Accessibility Remediation

The information presented within this glossary entry is aimed at website owners seeking to learn the ropes of web accessibility. Technical elements are described in layman’s terms, and, as a rule, all topics pertaining to the legalities of web accessibility are presented in as simplified a manner as possible. This guide has no legal bearing, and cannot be relied on in the case of litigation.

Accessibility remediation is the process of making digital content more accessible to people with disabilities. This may entail making changes to existing content and/or creating new content that is specifically intended for those with disabilities. Remediating a digital application will ensure that its content conforms to applicable accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is referenced by many U.S. courts as the standards by which websites need to conform under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Moreover, there are other legislations, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, that specifically set WCAG as the standard for compliance.

Digital platforms and content that can be remediated for accessibility

Websites

Websites typically exhibit various elements that require remediation in order to be made accessible to people with disabilities. Common website remediation steps include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Ensuring compatibility with screen reader technology
  • Adding alternative (or alt) text to meaningful images
  • Ensuring website visitors can navigate the website exclusively through a keyboard
  • Ensuring proper contrast between text and its background
  • Ensuring the website is responsive
  • Properly using headings

Online documents

Online documents, such as PDFs and Microsoft Office files, can be remediated and made accessible to people with disabilities. When creating documents, one can use built-in accessibility checkers available within many popular platforms (e.g., Adobe Acrobat Pro). These will flag accessibility issues appearing within the document and provide short instructions for remediation. Many businesses rely on expert service providers to help them remediate complex, lengthy online documents, as they can require more in-depth knowledge.

Videos

Videos appearing within a website need to be remediated for people with certain disabilities to be able to access them. A typical online video remediation process will often entail adding captions and providing audio descriptions to convey non-verbal sequences appearing within a video.

Podcasts and audio files

Podcasts and other audio files appearing within a website need to be remediated for people with certain disabilities for them to be able to access them. A typical audio file remediation process will entail providing transcripts of all the audio elements appearing within a given file or podcast.

Critical steps of an accessibility remediation process

A successful accessibility remediation process will typically include the following steps:

Identifying accessibility issues via audit

The first step of any accessibility remediation effort is conducting an audit to determine the extent of the remediation efforts required. Accessibility audits can examine how a ‌website and other relevant digital assets conform to relevant web accessibility standards, most commonly the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Website owners can conduct audits manually by relying on checklists (e.g., an ADA website compliance checklist) or outsource these responsibilities to expert service providers. Blending robust technical expertise with a strong understanding of WCAG, expert service providers are better equipped to audit websites and are more likely to identify accessibility issues that are not readily-apparent.

In addition to these manual approaches, website owners can use an automated accessibility tester that can quickly examine a website’s level of conformance with WCAG and identify accessibility issues that require remediation.

Remediating accessibility issues identified during the audit

Accessibility issues identified during an accessibility audit will need to be addressed. Common remediation steps for websites and online documents include adding alt text to meaningful images, ensuring screen reader compatibility, providing sufficient contrast between text and its background, and providing support for keyboard navigation. Common remediation steps for videos and podcasts include adding captions and transcripts. Many website owners rely on web accessibility solutions, such as accessiBe, to automatically remediate accessibility issues found throughout the audit.

Monitoring for new accessibility issues

It is important to remain vigilant in maintaining the accessibility status of web content. Accessibility legislation is a developing legal area that may change in the future to place higher demands on content providers. It is therefore necessary to build a monitoring schedule into any accessibility policy so that content remains accessible and the impact of further remediation is mitigated. Additionally, when web content is significantly changed or updated, it is advisable to perform an accessibility audit, as this can impact a website’s accessibility status. Finally, monitoring websites and web-based applications helps facilitate the reporting of digital content’s accessibility status, which is required under certain laws.

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