When and How to Write an Accessibility Statement and Policy

Your organization should already be talking about accessibility and taking steps toward being digitally inclusive. One of the first practical steps you can take is to establish an internal accessibility policy and external statement around your status and plans.

The Policy helps employees understand the importance of accessibility to your company, its values, and helps employees to understand their role in the process.

The Statement is used to communicate with customers or consumers. Establishing that accessibility is an important value to the organization, that your company has a plan to achieve compliance, and to offer an easy way to contact the company if a user has any issues using the site.

Below we have set out some practical guidance around when and how to write and publish an accessibility policy and statement. You will also find examples of published statements to help you see successful, practical implementations.

WHEN?

Let’s start with when you should publish a statement. It may surprise some that the answer is immediately! You don’t need to have achieved full accessibility on your website before publishing an accessibility statement. In fact, a statement can and should be updated to reflect your ongoing status and plan.

Publishing a statement on your website around your current implementation status, even if that implementation is in the early stages, can have an immediate impact on your customers. The disability community welcomes companies that have begun to address accessibility and have provided easy ways to contact an organization with any issues.

Your internal policy can also be a work-in-progress. This could require an “input stage” at the beginning of your plan where each department outlines the efforts to be undertaken and provides an estimate on the timeline and resources required.

The goal for both an accessibility policy and an accessibility statement is to demonstrate internally and externally that your organization plans to act fast and is committed to providing updates and amendments as your efforts generate results.

HOW?

The good news is that there are a number of resources that can help you formulate a policy and statement. The best source for actionable information is the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which has guidance on writing a policyand a statement.

W3C WAI provides guidance on the standards that are most commonly recognized, as well as best practices for implementing your policy. You should make sure to reference standards, such as Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and make sure you define the level of conformance you are looking to achieve (e.g., A, AA, or AAA), which will affect the scope for your policy. Also, set achievable conformance milestones to ensure you’re on track to achieving compliance.

Here are a few other tips for developing and publishing your website accessibility statement:

  • Make it easy to find on your website.
  • Keep it short, but meaningful — and be sure all related resources and FAQ are on a single, easy-to-find page.
  • Ensure it’s easy for users to contact your organization directly from the statement and prepare your internal Customer Service teams to handle such requests.
  • Offer tips on how site visitors can take full advantage of your website’s accessibility features (e.g., making sure to have the latest version of accessibility software installed).
  • Explain current exceptions to or limitations of the accessibility features on your website, if any are present.

Here are a couple examples of companies that are doing web accessibility guidelines right:

  • Chase offers an honest, thorough commitment to accessibility while noting that it continues to make strides toward meeting the standards set by WCAG. The policy details auxiliary aids and services at banking locations, as well as web and mobile accessibility guidelines, including software recommendations and settings, screen reader applications, which browsers to use, and how to provide feedback.
  • Hilton has a simple accessibility statement on its website that highlights the company’s commitment to making its site accessible — and it’s easily found in the site’s footer. The statement includes a list of how the company provides accessibility for people trying to book hotel rooms, including specific accessibility features in place for people needing to book a room.
  • Perry Ellis’s accessibility statement is located in the site footer and is both thorough and cleverly on-brand by stating, “We are working hard to achieve our goal of providing an exceptional user experience. We believe Style is for everyone.” The company’s statement details different ways Perry Ellis is working to meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards, including using alt text on images and allowing for the keyboard navigation in order for visitors to navigate past or through embedded content.
  • The accessibility statement on eBay’s site is also located conveniently in the site footer and is short and to the point. In addition to achieving the goal of letting visitors know how to contact the eBay Accessibility Team if they have any issues, questions, or concerns, the statement also assures visitors that the company is working to make its site accessible to the “broadest audience possible.”

Now that you know the when and how of crafting a web accessibility policy and statement, it’s time to implement your plan and prepare your teams, process, and tools to include accessibility in everything you do. Request a consultation to explore what accessibility approach is best for your team’s budget and resources in order to ensure your website is accessible to people of all abilities.

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Originally posted here on UsableNet.com. Follow us on Twitter.