How can nontechnical administrators ensure that the websites their employees create and maintain are accessible to people with disabilities?
Designing an accessible website is not difficult when accessibility is considered along with other design issues at the beginning of a project. To create resources that can be used by the widest spectrum of potential website visitors rather than an "average" person, webmasters can apply "universal design" principles. Designers should routinely think of the broad range of characteristics their site visitors might have and design their resources so that they are accessible to everyone. They should consider the needs of individuals with disabilities, older persons, people for whom English is a second language, and those using outdated hardware and software.
To design accessible web content, staff should avoid inaccessible data types and features or provide alternative methods and formats for content access. Additionally, administrators should take the following steps in order to ensure the accessibility of websites in their organizations.
- Select web accessibility guidelines or standards. If you work for a federal agency or contract with or sell to the federal government, Section 508 standards are a good choice. You should also consider the standards or guidelines that have been adopted by your state.
- Require that your web staff document web design standards, including standards for web accessibility. Webmaster(s) in your organization are likely using standards of various types (e.g., HTML, XML, XHTML, CSS). Make sure there is a document available that summarizes these standards, as well as web accessibility standards. Also require that designers apply accessibility guidelines and features to web development tools if they are used.
- Disseminate web accessibility policy, guidelines, and procedures throughout the organization. Make sure everyone who works on website content and design understands the importance of accessibility. Make sure that regular training and technical support are also available.
- Develop a plan and timelines to phase in web accessibility compliance for existing web pages. Also require that new pages meet accessibility guidelines. A good time to make web pages accessible is when they undergo a significant revision. Alternatively, you could make minimum accessibility updates (for example, put alternative text for simple graphics images throughout the organization's web pages) for all pages, and implement a more thorough update when significant revisions are done to a specific site.
- Put processes in place to ensure compliance with accessibility standards. Have technical staff develop a process for testing accessibility standards during web page development.
- Place a statement on your home page that ensures visitors of your commitment to providing accessible web resources. Also inform visitors where to report accessibility barriers and to make requests for accommodations. Develop procedures for responding quickly to requests for disability-related accommodations and to repair accessibility problems with web pages.
- Make sure that web-development contracts offered by your organization require that websites meet accessibility standards. Include a statement in the contract that requires that the web pages meet your accessibility standards or guidelines.
For more information and additional guidance on how to ensure that websites in your organizations are accessible to everyone, see the publication Web Accessibility: Guidelines for Administrators.