Digital accessibility refers to the practice of designing and developing digital products, services and content in a manner that guarantees their usability and accessibility by individuals with disabilities and impediments. The objective of digital accessibility is to ensure equal access, inclusion and usability for all, irrespective of their physical or cognitive abilities.
The first official requirements for digital accessibility started to occur in the late 20th century, alongside the advancement of technology and the increased prevalence of the internet. It might not be a novel concept globally, but it can represent a new challenging responsibility for companies and Project Managers.
Digital accessibility encompasses a broad array of technologies, such as websites, mobile applications, software, documents, videos and more. This is not a straightforward task — it's a project that demands proper planning and organization, research and analysis, and involves all levels of a company's personnel.
Thus, I would like to share my experience and the lessons I have learned while implementing a project on digital accessibility.
Step 1: does my project fall under digital accessibility?
The first step is understanding the necessary requirements. These requirements may be based on various published standards, including:
- EU Web Accessibility Directive.
- EN 301 549 V3.2.1.
- WCAG 2.2, ATAG 2.0 and UAAG 2.0.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or Section 508 (U.S.).
- ISO/IEC 40500:2012 - this international standard is based on WCAG 2.0 and is also published by ISO and IEC.
- And the legislation of the country where your digital product or service needs to be compliant.
Next, identify the stakeholders, their requirements and expectations for digital accessibility compliance. Also, assess the company's expectations and readiness to comply with digital accessibility requirements.
Step 2: formulating a plan
Once you comprehend the high-level requirements, it's essential to formulate a plan or roadmap and delegate tasks to responsible parties.
- Gathering low-level requirements from your stakeholders might include a list of projects, understanding the accessibility level and an analysis of the accessible scope. This could comprise of documents and their formats that might require additional formatting, converting and designing a specific feature or functionality in software, applications or digital platforms.
- Gain a solid understanding of digital accessibility principles, guidelines and the needs of users with disabilities.
- Consider structuring data by creating a corporate portal that describes the legislation, provides accessibility training guidelines, project templates for planning accessibility activities and resources, and accessibility identification checklists, etc.
- It’s also beneficial to outline the tools, technologies and strategies used to make the product or service accessible and suitable for testing. The tools can be defined by local legislation.
- Arrange educational sessions for interested audiences such as Project Managers, Product Owners, Developers, Test Engineers, Scrum Masters, Architects, Quality Assurance Engineers, Business Analysts, Sales and Recruitment teams and UI & UX Designers.
- Create an accessibility community within the company to share knowledge and best practices.
- Plan internal accessibility assessment activities to identify existing issues and areas for improvement.
- Subscribe to accessibility events and trainings to stay informed about upcoming trends, changes and to collect best practices.
- Enlist the support of accessibility experts for further consultation.
Please remember that working with standards such as EN 301 549 V3.2.1 or WCAG 2.2 can be rather complex, so ensure that the documentation you create and plan to share within the company is well-structured, easy to update and user-friendly to read. Also, feel free to use diagrams, tables and other visual formats to help convey substantial amounts of information more clearly. Aim to make not only your products/services accessible, but also your documentation and any other possible outputs.
Don't forget about networking — share your knowledge and experience both inside and outside the company with people who are also striving to achieve accessibility goals.
- Accessibility is not solely about improving technology. It involves:
- Enhancing the everyday experiences for people with disabilities and impairments.
- Extending expertise.
- Enhancing a company's reputation and development.
- Improving the safety and quality of products or services.
- It’s not feasible to render a product accessible solely through automated accessibility technologies and tools for development and testing. Therefore, be sure to allocate resources for manual activities such as research and testing, including user testing with individuals with disabilities, where possible. Remember to also allocate resources for regular internal accessibility assessment.
- Bear in mind, you can utilize AI chatbot platforms to expedite your research activities.
- Ensure your team knows where to locate accessibility documentation and whom to reach out to for additional consultation.
Enjoy the process of transition and make sure your products and services are accessible!
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