Use the arrow keys to navigate between menu items.

We can make our website accessible - Part 2

5 minutes read

This is the last email in the series on believing six impossible things before breakfast.

Yesterday, we talked about why you need to have an accessible website. Today, we'll talk about the how and I'll share 10 key steps that have worked for me.

1. Talk to your team often

Encourage open communication and collaboration to address accessibility challenges. Ask everyone on the team what they know of accessibility. Help them by providing training on accessible design and development practices. Take the time to understand accessibility standards and best practices. This knowledge will guide your decision-making process and help you advocate for accessibility within your organisation.

Don't have the expertise? Hire someone to come and talk to your team.

2. Talk to your team early

When you consider and incorporate accessibility early into the initial planning phases, it will help avoid costly retrofits later on and ensure accessibility is a fundamental aspect of your product. Don't wait until you start coding or until customers report issues. Rework at that stage will block ongoing work and cost you dearly.

3. Sweat the small stuff

Instead of focusing on high-level outcomes, aim to be consistent in your daily grind. Do the boring stuff, do it often and do it well. Do it so well, it becomes second nature.

The boring stuff includes:

  • adding alternative text to images
  • checking for colour contrast in your content
  • adding meaningful text to your links

4. Track your leading indicators

Everyone worries about the long term goal: 100% accessibility. The problem is, you only know you've reached it when you're there. Instead, focus on the things you control today. Look at the short term benchmarks you can implement to inform how likely you are to meet that long term goal.

Look at:

  • how many critical accessibility issues you have in production
  • how many of those are in your backlog
  • how early in the process you identified the issues
  • how many customer complaints relate specifically to accessibility

These are the leading indicators. Get these numbers down and I guarantee you'll meet your long term goal.

5. Use Semantic HTML

Make use of proper HTML markup to structure your content in a meaningful way. Use headings, lists, and other semantic elements to provide a clear hierarchy. Seems simple, yet it's so often overlooked. I can't tell you how many lists I've seen that were paragraphs with line breaks in between them, or how many divs used as buttons.

6. Take care of your forms

I've yet to see a website that doesn't use forms. I've rarely seen a form that's accessible. If you make sure form fields are properly labeled and provide instructions or error messages in a clear and understandable format, you'll help users with cognitive and visual impairments complete them effectively.

7. Test with assistive technologies

Fire up a screen reader. Don't be ridiculous and go blind-folded or turn off your monitor. Just try to use it. It's scary at first, like all things new. You'll get the hang of it in no time and some basic usage will go a long way.

Too scared of a screen reader? Then ditch the mouse and navigate with just your keyboard.

All this helps identify any potential barriers and allows you to address them proactively.

8. Create a roadmap

Sit down and develop a roadmap for improving accessibility on your website. Outline specific milestones and timelines for implementation. Don't take it as gospel though. Treat it as a guideline that is likely to change. Plan for it to change and know how you will adapt when that happens.

Use the roadmap to help you prioritise accessibility initiatives and track your progress.

9. Document your findings

When writing up your project documentation, take a moment to document accessibility solutions and processes. This will provide valuable reference material for future updates. Not to mention, it will help tremendously with onboarding new team members. I can't tell you how many times I wished I had access to any sort of accessibility documentation when working on an existing product feature.

10. Celebrate your successes

So you've fixed all critical accessibility issues currently in production. That's amazing! Don't sweep it under the rug and move on. Take a moment to celebrate milestones and successes. Recognise your team's efforts and highlight the positive impact of accessibility on your website's usability. This is especially important when you're trying to get support and additional resources from business stakeholders to continue the work.

This wraps up my list of six impossible things before breakfast.

You can go back and read any of the other emails in the list:

  1. People with disabilities are not a minority
  2. Accessibility isn't a feature
  3. Accessibility isn't a technical problem
  4. Accessibility isn't time-consuming and expensive
  5. You can't outsource accessibility
  6. We can make our website accessible - Part 1

If you have any questions about any of these emails, you can always hit reply! I read and respond to every email personally.

To get you started on effectively prioritising accessibility, you can use my free Accessibility Checklists for Agile Teams. These checklists are the answer for product owners, designers, developers and testers who want a more accessible outcome by weaving accessibility into the software development lifecycle.

Did you enjoy this bite-sized message?

I send out short emails like this every day to help you gain a fresh perspective on accessibility and understand it without the jargon, so you can build more robust products that everyone can use, including people with disabilities.

You can unsubscribe in one click and I will never share your email address.