Sanna Kramsi - Blog A peek into my life

Accessibility is a continuous project

October 08, 2023 | Accessibility

Some people still think that accessibility is something that you do once and then you are good forever. While that might even be true if everyone takes care of accessibility on their part from this point on, it is very much more likely that the quality of accessibility will start to decline if it isn't monitored and properly taken care of. There are multiple ways of doing this and these are my recommendations.

Frequently done accessibility audits

Accessibility auditing is a good way to get the current accessibility status of a website. The frequency recommendation for an audit varies based on how often the site gets updated (both content and new features). Usually, the recommended frequency is once a year. The audit is also a good foundation for updating the site accessibility statement.

What is an accessibility audit?

An accessibility audit is an assessment of the state of accessibility of a website. Usually, it is carried out by at least one accessibility expert. Some companies have certified accessibility specialists who work on audits, but that is not a requirement, so not everyone does that, unfortunately.

Usually, it is recommended that an external party does the audit. But the law does allow you to monitor yourself. However, auditing a website properly does take expertise and knowledge of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If you buy an audit from a company, I recommend adding their name to the accessibility statement as well.

I also wrote about this topic on Exove's blog recently where I took a look at accessibility auditing at Exove: Accessibility audit? What is it and why should you invest in it? If you have any auditing needs, you can contact Exove and ask for me!

Accessibility monitoring

You can monitor the state of accessibility yourself or you can buy it as a service from someone. While technically you don't need any specific tools, having an automated tool at your disposal usually does bring its benefits. They unfortunately do cost a bit (or a lot, depending on the tool or service), so they might be out of reach for some. If that happens to be you, don't worry, you don't have to have such a tool in order to monitor the state of accessibility. You'll just need to do a bit more manual work than someone who can spend the money on tools.

Automated tools

Tools and services like, for example, Siteimprove or Deque axe tools provide you with good automated tools to monitor the state of accessibility of the website. Depending on the package or service you get, you might get other useful quality monitoring as well. But on the accessibility side, the tool will list all issues and where those are found on the website. While it's important to remember that no automated tool can find all possible accessibility issues, having this type of tool will free manual testing time to be spent on the things automated tools cannot find. The tools might find also some language-related problems, like typos. But especially if you operate in a language that isn't as common as English, the automated tools might not be able to assist you.

Some companies also provide this kind of monitoring as a service. So if you have the money to spend, you can get the monitoring from another party and save your time for other things. Sometimes going through the automated tool and getting rid of false positives that might occur is a job that alone takes hours. It, of course, depends on the size and state of the website as well as your understanding of accessibility.

Developer workflows for the website

If you are working with a developer or a company with developers, they should have some automated monitoring in place as well for the code they produce. That should reduce some of the low-hanging fruits when it comes to easily detectable accessibility issues. And of course, if you are the developer, make sure you use these types of tools! Again, automation like this cannot find all issues. Manual checking for the features created should also take place on the developer's side. Still, a developer might not be able to test with the actual content, so at least some accessibility testing should also be done in production with the actual content of the site.

Check the grammar and quality of the text content

Punctuation and grammar checkers will improve the quality of your text. These tools are particularly useful if you operate in a language that you don't speak natively. While often they are used before publishing content, there is nothing preventing you from using these to check the existing content of your website. And don't forget to proofread your content either. While these aren't necessarily specifically related to monitoring accessibility, they bring a lot of value to accessibility as well. Especially if there are multiple content creators working on the content, it might be really beneficial to use these types of tools to make sure their content is of equal quality.

You need to keep your accessibility statement up to date

If there are issues listed in the accessibility statement, those should be fixed eventually. And it is also helpful to provide your users with some idea of when issues are getting fixed. But you cannot just leave the issues in the statement and expect you can keep them there forever. That is really not the case.

You don't need accessibility audits to update your accessibility statement, but at least on larger websites, it does help a lot. And if you get the audits done by different companies, do remember to update also when the last audit was done and who it was done by.

Benefits of accessibility training

Whether you are the sole person working on a hobby website or if you work for a company, you might benefit from accessibility training. Especially if you don't have a proper routine to creating content, it's both easy and natural to forget things that you might have learned in the past. Especially on a company level where there might be people coming and going, accessibility training might even be crucial in order to make sure the level of accessibility doesn't decline.

If you are in need of any type of accessibility training (apart from the lawyer side of things), again you can contact Exove and ask for me! I'd be happy to organise a training for you based on your accessibility needs!

Accessibility policy can help define and maintain accessibility processes

A web accessibility policy is a document that has your goals and targets. At a minimum, you should define what accessibility standard you aim to conform to and by when. An accessibility policy will help standardize the way your organization approaches accessibility. You should have guidelines in the policy that help people understand the implications and their role.
The policy doesn't need to be a public document. The primary value is internal. But it might bring you some extra value by making your commitment to accessibility shown publicly.

I've written a bit about accessibility policies before: