I’ve been building web applications for the government for more than 10 years, so I’m more than a little familiar with Section 508 and what it means to develop a web site the complies with it. But recently, my team and I have gained a much deeper understanding of accessibility by participating in an experiential learning session led by Catharine McNally. I’ve gained new levels of realization about what really makes content on the web accessible and usable for all individuals.
Phase2 team members wear simulated low-vision glasses to test website navigation through screen readers
While 508 and accessibility have been major focuses for us as a company on OpenPublic and other government related efforts, I’m recognizing more than ever that effective accessibility for a web site is an ongoing process. The laws, rules, exceptions, and best practices about online accessibility are constantly changing. And more importantly, we don’t want to approach accessibility as a box checking exercise. It’s not enough for your CMS to render accessible and compliant templates, it has to be a tool that supports collaborative accessibility by providing tools for guiding content authors through the process of creating accessible content for a web site.
Some of the goals we’ll be undertaking in the coming months:
- Continuing to improve usability and accessibility on the administrative side of our CMS solutions, including OpenPublic
- Providing inline tools and tips that enforce and encourage editors to write accessible and compliant content
- Providing workflow steps that require compliance prior to content being published
- Posting tools and resources to help others test for accessibility and remediate issues on their own sites built using OpenPublic
Eventually we want to pursue integrated tools, like inline content accessibility testing using an external testing service and dynamic checklists that make it easy to generate compliance reports right from your Drupal CMS.
We hope this not only benefits the public by encouraging and supporting the publishing of accessible and usable content, but that it soothes the concerns of organizations that use our solutions, like OpenPublic. Web accessibility shouldn’t be some scary regulation that confuses or burdens an editorial staff. It’s a simple concept that can be supported by simple technical solutions and good sense editorial decisions. We want to make sure that organizations faced with 508 and accessibility mandates are armed with the right tools and the right knowledge to make it easy.