Completing an accessibility remediation project can be tricky. It's one thing to spot issues in your web accessibility plan and another to efficiently prioritize solving them.
How do you prioritize accessibility problems? Which issues should you address first? There are several ways to do this, by noticeability, by severity, or by tractability—which one do you choose?
There are multiple questions at this point and, hopefully, this article will help you answer all of them. Keep reading to discover eight simple ways to prioritize the issues included in your accessibility audit report.
Why is web accessibility important?
Web accessibility is essential for both people with disabilities and businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures taken by the government have accelerated digital transformation and changed the online climate.
As the number of internet users has increased to 4.66 billion in January 2021 and appointments to COVID-19 vaccine shots have been made through online platforms, web accessibility has become even more crucial than before.
People with high-risk medical conditions and those from priority populations need streamlined access to vaccine appointments, and here's where web accessibility optimization counts.
U.S. and Canadian regulations regarding web accessibility have been reinforced in the last year, with an increase of 20% in web accessibility lawsuits.
How does web accessibility benefit users and businesses?
Making your website accessible brings multiple benefits for your digital users and your company.
By helping your audience overcome accessibility barriers in their interaction with your site, you are more likely to earn their trust and long-term loyalty. And by making your customers happy, you invest in the well-being of your business as well.
Satisfied customers mean higher engagement and conversion rates, and improved traffic on your site.
Making web accessibility a priority in your development practices is also essential to avoid the risk of legal complications. Today, optimizing websites for people with disabilities is no longer optional, unless you don't mind legal fees and penalties.
As the digital world is getting more complex, innovation is what often makes the difference between success and failure. Trends are ever-changing, so being able to innovate and come up with creative solutions to your problems is key.
Web accessibility helps you maintain a flexible and innovative mindset, as it forces you to deal with unanticipated issues that require extra creativity.
Another benefit of making your site more accessible is that, by doing so, you're also making it more SEO-friendly.
You can improve your site's accessibility by adding ALT-text to images, writing clear content, or choosing a clutter-free page layout. All of these steps also mean good SEO practices.
8 tips for efficiently prioritizing accessibility issues
We've now understood why digital properties need to be accessible and what are the benefits of web accessibility for users and businesses.
Now let's dive in and explore some best practices on how to efficiently create a strategic accessibility prioritization plan.
1. Does your website have lots of images on it? Then your main focus should be ALT text.
2. What does your analytical data tell you? Prioritize addressing accessibility issues according to this data to improve the user experience. If your target audience heavily relies on screen magnifiers to zoom in on particular sections on your site, then prioritize solving the issues around this specific feature.
Take advantage of analytics tools and statistics to accurately address the needs of your customers and efficiently design your site accessibility plan.
If you know that your population of users who uses a keyboard is 1 %, and your magnification users are 5 %, then a keyboard focus issue which normally is in the bottom third of the list since it is an AA suddenly becomes more important.
In other words, prioritizing web accessibility issues according to their WCAG level (A, AA, AAA) is a bit rudimentary in the complex digital scenario that we currently interact with.
What matters more is how these accessibility issues impact your customer base—that's where you should start from.
3. Does your site have lots of video content on it? In this case, prioritize adding captions to address the needs of people with disabilities.
4. Is an issue repetitive for screen readers? Then treat it as a top priority.
For example, link names are a common issue listed on the W3C accessibility checklist. These links should contain unique, meaningful, and descriptive text.
If your automated accessibility testing tool has identified repeated issues with link names and the experience of website visitors using a screen reader might be compromised, then address it quickly.
5. Are your users having trouble submitting forms?
If so, consider addressing these web accessibility issues that prevent users from filling in a form on your website.
Usability issues like inaccessible inline error messages or unhelpful error text messages can send a message to your visitors that they don't matter enough to have access to basic streamlined experiences on your site.
