At a conceptual level, no one should have to be convinced of the merits of making information available to as many people as possible. Still, “doing the right thing” is seldom easy, and web accessibility is no different.
For government agencies, nonprofits, or businesses–organizations most often called upon to make their information accessible–the largest hurdle is usually not desire, but having to go up against a series of well-entrenched work processes. Or as is often true with web accessibility–a lack thereof. As one accessibility specialist recalled from a particularly frustrating project:
People would make the same mistakes all the time and everybody was trying to reinvent the wheel all the time. Nobody really was able to take advantage of the knowledge of the organization itself because everybody was scattered in their own little corner doing their things.
In such a confused state, the outcome is likely to be less than ideal:
The only thing you can do is see how many errors they made and you can’t help but notice that if they had known about these things earlier, they would have avoided these mistakes all together.
To avoid such confusion–and the costs in time, energy, and money it inevitably incurs–it is best to have an accessibility plan in place for your organization. Below are some tips to help you get started with such a plan.
- Get people involved. Web developers and designers may do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to accessibility, however, they are only one part. Connecting with various groups across an organization may develop useful relationships and uncover shared points of interest. Reach out to project managers and other supervisors as well. Make accessibility as much of a priority as an effective marketing campaign or an efficient development schedule. 
- Start with the “why,” not the “how.” Accessibility is not a checklist, and an accessible website is more than just a list of features. If someone really wants to understand the techniques, he or she must first understand what challenges they are trying to address. WeCo offers a number of education and outreach options that shed light on such challenges by discussing the ramifications of inaccessibility, how assistive devices interact with elements on the page, and the special usability needs of people with disabilities, among others.
- Take stock of current products and practices. Is there a website, or portion of a website that is a regular source of frustration for users? Is their feedback often negative? Does the site feature a number of multimedia elements or documents that may prove inaccessible? Are there established processes for the creation and maintenance of accessible content? WeCo’s Accessibility Needs Review can help with such concerns.
- Create a list of goals. Why is your organization interested in accessibility and what does it wish to achieve? Section 508 compliance? Conformance to WCAG 2.0? Increasing overall usability? Having a specific accessibility goal (or goals) in mind may help you better determine what needs to be done and how to go about doing it.
Planning for accessibility can be a daunting task; however, if you know where to begin, it can be that much easier to “do the right thing.”
To learn more about planning for accessibility, please visit the resource below:
Implementation Plan for Web Accessibility
- Web Accessibility and UConn ↩
- Denis Boudreau on Enterprise Accessibility — Simply Accessible ↩
- Foliot, John. 2012–09–25. Accessibility Implementation Strategy. Accessibility Summit 2012. Seminar conducted by Environments for Humans, viewed from Roseville, MN. ↩
- Waters, Elle. 2012–09–25. Gamification of Accessibility. Accessibility Summit 2012. Seminar conducted by Environments for Humans, viewed from Roseville, MN. ↩