Planning, Evaluation, Repair and Maintenance
The Importance of Planning for Accessibility
- Current page: Page 1: The Importance of Planning for Accessibility
- Page 2: The Importance of Human Evaluation
- Page 3: Evaluating Web Site Accessibility
- Page 4: Web Accessibility Evaluation and Repair Methods
- Page 5: Monitoring and Maintaining Accessibility
Planning Ahead Makes the Process Easier
There are several possible approaches to web accessibility:
- Ignore it and hope it will go away
- Bolt it on (add accessibility features after the "real" work is done)
- Add as you go (throw in accessibility features here and there as you discover problems during the development phase)
- Plan for accessibility throughout the whole process
Each these approaches (except the first one) can potentially create an accessible web site, but it is usually much easier in the long run to plan for accessibility throughout the whole process.
Bolting on accessibility features to an existing site is a bit like building a house and then trying to widen existing doors and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs. It can be done, but it is much more expensive, difficult, and time-consuming than creating wide doors and hallways to begin with.
Adding accessibility features as you go is like altering the construction process as you build a house. Sometimes you have to tear down parts that you just built. Other times you can think a little bit ahead and avoid the extra expense of starting over. This approach is not as bad as the bolt-on approach, but it is still a bit short-sighted.
Planning for accessibility throughout the whole process is like hiring an experienced architect to build the accessibility features into the design. The major changes and alterations occur "on paper" rather than on the construction site. Occasionally the architect forgets to plan for certain contingencies, and changes have to made during the construction phase, or even after the fact, but these instances are relatively rare in comparison to the other approaches.
Considering the User Perspective at All Stages
No matter how or when accessibility features are added, the important thing to keep in mind is that these features are for real people. Accessibility is not a matter of complying with laws, regulations, or standards. Such an approach risks putting technical details before human needs. Accessibility is about making independent life possible for millions of people who would otherwise have to depend upon other people to access the information on the web for them.
Developers who treat accessibility mechanically, without thinking of the end users, often create sites that meet technical accessibility standards, but which are still difficult for people with disabilities to use. The key is to think like someone who needs accessibility features. Ask yourself the following questions:
- "If I could only listen to the content, how would I want the meaning of this image conveyed to me?"
- "If I could not use a mouse, how would I interact with this Flash object?"
- "If I could not see that this error message is red and bold, how would I know that it is an error message?"
- "If I could not hear the background sounds on this captioned video, could I still understand its full meaning?"
Once you begin to ask the right kinds of questions, from the right kinds of perspectives, you'll find that many of the answers come naturally. Accessibility begins to make sense in its own right, and not just as a matter of compliance with regulations.