6. Does your site have accessibility issues that affect the user navigation experience?
In this case, you know what to do: prioritize solving any issue that negatively impacts the way your visitors interact and navigate on your website.
A poor navigation experience is bad for any visitor and even worse for users with disabilities who depend on assistive technologies to interact with your site. Most likely, they'll get discouraged, frustrated, and never again willing to come back to your website.
7. Are there any accessibility issues on your site's main pages?
Consider putting them on top of your accessibility remediation list. Why? Well, it's pretty straightforward: your main pages like the product page or the contact us page are the ones your visitors interact the most with.
'It will be very difficult for a website to conform to all criteria on level AAA. For this reason, the recommendation is to address accessibility issues based on popular pages and specific groups.'
8. Do you prioritize according to your audience's needs, content, or website functionality?
If not, get started because internal prioritization based on the requirements of your web accessibility plan is many times the winning strategy.
Taking the 'A level vs AA level' shortcut may not be as effective, leading to poor long-term results. In today's highly dynamic digital landscape, web accessibility issues prioritization must be made based on deeper insights that involve your audience and business direction.
Key aspects of web accessibility
You now understand the importance of web accessibility for your audience and for your business, as well as how to spot priority issues in your accessibility strategy.
Next, let's have a look at what makes a website accessible and what goals you should set for your website's content and design to make it accessible:
- Ensure that your design elements and text are visible for all users
- Create robust content that can be easily interpreted by specific assistive technology tools
- Make sure the information you deliver on your website is clear and the user interface easy to navigate and interact with
Some key features that boost accessibility in a website are:
- Color contrast - Website visitors that can benefit from this accessibility feature are the ones with a sight condition, people who are accessing your site from their mobile devices, those accessing it in a poorly lit environment, etc. Implement a good color contrast between the background and the foreground of your site makes it more visible and enhances text readability.
- Text to speech - This accessibility feature allows users with learning disabilities to interact with your website in a convenient manner. Also, people with literacy difficulties, low vision, or just busy users that choose multitasking will be highly grateful for a text to speech feature.
- Clear and constant instructions - Providing feedback in the form of error/success messages for every action that users need to complete or have completed can highly benefit users with cognitive and learning disabilities or visitors that aren't skilled at computer operations. People love clear instructions, especially if they struggle to complete certain tasks, so making your website predictable and convenient is key.
- Video captions - Captions or subtitles make your video content accessible to people with hearing loss or users accessing your content from a loud environment. This feature is highly convenient and should not miss your top ten accessibility features list.
- Clear layouts and design - The benefits here are multiple, as simple designs load faster, provide better user experiences, and improve your website's SEO rankings. You can maintain your site clutter-free by getting rid of unnecessary design elements, non-relevant content, and unnecessary code. To decide which parts of your site need decluttering, perform an audit of the text sections, links, and menus, and start cleaning your site.
- Voice recognition - This accessibility feature is not beneficial just for users with various health conditions. It's convenient for anyone who would rather utter search phrases instead of writing them in the search bar.
- ALT-tags - When you think of accessibility, you think of confidence and comfort. That's what you want to give your audience and, by using concise descriptions, you offer them a sense of trust and control. Impersonal image descriptions that include specific keywords are the most helpful to them.
Prioritizing web accessibility is not optional anymore. Learning how to efficiently manage your accessibility prioritization plan can be challenging, but, hopefully, the insights from this article have paved the way for a pragmatic approach to accessibility prioritization. You now have a better understanding of how to decide which functionalities need immediate attention, as well as the issues that should be fixed first.
Efficient accessibility prioritization is all about stepping out of your business shoes and empathize with the user who's most affected by accessibility issues. Ask yourself, 'If I couldn't access this, how would it make me feel?' Then you'll be able to truly get on the other side of the table and understand your audience, thus prioritizing with their needs in mind.
Check out our Drupal Website Accessibility services for more insights on how you can take web accessibility to the next level.
Photo credit: mohamed_hassan on Pixabay.
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