Are You at Risk? Identifying Web Accessibility Gaps at Your Organization

In this webinar, Mike Paciello, founding partner of The Paciello Group, will discuss accessibility gap analysis, a critical step in building – or fixing – accessibility at your organization. Taking a high-level approach, he will cover strategies for evaluating your current level of accessibility, identifying areas of risk, and developing a plan to achieve compliance with web accessibility standards.

With recent lawsuits, updates to legal standards, and an increasing number of DOJ & OCR inquiries for inaccessible IT, web accessibility is on a lot of organizations’ minds. But how can you tell whether or not your website, web application, or native app is meeting accessibility requirements?

In this webinar, Mike Paciello, founding partner of The Paciello Group, will discuss accessibility gap analysis, a critical step in building – or fixing – accessibility at your organization. Taking a high-level approach, he will cover strategies for evaluating your current level of accessibility, identifying areas of risk, and developing a plan to achieve compliance with web accessibility standards.

This presentation will cover:

  • An overview of major accessibility laws and standards
  • Assessing your website or native app’s current level of accessibility
  • Identifying vulnerabilities
  • Tips for filling in the gaps
  • Developing a roadmap to accessibility compliance

Presenters

Mike Paciello
Founding Partner | The Paciello Group

Lily Bond (Moderator)
Director of Marketing | 3Play Media


Webinar Insight: Tips for Identifying Web Accessibility Gaps at Your Company

What is the nature of web accessibility at your organization?

Do you feel confident that users with disabilities can use your IT and web services?

The best way to answer these questions is by reassessing web accessibility at your company. Auditing and then improving upon overall user experience helps your organization avoid potential lawsuits, as explained by web accessibility auditor Mike Paciello in his presentation, Are You at Risk? Identifying Web Accessibility Gaps at Your Organization.

We got the sense from Mike that, in general, many companies he’s worked with take a reactive approach to web accessibility. In other words, they find themselves scrambling to bring their content up to date and comply with the laws after an audit. (For instance, not realizing that images need to contain alt text in HTML is a common problem.)

He stresses:

[Y]ou want to break with the norm. Don’t be reactionary. Be proactive and integrate accessibility into your best practices.

Foundation Stones of Risk: Understand the Laws First

The presentation began with Mike invoking the current laws and standards for web accessibility. This is the first place one should go in order to learn the best practices and identify holes in compliance.

WCAG 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the international standard for producing accessible web content. If you want to ensure your content is not only compliant but also easy for people with disabilities to use, WCAG 2.0 is the standard to follow. As mentioned in the recording, Mike was recognized by President Bill Clinton for his contribution to MIT’s W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, which produced the WCAG.

Section 508

WCAG 2.0 is presently the most current and comprehensive documentation on web content accessibility policy out there. It will also be the basis for the “Section 508 Refresh” reportedly coming this fall, meaning that soon, any organization implicated under Section 508 will need to update their web accessibility measures to conform to the referenced Level AA WCAG 2.0 standards.

In terms of compliance, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is the law of the land in the US. Essentially, it mandates federal agencies and organizations.

However, even private entities (although not legally obligated) benefit from adhering to Section 508 compliance. One great point Mike brought up is that if you are trying to attract business from federal entities, then your products should also follow those regulations. That way, federal buyers won’t need to do as much work to convert or rework the digital wares they buy from your organization.

As he puts it:

[Section 508] actually mandates federal agencies and organizations. By default, though, because it’s a procurement standard, if you are a seller of services, wares, or products to the federal government, then you’re pretty much going to have to fall into line and meet those requirements as well.

Integrate Accessibility into Your Company Culture

If you want to avoid legal pitfalls and ensure that as many people as possible can use your organization’s information and communications technology (ICT), then accessibility should never be an afterthought. And the best way to ensure it’s not, as Mike mentions in the video, is to cultivate “an internal culture of accessibility” at your company.

A lot of the time, after a company has been approached by an individual or an accessibility advocacy group about making changes, it becomes clear they don’t realize that accessibility is all about designing and developing for all people. That is, it makes more sense to include accessibility in the design of websites so that users both with and without disabilities can benefit from that content.

Amazon Video Direct

YouTube’s new competitor, Amazon Video Direct (or AVD) is a great case study in accessibility integration. The new video service recently launched with high standards for accessibility by requiring closed captions on its videos.

This is partly a proactive reaction to the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) lawsuit against Netflix for not the lack of captions in their video content. But by committing to closed captions and integrating this policy into their video streaming requirements from the start, AVD demonstrates how accessibility is an integral part of their company culture.

The Maturity Continuum

Incorporating accessibility into your organization’s culture doesn’t happen overnight; it is a process. And along that process are different levels of maturity about accessibility. The accessibility maturity continuum outlines that process in the following way:

  1. Identify: This is the first step in taking accessibility seriously at your organization. Identifying gaps in your compliance could be as simple as putting together an accommodations report (or audit) and sampling or testing sites, webpages and applications.
  2. Prioritize: Once you’ve done an audit of your IT and content, you can determine the major areas that need immediate improvement and the minor ones you can table. To help make these decisions, sometimes it helps to partner with user groups or organizations like the National Federation for the Blind, the National Association for the Deaf and the United Cerebral Palsy organization.
  3. Inject: After you know what improvements need to be made, you decide how to include accessible design into the development lifecycle so that it becomes second nature. For example, at this point you might decide to commit to screen-reader-compatible HTML practices or implement a quality assurance plan.
  4. Integrate: This is the ultimate goal, and as Mike explains, it looks like this:
    [Y]ou’ve got an organization now that makes a visible commitment to providing accessible IT services. You have an organization that embarks on an initiative to address shortcomings in their existing services. And you have an organization that can establish policy processes that support accessibility in its services.

The Maturity Continuum: Identify. Prioritize. Inject. Integrate.

The benefits of embracing accessibility at your organization are far-reaching. Being proactive in this area sets you up for successfully navigating a future where the laws and lawsuit outcomes continually favor disabled populations and regulation of web accessibility.

Avoiding lawsuits is usually incentive enough to reassess ICT and accessibility. On the other hand, taking action before it’s necessary can help build a positive reputation around your organization. You will also encounter the inherent benefits of accessibility implementation like search engine optimization, content comprehension, and an overall better user-experience.


For more tips and advice on formulating and identifying web accessibility gaps at your company, check out our wrap-up of Mike Paciello’s Q & A session, or watch his presentation below:

 


Webinar Q&A: 9 Highlights with a Web Accessibility Auditor

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 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.