8-Step Implementation Model
Step 5: Create an Implementation Plan
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.
Planning for Success
So you've got a policy. Now what? Your policy won't be taken seriously unless you actually do something about it. In some ways, it is worse to have a policy and not follow it than to have no policy at all. By not following through on the policy, you would send the message that accessibility takes a back seat to other issues, and that you weren't serious about the policy in the first place. This can actually put your organization in a bit of a legal bind too. If you have a public policy which is clearly violated, this leaves room for undesirable press at the very least and undesirable expensive at worst.
But assuming that your organizations intends to follow through on its intentions, it is best to lay down a specific plan that will transition to a self-sustaining model of accessibility that will last beyond the immediate need to fix problems with the current site.
Let's read a few ideas on how to implement a web accessibility plan.
"Doing it Right"
A priori systems (systems formed or conceived beforehand) must be created to optimize the participation of all site users. In other words, it would not be sufficient to maintain an inaccessible site and then say to a blind person that you'll try to find someone who can read the site to them, especially if you don't have anyone in mind for this task. After-the-fact accommodations are inefficient for everybody. It makes more sense from the perspective of the user to have a site that is directly accessible, and it makes more sense from the perspective of the site's creators, because poor planning can make it extremely difficult if not impossible to provide after-the-fact alterations to inaccessible web content. It is much better and more efficient to create web content that is created from conception to be accessible.
It is imperative to create goals aimed at establishing coordinated systems that enable full access for all. The sooner an organization creates and implements sustainable solutions, the sooner ALL individuals can participate in their right to experience the power of the Internet for lifelong learning. The composition of an implementation plan can be accomplished in any environment wherever there are creative and resourceful individuals.
An essential part of creating an implementation plan is to thoroughly document the actions taken by the committee and organization at every step. The web policy you construct is not only a great way to lay the foundation for your organization's accessibility, but it also documents your good faith efforts for others to see. At every step, the policy should leave detailed and well-documented proceedings for others who may need to use it as a reference.
When you are constructing your web implementation plan, there are four areas to consider. They are:
- establishing timelines,
- setting priorities in terms of what standards to achieve and on what timeline,
- delegating responsibilities, and
- monitoring progress.
These tasks often do not occur in order, but should be addressed when needed.
The first task in formation of your plan is establishing a time frame for implementation. Depending on the size and scope of change needed at your organization, this time frame may extend from weeks to years. It is important to recognize that this is a complex process. Establishing a timeline allows you to sequentially follow the tasks and duties you lay out for all of those participating in web accessibility at your organization. It also stimulates action and accountability in everyone involved by creating deadlines by which work must be completed. However, keep in mind that, although initial timelines are an aid in your travel toward web accessibility, compliance is an ongoing process and must be permanently established. Plans should be made for both initial changes and the long-term establishment of web accessibility as a priority at your organization.
Setting Priorities in Terms of Standard Achievement
Due to the complexity of the organizational reform process, setting priorities at the onset along with deadlines for observance is essential. These priorities outline which pages will be required to be compliant, as well as the minimum requirements for established deadlines. This process may also take place in phases. For example, one organization made pages that received the top 20% of hits their first priority. These pages, as well as training fell into their first phase, while obtaining further funding fell into a third phase in the reform process.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Which pages must be fully accessible at the beginning of the process? Consider the home page and the top-level pages linking from it.
- Which pages can be partially accessible until those of first priority have been completed?
Once standards and a timeline have been determined, the next step is to delegate responsibility for each of the tasks. This portion of the policy should include a breakdown of each work group's purpose and tasks. As tasks are delegated to specific members of the main accessibility committee, subgroups will form. Who will be included in these groups? When will they meet? A list of the organization's entities and what their responsibilities are to enforce the policy should be delineated clearly.
The best implementation plan does no good if there is no accountability. Laying a foundation for monitoring progress and following through is the best assurance that reform will be successful and complete. It is very important that you develop a system by which to identify and maintain contact with individuals who have been assigned specific responsibilities within your plan. The administrators or managers can provide this leadership in monitoring and compliance, as well as delegating specific tasks and follow-up to others.
For example, the administration in some higher education entities require that web masters attend training on institutional policies, sign agreements to follow them, and are monitored over time for compliance. Of course such an endeavor would assume that the administration has a way to identify and track ALL individuals who place web content on an institutional server and monitor accessibility as one feature of broader institutional policies. The framework for these abilities must be laid early on.
There are many different methods emerging throughout organizations to monitor progress. Let us present a few for your consideration.
- The first is random checks. This is fairly self-explanatory, involving persons being hired to randomly test web pages for compliance to the standards.
- Another method is a yearly purge, in which all pages not declared compliant by the web team are swept off the system. This may help to clean rogue content off the system, however, it still does not verify whether the sites are actually compliant or not.
- Another method is the honor system, where those responsible for becoming compliant are not directly monitored, but it is assumed they will keep their sites fully accessible. This brings up the question "Why have a policy if we don't even know whether or not anyone is following it?"
- A final method is the peer system. In this system, a network of designers is set up to provide mutual feedback, support, and idea-sharing opportunities. This association has established policies and monthly meetings. Twice a month two sites are sent out for random checking by all members of the association. The sites are checked against the established policies of the group and feedback is returned to the webmaster as well as the designer of the given page. In this system it is imperative that feedback be supportive, as well as critical. Training may be required to facilitate the requirement of gentle, but firm, critiquing.