, resulting in improved search engine optimization.
Figure 8: a screenshot of simple content website.
To reiterate, these are both retroactive approaches to addressing accessibility issues and should not change your vision for future sites, apps or updates going forward. While you plan for how you’re going to update your existing channels, it’s important to also think proactively about how you will incorporate accessibility into the development of future digital projects.
Once you have gone ahead and fixed all issues impeding daily users of assistive technology, you will want to move forward in verifying that your site meets the WCAG 2.0 AA standard. A common verification approach is to simply re-audit the remedied website or app. While audits do provide a decent sense of your level of accessibility, it is best practice to have daily users of assistive technology test your website as well. Not only is this best practice, but it’s often a defendant’s responsibility as part of a legal settlement. Again, user testing with people from all major disability groups is the best way to verify that your website is fully accessible and usable.
The roles involved in this stage include:
Business managers need to understand the cost of each remediation approach and the implications of each on your digital experience.
User Experience and Design
UX experts and designers need to understand how the changes will affect your current user experience, along with the options they have to preserve it.
Developers need training on developing an accessible interface along with sufficient testing tools to test page elements in all environments.
QA professionals need access to the same testing tools that your developers have, so they can verify conformance to WCAG 2.0 AA before pushing updates live.
Your project managers need to effectively prioritize and organize issue remediation. They also need to generate both high-level and detailed compliance reports.
Testing with everyday users of assistive technology should be an integrated part of your UAT process. Similar to how you would test a mobile site via a mobile device, you should add assistive devices to your browser testing process.
Community Engagement and Feedback
At this point, you should have already started user tasks on your website (or app) as intended. It’s building relationships and working with people important to establish this as an on-going process, who have disabilities. In the verification stage, you in which user testers from all major disability groups should establish a formal arrangement with a set of regularly test major website (and app) updates and professional user testers that are daily users of assistive can easily communicate their feedback directly to technology to confirm they’re able to complete your teams.
Real World Examples and Best Practices
Remediating a Website
When taking on website remediation, the first step is to grow your expertise through comprehensive training by an accessibility expert. It’s vital that you give all of your digital teams the appropriate training, so they are prepared to do their part. A helpful resource for technical teams to continuously reference is the W3C’s ‘General Techniques for WCAG 2.0’, which is the most comprehensive technical guide for conforming your website to their standard.
Figure 9: A screenshot of a particular issue being examined next to the associated code and UX element. In addition, it includes an issue description and tabs for more information, activity and comments.
Before you let your accessibility-trained team get to work, make sure they have all the tools they need to succeed. One core challenge that developers face during remediation is quickly finding each issue without confusion. This process becomes time consuming when there are multiple user journeys, multiple steps within each journey and a variety of issues at each step. In order to avoid wasting your developers time, it’s best practice to have a tool that allows you to quickly pair issues with the exact page element that contains the error. A good example of this is shown in Figure 9.
The user can visualize the issue at hand alongside the associated code and UX element.
Other useful features that are demonstrated in Figure 9 include the comments and activity tabs, which enable all people involved in the project to collaborate on issues with full transparency into the work that’s already been done. These different features can empower your teams by streamlining issue discovery, team communication, and activity management.
Remediation Through Conforming Alternate Versions
The W3C details why a company may resort to having a conforming alternate version rather than fixing their original website, along with the associated requirements for an acceptable version. One important requirement is that the alternate view must be a seamless extension of the existing experience so that users with disabilities can reliably and easily navigate to it. Other requirements include ensuring the alternate view has the same functionality and information as the non-conforming content and that it is up-to-date.
One unique type of conforming alternate version is a Dynamic, Accessible View (DAV). DAVs allow you to accommodate all the changes required for WCAG 2.0 AA conformance, without making any changes to your existing website – aside from a link to the ‘Accessible View’. This view has the same content and features as the existing site but is optimized with the assistive user in mind. It is also dynamic, which means when content and features change or are added to the existing website, the view reflects the updates automatically. The main differentiator from many common conforming alternate versions is the consistent brand experience between the dynamic, accessible view and the original site. Figure 10 is an example of a dynamic, accessible view for one of the largest apartment management companies in the United States.
