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Considerations Before Conducting an Accessibility Audit

taught by: Kurt Mattes

Session Summary:

User acceptance, quality assurance, and accessibility reviews essentially have the same outcome – problems are identified. Beyond the basic output however, an accessibility audit is uniquely different in ways worthy of consideration prior to scoping the work.

The most frequently followed accessibility audit methodology is expensive and often the wrong audit to conduct. Unnecessary resources are consumed, and the outcome rarely meets expectations. An alternative approach and several effective accessibility audit methodologies are presented. Remediation and risk mitigation strategies are then reviewed to provide attendees a logical, multi-faceted approach for deciding the most appropriate audit method for a digital information asset.


Should accessibility for existing digital information be approached as though it is a bug fixing exercise? Many companies do. A consulting firm is hired to conduct accessibility testing which will find the problems that become the scope of a remediation project. The plan follows a known quality assurance pattern, making it comfortable, intuitive, and logical. Unfortunately, this approach also overlooks valuable opportunities to reduce the cost of mitigating risk exposure now and when future digital assets are developed.

Like any problem, formulating a corrective action plan requires knowing exactly what the problem is and a reasonably good measure of the problem’s size. It is critical level of effort information that also helps to determine budgets and resource allocations. To gather the information, a classic expert audit of a website or mobile app is requisitioned. This class explores why it can be an ill-advised step that begins a long, expensive, and mostly unnecessary journey for many companies.

Digital accessibility is about the experience a person with a disability has when trying to perceive, comprehend, and interact with digital information. Ironically, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard intended to facilitate digital accessibility often becomes what accessibility is about. To prevent WCAG from becoming an accessibility pass/fail checklist, strategies for keeping the user experience in focus are presented.

Unfortunately, when accessibility is mandated by an agreement, time pressure can influence decisions around the type of audit that is conducted and the purpose it must serve. The effort is highly remediation focused and driven by the findings from a classic audit. It is at best a temporary solution for making a website, kiosk, mobile or desktop application accessible. Perhaps a typical audit to discover where and what all the issues are is not necessary for correcting a digital information accessibility problem.

With or without the constraints of an agreement, time and budgets must be balanced between prevention and remediation activities to reach a self-sustaining steady state for accessibility in the most cost-effective way. This class explores alternative solutions for digital property stakeholders to consider before conducting a traditional accessibility audit and funding a remediation project.

Presentation Materials: