Websites are continually evolving and changing. Whether it’s design, content, or functionality, sites rarely remain static. What once was functional and accessible may now have become a barrier with content or code updates. Organizations need to have a long-term accessibility maintenance plan in place at the beginning of any project to account for and adapt to these changes.
Keeping accessibility maintenance a fundamental part of your web development strategy is more cost-effective and efficient than trying to retrofit it after updates have been implemented.
There are many ways to help your organization standardize the accessibility maintenance process.
Keep your accessibility team involved
Inform the accessibility team of when website updates are scheduled and their scope. The team can help prioritize accessibility tasks and minimize effort. Everyone has a responsibility to consider and integrate accessibility standards throughout the process, but your accessibility team will make sure things run smoothly and efficiently.
And if you don’t have a dedicated accessibility team, assign someone on your digital marketing, development, QA, or content team to be responsible for accessibility oversight for ongoing updates.
Set up regular accessibility reviews
Include regular accessibility checks during any publishing process to help reduce the risk of new issues being introduced. Running periodic, automated scans can provide an idea if anything has changed recently. If something new shows up that wasn’t found in previous tests, it’s a good indicator that further investigation (and perhaps some manual testing) should be done to determine its impact on accessibility.
- Use tools like WAVE, Axe, and color contrast analyzers for quick, page-level checks
- Use your keyboard to navigate your organization’s webpage without using your mouse. If you can’t navigate easily, seamlessly or in the same manner you would with the mouse, this is a major barrier
- This includes daily content publishing and maintenance activities, as well as broader redesign and development efforts
Reviews should identify issues and why those issues may be occurring
- Are issues caused by a lack of training or understanding by developers, designers or content authors? If so, revisit accessibility training – not just for new members to your team, but for those who could use a refresher course
- Are issues a result of a change in the content management system (CMS)? If so, connect with your accessibility team (or assigned lead) and tech development team and see if patches exist, or what they recommend for compliance
Establish a consistent evaluation process and reporting template
Create a process to track changes. Ensure your team is aware of common issues and implement a training plan to prevent any recurrence.
The body of knowledge and coding tips for accessibility is constantly changing. Assign an accessibility point person to make sure your team keeps up-to-date of these changes.
Make sure your organization is informed of updates to WCAG standards and legislation
These updates typically include dates by which compliance must be achieved and should be reviewed and reported on regularly. You can find updates and dates by regularly visiting sites such as W3 and subscribing to their newsletters.
Any existing common libraries, knowledge bases, and training materials should be updated to reflect the updates and presented internally and externally to ensure stakeholders continue to make accessibility a priority. Sharing these updates should be the responsibility of your accessibility team or the point-person in charge of accessibility compliance.
Consider what technologies you aim to support or continue to support and track functionality that changes with each version
Update the organization’s supported browsers and assistive technologies list on a regular basis. New operating systems, patches and updates bring new features. In addition, new versions of authoring tools may provide additional accessibility features that you can take advantage of.
Don’t let efforts go to waste. You’ve put in the work to build an accessible website and with regular maintenance, your organization can avoid creating barriers as updates and improvements are made.
Accessibility is on ongoing effort and keeping it at the forefront of every step is essential for success.