The journey to universal accessibility shouldn’t be a difficult one. That’s why we look to specialists to help us achieve our goals. But how do you know if you’re choosing the right provider for you and your company’s needs? Here are five questions you need to ask your potential accessibility provider before signing on the dotted line.
How does your solution help me reach my accessibility goals?
What do you want to achieve, and will your potential provider help you get there?
Are they listening or just selling?
Will they get you to compliance with at least Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1AA?
Be aware of fancy wording; the answer to “will this get me to compliance with at least WCAG 2.1AA?” is a simple yes or no. Anything else should ring alarm bells.
If the product or service on offer will not achieve WCAG compliance, what more do you need to do to get there? It’s also vital to remember that meeting WCAG and PDF Universal Accessibility (PDF U/A) standards doesn’t mean that that product or service is user-friendly. Will your accessibility provider help you reach conformance or exceed conformance to an accessible, useable experience?
In short, is it truly fit for purpose?
Do you provide end-user testing?
It’s not uncommon for accessibility overlays, coding, software, or gadgets designed to increase user accessibility and compatibility with assistive technology to cause more issues than they solve. So how are you or your provider checking that any suggested solutions have been proven to improve the experience for people with disabilities?
If your specialist provider is helping to make your website or mobile app more accessible, do they have the facility to employ disabled people with varying conditions, to test the final accessible site or app for usability? Remember that accessibility does not equal usability.
Is user testing, or any work involving disabled people, completed ethically by compensating people fairly and equally? Are all disabled testers staff on the payroll? Is anybody on permitted earnings or zero contract hours? Find out if a real living wage is paid at the minimum.
Do you provide an accessibility statement?
Accessibility Statements usually take the form of a short information page held within the website to which the statement refers. It is a simple declaration that defines the level of web accessibility the website aims to achieve, and ‘aims’ is the important word. Your accessibility statement should not simply regurgitate what you have done to become accessible but layout where you know you fall short and what your plans and deadlines are for fixing the issues.
If your provider has tested your website for WCAG compliance, they should be able to craft a WCAG compliant accessibility statement on your behalf.
And don’t forget, if you are in the public sector, Public-Sector Regulations 2018 stipulates information that must be included in your accessibility statement by law.
What is the PDF solution you’re providing in addition to your web solution?
There is little point in an accessible website if the content available within the site is not accessible. Does your provider offer remediation and solutions for your PDFs?
What is that solution?
Can they make your existing documents accessible and supply the services and tools to help you produce accessible PDFs in the future?
Does your provider recommend that you replace all your PDFs with HTML? On the other hand, would it be cheaper and easier to keep your PDFs and convert them to documents compliant with PDF/UA standards?
Are they able to help with all accessibility aspects of your digital properties?
How will your provider continue to work with you?
This is probably the most important question of all. Is the product or service you’re purchasing a one-time fix? Accessibility is not something that is done once, and that’s it. As your website and apps evolve, the accessibility you have worked hard to achieve needs to grow. Is your chosen provider able and willing to work in partnership with you over the long term to ensure that you not only become accessible but can maintain that accessibility?
How is that structured? Are you being given all the tools, skills, and knowledge you need, or is the power in the hands of your provider?
On the flip side, is your provider overselling you on products you don’t need?
You know your business. If they understand it too, you will agree on what you do and do not need to become and maintain your accessibility, and you need not ever feel that you have been strong-armed into anything.