Figure 10: Two screenshots that compare a Dynamic Accessible View with the original website it’s created for. The view on the left side shows the original website, while the view on the right is the Dynamic Accessible View. The image illustrates that the views are generally the same but shows some differences made in the Dynamic View to meet WCAG 2.0 AA conformity.
Verifying Conformance to WCAG 2.0 AA
Once you’ve fixed the initial issues on your website (or app), you should have your partner perform a reaudit to verify all WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria have been met. Not only is this the first step in verifying your efforts, but it will provide management and compliance (or legal) teams with your new percentage of conformance, as shown in Figure 11.
While the follow up audit gives you a comprehensive assessment of your website (or app) after the fact, you’re going to need to establish an automated testing process that allows your teams to verify conformance as they’re fixing issues. This requires an accurate automated testing tool that can capture and re-test complex user journeys and perform tests in staging environments. I continue to see teams use insufficient testing tools, which results in frustration when their issues persist.
Figure 11: a screenshot of a sample conformance report for a website. It shows the overall conformance of the website audit and the average conformance of each flow or page, based on how many Success Criteria of the WCAG passed or failed. The report shows the site is 100% conformed.
User Testing for True Verification of Accessibility and Usability
If you follow the previous steps, you can successfully verify that your website (or app) conforms to the WCAG 2.0 AA standard, but it’s daily assistive technology users that do the true verification of your work. One of the most important points of this e-book is to emphasize the importance of incorporating user feedback into your accessibility efforts. Daily users of assistive technologies will give you detailed insight into the issues they’re facing across all user journeys, as shown below in Figure 12 and 13.
While user testing does give you the most valuable feedback, there are some associated challenges. Companies often find it difficult to quickly acquire reliable user testers and act on their feedback, especially for companies with agile release cycles. The key is to integrate user acceptance testing (UAT) into your remediation and verification process. This can be achieved by establishing a formal agreement with a diverse network of user testers and having the proper tools to integrate their feedback into your processes.
Figure 12 & 13
Figure 12: Image on right shows the results of user testing feedback. It shows detailed issue descriptions from user testers based on specific WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria.
Figure 13: Image shows the results of a user testing a full user journey, broken down by task. It indicates which tasks they were able to complete or not.
Chapter Three Checklist:
FIX AND VERIFY CONSIDERATIONS
Website Remediation Considerations
- Determine how significant the changes are that need to be made for conformance
- Account for how the changes will affect your current user experience
- Map out your internal resources to determine if you can take remediation in-house
- Identify the costs associated with making the required changes
- Establish a timeline for the remediation of issues
- Decide on which remediation approach is best for your website, and in what capacity you’ll rely on your partner
For Conforming Alternate Versions
- Ensure version conforms with WCAG 2.0 AA
- Make version a seamless extension of the original website
- Have all the same information, features and functionality as the original website
- Keep all the information, features and functionality must be up-to-date and maintained
- Provide a consistent brand experience, not just a text-only view
Organization, Prioritization and Process
- Provide extensive training for your design, development, mobile, QA and marketing teams
- Select a team to “own” accessibility within your company, usually a compliance or development team
- Plan how you will fit remediation into your existing roadmap
Accessibility and Usability Verification
- Establish an automated testing process, in which your development and QA teams have a sufficient automated testing tool to verify WCAG 2.0 AA while they work
- Re-audit your website (or app) after remediation to verify conformance to WCAG 2.0 AA
- Have contract with users of assistive technology to test your website (or app) updates to verify accessibility and usability
At this point, you should have a comprehensive plan for achieving the accessibility of your digital channels, but this is only half the battle. While you plan your strategy for updating your existing websites and apps, it’s essential to simultaneously think proactively about how you will incorporate accessibility into the development of future digital projects to maintain your efforts.