Many of Fastspot’s clients are legally required to demonstrate compliance with accessibility guidelines, most commonly WCAG 2.1 AA standards. Regardless of any formal requirement, we believe that accessibility should be a priority for every website redesign project, and we conduct our work accordingly.
While it’s possible to redesign a website and then test for accessibility, it is not advised. If changes are required during the Development phase of a project, they’re more expensive and time consuming than tweaks that are made along the way. Fastspot builds the following steps into every website project:
- Our team works with each client to ensure that expectations are aligned. If there are specific objectives or priorities that need to be met beyond WCAG AA standards, we want to understand that right away. If there have been issues with accessibility concerns or lack of compliance in the past, it’s also helpful for us to have that background information.
- Our designers keep accessibility top of mind throughout the project. We check color contrast ratios during the design phase and iterate as necessary to bring our design work into compliance.
- We include accessibility guidelines in the Style Guide for the project. It’s important that everyone who touches the website have an understanding of the potential impact that changes will have on accessibility for the project. We build guidelines and recommendations into the Style Guide because it will be the go-to resource for the team that is responsible for the site.
- We include an accessibility page into the information architecture and core template list for every project. Doing so allows each of our clients to very clearly outline efforts that have been made around accessibility. If there are users or stakeholders with an interest in learning more about this issue, the accessibility page will be the right first step for them.
Accessibility is not a black and white issue. There is no sanctioned governing body or universal testing practice, and in some ways, compliance is actually fluid and subjective. It’s very important to agree upon a measure of compliance early in the process.
Fastspot verifies its work against the WCAG 2.1 AA standard via Axe Accessibility Testing Apps. Our commitment is that no errors will be returned at the point of hand-off. We provide clients with a report demonstrating that the website passes testing and explaining our response to any false positives. Final testing typically occurs on a feature-complete content management system when it is delivered to the client.
The act of creating and maintaining an accessible website is one that begins with the very earliest steps in strategic planning, and continues long after the launch of the website. In other words, this is an ongoing process, not a finite project. The migration of content into the new website will have an impact, as will the creation of new content for the website. We recommend to our clients that they take the following steps after the launch of a new website:
- Create a clear set of instructions that cover the common repeatable tasks content creators will need to keep in mind: transcribing video content, writing descriptive content for images, use hierarchical headlines, etc.
- Formulate a tool-set and schedule for scanning and assessing the health of the website. We recommend bi-weekly reports to stay on top of a swiftly moving target utilizing a tool like Axe.
- Create an operating budget and accessibility working group that’s ready to engage with developers and content creators on larger scale web content projects that add to your institution’s digital ecosystem.