9 Highlights from Our Q and A with a Web Accessibility Auditor
Updated: January 4, 2018
Do you think your organization can pass a web accessibility audit?
Sometimes the quality of web accessibility at your place of work can waver when adding new webpages, software programs, and web applications. And considering the rising number of lawsuits over inaccessible IT, it may be worth reassessing the risk factor within your company or institution.
If you want to learn more about making the web accessible for everyone at your organization, watch or flip through the slides from our webinar entitled Are You at Risk? Identifying Web Accessibility Gaps at Your Organization, presented by Mike Paciello, web accessibility auditor and founding partner of The Paciello Group.
Here are some highlights from our Q and A session at the end of the video:
1. What’s the best way to reach out to user groups to start integrating them into our design and development process?
MIKE PACIELLO: Generally speaking, there are local communities and local organizations supporting people with disabilities. You can look them up on the web. You could check with your local state agency or your local city agency. But you want to look for some of the more well-known organizations that could help you as well, say for example the National Federation for the Blind, the National Association for the Deaf, the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) organization. UCP has a lot of satellite organizations.
I would just go out, pick up the phone, jump on Skype, or tweet it. It’s not too hard to find organizations supporting various constituency organizations with disabilities.
2. How do you handle accessibility on mobile devices?
MIKE PACIELLO: So the FCC as you know has a number of requirements and standards. In fact, actually when I was down at the M-Enabling conference, they enlightened me on some of the best practices, even around mobile technologies, for caption display and standards that support them.
It’s still an area that we’re working on. I can tell you that at The Paciello Group (TPG), we have a great collection of folks who are heavily involved in this particular area and have experience working at the BBC where some guidelines and standards were created. So perhaps my best advice is contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help you out.
3. What is plain writing, and how does it relate to an organization’s accessibility policy?
MIKE PACIELLO: Plain writing basically is a method of writing more clearly. If you can imagine your worst nightmare in terms of complex jargon – for example, government writing. Government laws are very hard to understand. Tax laws are almost impossible. Anything written by a lawyer is practically unreadable. And generally speaking, most things that are written by doctors.
So you get the idea of complexity. It’s taking something complex and making it easier to understand. And that’s what plain writing is all about. There’s a whole federal government initiative in the United States just devoted to plain writing.
4. What do you do when content cannot be captioned or transcribed due to poor audio quality? Is the institution in violation at that point?
MIKE PACIELLO: You’ve got a responsibility to users and to your audience. And I think first of all, you need to understand what the root cause of the poor audio is. Is it the actual audio stream? Is it somehow related to what’s generating the captions?
Bottom line, you should at least be sure that you have a transcript of the event that can be easily downloaded, and preferably synchronized, if at all possible, with the video. That would be an ideal way. [If] it hasn’t been properly synchronized, at least you’ve got a text transcript that gives you some information about what’s being stated in the video.
5. What is the number one issue you see when you do accessibility audits?
MIKE PACIELLO: That’s the $5 million question. Actually today, I believe that the number one problem that we see is user experience. We do not believe that designers and developers, at any level, really think about user experience when it comes to people with disabilities.
“ [T]he number one problem that we see is user experience. We do not believe that designers and developers, at any level, really think about user experience when it comes to people with disabilities.”
So while it’s very easy to run a website through an automated validation service, for example, or for something like an organization like TPG, where we do a lot of in-depth manual assessments, we pick up common problems with images, forms, complex tables, error-handling problems and things along that line.
The reality is that no one has really given upfront thought to user experience. So to me, it comes up in every analysis, every audit that we’ve done. And I believe today that is the number one issue to be resolved.
6. Are there any international government agencies that have been particularly active in pursuing accessibility concerns?
MIKE PACIELLO: The government in Ontario, Canada has been very proactive over the last few years – a lot of good stuff has come out of Australia, too. I recently have seen some good forward thinking standards and governance models in India and in Japan. And of course the EU has been very strong in promoting standards around accessibility.
7. Do you recommend any compliance accessibility software, or do you have other tools and resources you recommend for performing an internal accessibility audit?
MIKE PACIELLO: Yeah, it’s not likely that I’ll make any of those recommendations, because the fact of the matter is, it’s not any one single tool.
It is a process that integrates the use of tools, usability and UX processes, the testing processes, and manual assessments and auditing. You need to have those, at least. You need to have those things well integrated into your development lifecycle. And when you do and they are working well together, you get the biggest bang for your buck.
8. Could you talk about the role of recent lawsuits in defining web accessibility requirements?
MIKE PACIELLO: Well, if anything, it’s building awareness.
I’ve never been in favor of something that I’ve spoken about on a number of occasions – fear-based incentives. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, lawsuits do work. And in terms of disability and compliance along those lines, they’ve been effective. They’ve been head turners.
As a technologist at heart, I know, at every level, that the problems that are called out are solvable. And because of that, I really think the issue here is just a matter of forethought.
It’s about building accessibility into the organization and into the culture so that these kind of actions, in terms of lawsuits, they kind of go away. They just become old and obsolete in and of themselves.
9. Are there any specific strategies for accessibility audits for educational institutions?
MIKE PACIELLO: I would imagine that most of my colleagues in the field, we all have our own process and methodologies. So I think to identify one specific method may not be the correct route.
It really is a matter of first understanding, again, your development processes in your organization, and then building a roadmap and a strategy around that.
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