When you work on a project to improve accessibility on your website or other digital channels, often the aim is to move towards compliance and lower the risk of legal action, as well as to genuinely make a difference to those with disabilities.
However, an accessibility improvement project can also result in some unexpected, positive outcomes that are not necessarily related to accessibility. Some of these benefits flow from the changes to accessibility itself – for example improved usability and even SEO, but others come from the experience of working on the project itself. A successful accessibility project can be a great catalyst to drive new and improved ways to manage your website going forwards.
This is particularly the case where you follow a steady path to improve accessibility over a few weeks with:
This formula is a great way to achieve accessibility compliance, and one we have seen work again and again with our customers. Let’s explore some of the unexpected benefits that flow from an accessibility improvement project that is carried out like this or in a similar way.
When you work to improve accessibility and are carrying out fixes on a page by page basis, you’re also likely to want to fix any related issues on the page too that may have been identified by testing. For example, when you see spelling mistakes, broken links or internal brand compliance issues identified by automated testing, then many teams make these changes as they go. We often see an accessibility improvement project widen in scope to become a content improvement project.
The actual action of carrying out accessibility fixes is a great way for digital teams to learn about accessibility and the detail of compliance; they find out how to fix an issue and then embed that learning by actually putting it into action. If you have fixed the same issue on fifteen different pages, you are likely to remember how to do it. This means that when a person creates a piece of content next time around, they are very likely to not make the same mistake, knowing that they may have to correct it later.
For example, customers have told us that the embedded bite-sized “how to” videos in the Sitemorse platform have led to much greater knowledge and awareness. The impact of this is an investment in the digital skills of your team, usually in a far more impactful way than expensive classroom training.
The great thing about working on a successful digital accessibility project is that it really makes you feel like you are making a difference, not just in lowering risks and moving towards compliance but also because you’re making changes that matter to site visitors with disabilities. This can be genuinely motivating and feels like a project has more purpose.
Feeling a genuine sense of achievement on a project can lead to a new perspective and mindset that can help drive forward other digital improvement projects, as well as being engaging and satisfying.
When you work on an accessibility project, particularly using the kind of methodology outlined above, it can also positively influence team dynamics. All too often people on the content side and the coding side tend to work apart, not as a team; when you improve accessibility it usually requires contributions from both sides, as well as communication between the two. A successful project helps galvanise good working relations, kickstarts stronger communication, and also facilitates a better shared understanding. We’ve heard from clients that have told us a digital accessibility project has resulted in the marketing team understanding some of the coding involved, and the developers understanding content aims. This is absolutely the ticket to drive better future projects and a foundation for great website management going forward.
Improving accessibility is not rocket science; you need to roll your sleeves up and work through a list of issues. Seeing the genuine progress that you can make over a few weeks can also be applied to other areas of digital and content improvement. Success is inspiring, but also seeing the “how” also means your digital estate will be in good shape for the future.
Let’s say your successful project has delivered improved accessibility. This means that you have a great baseline that people are going to want to maintain. Nobody wants to repeat the exercise, least of all those people who have put in the hard work. Equipped with new knowledge and also motivation there is a real incentive for people to keep content accessible and up to date, rolling these approaches into normal content and website management processes.
A successful accessibility project also delivers confidence not only for induvial team members, but also senior management in the abilities of your digital team. This is good news for everybody.
You will not regret starting a digital accessibility project. There are a huge set of benefits that flow from it, not only just about accessibility. Start that project tomorrow!