Digital Accessibility Awareness Is on the Rise
The subject of digital content accessibility has grown in popularity. Many organizations and businesses who never thought about accessibility are now aware that they should be focusing on and creating accessible content, even if they are not doing anything about accessibility yet. Unfortunately, in most cases this is because of the increase in accessibility legal complaints rather than an awareness to do the right thing. While I do not personally like legal threats as a form of advocacy, apparently that is what is sometimes required to move people in the right direction.
As a result of the growing awareness around digital accessibility we have seen many newcomers to the accessibility product and services marketplace, which is a good thing…mostly. I like to believe that most of the companies that are now offering these types of product and services are doing so with good intentions. Then there are others who, based on their response to criticism, are looking to just capitalize on the growth of digital accessibility awareness. I will let you form your own opinions on that topic!
What I want to focus on with this post is what I term the "ABC" of Accessibility Services. What does "ABC" refer? "Always Be Cautious". Why do I say that? As mentioned earlier, there is a growth in the number of products and services being offered to help organizations with their efforts to evaluate, create, and maintain digital content that is accessible. While there is a lot of choices, picking the right solution or solutions for your team can be challenging. When you find a product or service that you feel can benefit your efforts don't be too quick to accept the sales pitch claims at face value.
When selecting a product or service you also must think about how well the solution will fit into your overall content development lifecycle. If you select something that cannot fit within your current process, chances are that the accessibility product or service will eventually get ignored and your investment has gone to waste. Worse yet, you change your process to accommodate the solution only to find out later you are not getting the benefit that was promised. Then you end up starting all over and changing your process again!
Another consideration is how does the service or product provider apply accessibility best practices for their own digital content. Or in other words, do they “eat their own dogfood”? Decades ago, when I worked with the Microsoft Accessibility Technology Group, we regularly practiced "dogfooding". This was so that we could experience what our customers would experience. Eating your own dogfood is a great way to discover and address issues that may not be exposed until real-world users start using your product.
Here is a video that demonstrates various issues that can slip through the cracks when accessibility best practices are not followed:
Now I am the first to acknowledge that our website, Converge Accessibility, is not perfect by any means. Yet we have tried to provide an accessible experience and keep trying to do so. The reality is that being 100% accessible or compliant is not something that is possible for most. It is like trying to hit a moving target and when you are a small business, it is even harder because of time constraints due to dealing with all the other tasks that come with running a business. But when your company is publicly disclosing that they have received $28 million in funding, it would seem reasonable that you can devote a small portion of that funding to ensuring that your own website has addressed the most fundamental issues that are easily found by doing a manual accessibility audit. It would also seem logical that you would ensure that your own customer facing product is accessible by default and would not require users to "adjust" settings as we see is the case with the previous AccessiBe video.
I don't like to call out other organizations publicly, but to drive this point home I feel I must provide another example. The following video demonstrates some basic accessibility issues found on an accessibility solutions provider’s site and would seem to indicate that they are NOT eating their own dogfood!
Since the solution shown in the previous video is to provide guidance on how to create accessible content, and we identified some very basic accessibility issues, it would seem they haven't used their own solution to achieve an accessible experience. I acknowledge that their site was mostly accessible but the few issues we found are fundamental accessibility 101 issues. This doesn't give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that investing in their products going to accurately help me evaluate, create, and maintain and accessible presence for my customers. That is not to say that their product would not be a good fit for your accessibility efforts…but visiting their website makes me wonder about the comprehensiveness of their solution and their own accessibility testing efforts.
The moral of this post? As we mentioned earlier, pay attention to the ABC of Accessibility Services…Always Be Cautious.
If you are looking for a flexible, structured, comprehensive, and clear way to incorporate accessibility into your content development lifecycle, please give us a chance to introduce you to WebAlign. The one-of-a-kind accessibility compliance resource on the market today that is flexible enough to fit into your process with minimal effort.
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