Deciding which digital accessibility provider to choose is an extremely important decision that directly affects your user experience and legal compliance. In this article, we outline five key criteria to evaluate when making your selection.
How to Select a Digital Accessibility Company
Any digital accessibility company you hire should provide the following:
1. Comprehensive Testing
Testing and evaluation are an essential part of any thorough accessibility service. Several companies only offer automated scans but a true accessibility assessment involves a combination of scans, manual audits, and user testing, both before and after remediation takes place.
Automated scans are a great way to get started with testing, but even the best-automated checkers only flag approximately 25% of WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria. This is why the best digital accessibility companies will also perform manual audits (further explained below).
Because automation is limited in how many accessibility issues it can flag, manual audits are essential to evaluating digital assets.
In a manual audit, a digital accessibility expert will systematically evaluate all primary user flows – including pages and screens – of your asset against WCAG 2.1 AA and detail all accessibility issues found. (Note: WCAG 2.2 is expected to be released in the summer of 2021.)
Depending on the size and complexity of the asset, most manual audits should be completed within 2-4 weeks. Strong reports will be actionable and provide clear details and instruction on next steps. At a minimum, a manual audit should include the following components:
- Page / screen
- Accessibility issue
- WCAG reference
- Recommendation on how to fix
An audit includes screen reader testing performed by an accessibility expert and results in an excellent technical assessment of your digital asset. However, the evaluation process is made even more robust when professional accessibility testing is performed with assistive technology.
In the context of accessibility testing, user testing means testing performed by one or more users with disabilities to ensure that an asset is fully accessible both from a technical and practical perspective. It provides tremendous value and should be used in determining how thorough an accessibility company is in its approach.
Tip: Look for a company with configurable standards and rules, one that can generate easy-to-read reports on issues and recommendations, and monitor progress with clear records.
2. Legal Compliance Knowledge
There are a number of accessibility regulations that apply in the U.S. and other territories, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and EN 301 549. A digital accessibility company must be fluent with the different nuances of these laws. This indicates the provider is familiar with legal compliance and can help support you in meeting requirements.
Although best practice is always conforming to the latest version of WCAG, there are additional considerations that may come up. For example, did the AODA carve out two exceptions for WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria? These details might affect how your organization prioritizes accessibility remediation.
Tip: Not all companies have this type of legal and technical knowledge to keep up with evolving standards and regulations. This legal expertise is critical. Your digital accessibility provider should understand the changing legal landscape and help validate or defend any claims against your ecommerce site.
3. Technical Expertise
An effective digital accessibility provider will have a team of experts that can support your accessibility efforts. This team should have a clear understanding of the evolving regulatory requirements for compliance, with technical experts who can offer coding suggestions for your ecommerce site. Team members should also include individuals who are native assistive technology (AT) users who test your digital properties using the most common AT on the most common browsers.
Tip: Any digital accessibility company should provide a team of technical experts to manage your ecommerce site with the ability to easily change code to stay ahead of changing regulatory requirements.
4. Actionable Insights
It’s important to know where your ecommerce website could prevent or block access to content or functions. Comprehensive testing is designed to flag exactly these kinds of issues. But a good vendor will also tell you how to fix these issues and ideally, provide assistance in the remediation process.
Tip: When considering a digital accessibility company, look for one whose solutions provide clear pathways for improvement. This includes complete, readable histories of scans, results, and validations; prioritization of issues based on severity and impact; technical help to fix complex errors; and ongoing testing and reporting at the very least.
5. Progress Recordation and Documentation
Your accessibility company should provide an option for progress tracking and record keeping. This type of documentation can be beneficial both from an internal standpoint and a legal point of view.
Tip: Progress tracking gives your brand tangible evidence of commitment and improvement over time. Legally, having independent, third-party documentation of accessibility can be extremely helpful, particularly in motions to dismiss claims. When a provider demonstrates this level of diligence and attention to detail for customers, it speaks volumes.
Accessibility is Essential for Ecommerce Sites
Digital accessibility is a big win from so many vantage points:
- It’s the right thing to do
- It promotes diversity and inclusion
- It provides better usability
- The law requires it
But there is definitely a learning curve to understanding what your organization needs and who is the right provider to meet those needs.
We’ve teamed up with eSSENTIAL Accessibility, who provide Accessibility-as-a-Service to deliver an all-in-one solution, with legal expertise and training, to help our customers meet their accessibility goals.