8-Step Implementation Model
Step 7: Monitor Conformance
The WebAIM Strategic Accessibility Framework provides a more comprehensive model for implementing digital accessibility than is provided in this article. This article is maintained here for archival purposes.
Plan for Sustainability
Here's a scenario to consider. A large software company realized that their web site was inaccessible to people with disabilities when one of the newly hired web developers pointed this out in one of their monthly full staff meetings. The company's management agreed to let this employee form a committee to plan for all aspects of the conversion over to an accessible web presence. They adopted the policy of conformance to WCAG 2.0 levels A and AA. They decided to participate in a series of training workshops provided by an outside consultant. Within 6 months, the company had completely redesigned their web site to take into account what they had learned. This design remained active for another year and a half, but during that time, the employee who started the whole accessibility process had moved on to another job. No one at the company took the initiative to ensure that accessibility principles would be applied throughout the new design, though some of the developers made their own respective parts of the web site accessible. The result is that parts of the site were accessible while others had prohibitive accessibility errors that prevented access to individuals with certain types of disabilities. Despite the "islands" of accessibility within the site, the site as a whole could not be accessed. Essentially, this company's web site had reverted back to its pre-accessibility days.
What went wrong? The company did not commit to a plan that encouraged long-term dedication to accessibility. For a year and a half, the site was accessible, but now it's almost as bad as it was before. The company failed to implement a plan to monitor conformance to its own standards.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. When WebAIM consultants travel to other organizations to train them in web accessibility techniques, the results are immediate, but they are often only temporary, because the organizations do not implement systemic change.
Monitoring conformance to the standard is critical to the overall success of an accessibility initiative. If this aspect is neglected, none of the other aspects are likely to have enough of an impact on their own to compensate. The only way to maintain accessibility over time is to have a system in place that makes this possible
Persistence Pays Off
At this stage of the journey you are well on your way toward accessibility. The key now is persistence. Now is the time to execute the strategies you outlined for monitoring progress in your implementation plan. This is the time to make sure that all goals for implementation are being fulfilled. Find out where the problems lie and offer support and training to alleviate them. Take any steps needed to insure accessibility and make sure web accessibility becomes a permanent process at your organization.
Ideas for Sustainability
- Write the task of accessibility monitoring into the job description of the head webmaster, chief technology officer, or another relevant position
- Schedule yearly or quarterly checks of all web content, and send reports to the respective developers, as well as to their supervisors
- Hire an individual full or part time to be a permanent web accessibility consultant to all developers at the organization. This person could check pages with a screen reader, with automated validators, with screen enlarger software, with adaptive keyboards, and other assistive technologies. Consider hiring an individual with a disability, and ensure that the person you hire is a skilled HTML editor with knowledge of accessibility issues
- Contract with an external consultant to perform yearly or quarterly evaluations of the site. These evaluations could take into account other elements other than just accessibility. For example, if your organization has a style guide for the "look and feel" of the web pages, the evaluators could check to make sure that all pages comply with this style guide as well as with the accessibility policy.