Achieving accessibility compliance for a single site or app requires a dedicated effort. Can you imagine the complexity of implementing accessibility on more than 50 sites across multiple brands and regions for a global brand? 

“It’s going to be a task in itself,” said Akhil Mittal, VP of Digital Solutions for Altudo, a Sitecore Platinum Implementation Partner. “It can become insanely intricate due to the everchanging nature of dynamic websites.”

On October 28, Mittal and co-speaker Brenda Tharp, Sr. Business Relationship Manager in Digital for McCormick & Company, presented a featured breakout session as part of the Business Resiliency track of Sitecore Symposium 2020. Attendees with All-Access passes learned about the challenges and risks of tackling accessibility compliance, and the speakers shared five tips for executing such initiatives at scale.

Why stay compliant?

Legal reasons are the primary driver for most organizations to focus on accessibility; however, potential growth is a factor as well. “One of every four adults in the United States has some type of disability. This is a huge market and an opportunity especially for SEO improvement,” Mittal explained.

There also are countless missed opportunities to engage non-disabled audiences in moments when they may need a more accessible way of experiencing your marketing content. Mittal refers to this as Situational Disabilities, and suggests that meeting these needs can be an easily overlooked benefit of successful accessibility programs.

Challenges to accessibility

Mittal and Tharp acknowledged that marketers who are determined to address accessibility face a number of organizational challenges, including:

  • Lack of awareness among the various teams involved in designing new sites
  • Limited resources designated to manage issues related to accessibility
  • Scarcity of professionals who understand accessibility issues and know how to use the available tools 

“Accessibility is not a one-time thing where the project starts and ends,” said Tharp. “It’s a journey, and you need resources in place to manage the evolution over time.”

Accessibility dos and don’ts

As legacy websites try to implement best practices and comply with legal requirements, Mittal and Tharp recommend teams should keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Always put the end user at the center of your accessibility program
    As with any other marketing initiative, the end-user experience has to be the focus. If regulatory compliance is at the center, you wind up simply checking a box without bringing about long-term change.
  2. Adopt a templatized framework
    When a project involves many different brands and sites, scalability matters. A single source of code saved to a component library gives independent teams the right building blocks to ensure accessibility everywhere. This kind of templatization is allowing McCormick & Company to implement accessibility on a broad range of websites in one fell swoop, according to Tharp.
  3. Structure the program for an environment with multiple owners
    First identify all stakeholders, and then align the work around a single project owner. You’ll likely have to do some internal accessibility education before you can determine the list of tasks and outline a plan for success.
  4. Understand the pros and cons of tools vs. human operator testing
    Automated testing tools can be helpful because they are fast and efficient; however, don’t expect them to find all of the barriers to accessibility on your sites. There is no substitute for having real people manually test the user experience for accessibility. Since operator testing can be time-intensive for large organizations, Mittal walked through a best practice approach for creating an accessible foundation before attempting to remediate sites at scale.
  5. Remember that accessibility is a pursuit, not a destination 
    The work of accessibility is never done. Keep taking small steps with your initiatives and implement a culture of continuous governance. You might even create an Accessibility Playbook for all content authors to follow, and definitely encourage ongoing participation from all stakeholders.

If you registered for an All-Access Symposium Pass, or purchased the post-event on-demand package (only $195, and available here), you can log in and watch the full presentation here.

Dan Olson is a Copywriter and Content Marketer at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.