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The ultimate guide to website accessibility for small businesses

The following is a comprehensive checklist for accessibility that can be referenced throughout the process and applied to all channels.

Accessibility keyboard with braille in front of laptop
Accessibility keyboard with braille in front of laptop

Ensuring digital accessibility on your website should be of utmost importance as a business owner. Beyond the disabilities we can see, there are also hidden or ‘invisible’ disabilities that can make it downright difficult or overly distracting to visit a website if it is not up to par.

The following is a comprehensive checklist that can be referenced throughout the entire process and applied to all digital channels:

Phase 1: Plan and Communicate

Following a strategic plan of action will be essential for your success through the development cycle. There needs to be full participation from all members to collaboratively share expectations and responsibilities.

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  • Set clear KPIs for digital accessibility
  • Use Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA
  • Create both internal and public-facing policies that outline your efforts
  • Set appropriate timelines for all foreseeable goals
  • Encourage communication among all parties
  • Train all staff members involved to the best of their ability

Phase 2: Test and Audit

Audit all currently existing assets so that visual elements also adhere to WCAG 2.1 AA standard. This includes audio and video, as well as documents like PDFs and transcripts. Test these assets against standard using manual methods.

  • Perform testing across the board to current assets as-is
  • Rate them against WCAG 2.1 AA while conducting testing
  • Create lists of noted issues to improve on
  • Work with an external accessibility partner for full resolve

Phase 3: Fix and Verify

Finally, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty work! After testing digital properties, it’s time to make the fixes as necessary.

“Remember that accessibility is a journey, not a destination.”

Along with resolving the current state of affairs in your business, ensure all updates, features, and elements going forward adhere to standards. This helps to keep things up to date and in the best accessible condition consistently, instead of having to start this long process over again in a few years.

  • Remedy the most severe issues first – this not only gives a clear priority to the team but once completed, gives them a boost of confidence and energy
  • Train internal employees ongoing, as well as freelancers or contracted employees
  • Continue QA testing randomly, either internally or through a partner
  • Incorporate those with disabilities in user testing to rate satisfaction

Phase 4: Document, Train, and Maintain

Always track and document your process for both internal reference and your stakeholders.

  • Update your accessibility policy and statement to reflect your work
  • Ensure all new hires are trained and understand expectations
  • Communicate the accessibility policy to all vendors
  • Continually evaluate the digital channels moving forward
  • Set up reports to track ongoing progress
  • Document all outcomes, but especially positive user outcomes
  • Receive website certification if plausible

Creating a more inclusive world is one area your business can hold with pride if you make digital accessibility a priority. Get started today!

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Emily Drewry is the Web Producer at The American Genius. She holds two Business degrees in Digital Marketing & Advertising as well as Sales Management. She resides in the sunny Orlando, FL and embodies the heart of hospitality. When not working on web projects, she's probably at a theme park or thrifting her next trendy piece, iced coffee in hand.

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