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Ongoing Monitoring: How to Remain Digitally Accessible

Ongoing monitoring for digital accessibility

Ongoing monitoring is the periodic assessment of a website in order to identify barriers to accessibility and remove them. Ongoing monitoring ensures that digital properties, such as websites or mobile apps, continue to meet web accessibility standards, guidelines and regulations.

The Process

An evaluation of the website is performed to identify accessibility gaps and barriers faced by people with disabilities. It is only after the evaluation has been completed and a report issued, remediation and progression testing have taken place, and the website has reached the necessary level of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 conformance, that the ongoing monitoring process begins.

It is recommended that the site be reviewed every six months, at the very least, to verify that no new barriers have developed after the initial remediation process. This time frame, however, is dependent on how often the website’s content or templates change. Companies with dynamic websites may choose to have their monitoring done on a quarterly basis, while others may choose to do it even more often.

Online retailers, for example, may monitor their websites every month due to the amount of content that changes within any given month.

Ongoing Monitoring Testing Methods

Testing for web accessibility requires a three-pronged approach that includes automated, manual and functional testing. These testing methods are standard practice, as they search for barriers to accessibility in a comprehensive and thorough manner. As a result, they are used in both the initial website evaluation and for ongoing monitoring processes.

Web accessibility testing tools are software programs or online services that help determine if a website is accessible. While some of these evaluation tools are helpful when properly used, they are not enough to assist with ongoing monitoring.

Many accessibility checks require human judgment and must be performed manually using different techniques. In some cases, evaluation tools are prone to producing false positives or misleading results. Some tools generate reports (though not all include recommendations on how to fix the issues), and some review how well the website meets the requirements of a particular guideline. The 508 Checker, for example, reviews how well a site meets the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act .

Manual testing requires human testers to comb through the website in a precise and systematic manner to find barriers, including those that may have been missed by automated testing tools. For example, an automated testing tool may have reported that an image has alternative text. It is the responsibility of the tester, however, to manually check whether the image requires alternative text and, if so, whether the text is relevant to that specific image. The tester ensures that a person using a screen reader is provided with sufficient and accurate information about the image.

Functional testing is the final testing stage. This is done to determine if people with disabilities will be able to navigate and use the content on the website. Functional testing is carried out mostly by testers with disabilities. They perform core tasks using assistive technologies or keyboard-only interactions on the various web pages, and assess whether or not they were able to complete these tasks. Any difficulties they encounter are flagged and documented.

Once all three levels of testing have been completed, the barriers identified are fixed and a company’s website is accessible, a WCAG conformance statement can be issued. After this point, companies may choose to use automated accessibility testing tools. However, regardless of how often these automated tools are used, they will still need manual and functional testing to make sure they are still meeting the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0.

Maintaining WCAG 2.0 Conformance Levels

Companies need clear and regular processes to ensure conformance. As content is updated and new templates are added, there is the distinct possibility that barriers pop up unexpectedly. It is therefore crucial that companies, once they have met the desired level of conformance, plan for regular website checks and evaluations.

Without ongoing monitoring, a website once again risks being inaccessible and, by extension, no longer compliant. All the work put into remediation and reaching a level of compliance is severely diminished.

So, when thinking about ongoing monitoring to remain compliant, here are some things to consider:

  1. Automated accessibility testing tools: Which would be the most beneficial to your company, and what are their limitations?
  2. Manual and functional testing: Speak to your digital accessibility compliance consultant. Find out how they can assist in the process by providing manual and functional testing on a regular basis.
  3. Content change: Considering how dynamic your company website is, how frequently would you require testing? Schedule regular testing.
  4. Training: Have your content creators, as well as all your designers, developers and program managers, received training regarding WCAG 2.0 requirements and how to be compliant? If not, it may be time for a training session.

To remain accessible, ongoing monitoring is essential. As rules, regulations, and technology regarding accessibility change, ongoing monitoring is one way to stay up to date with the new requirements. It also ensures that your website continues to be accessible to everyone.

To learn more about web accessibility, download our whitepaper: The Jargon Free Guide To Web Accessibility

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.

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