By Lauren Murray — Feb 6, 2018 11:00 AM
Accessibility has become a high priority for many organizations due to the changes in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that went into effect on January 18, 2018. Typically, accessibility invokes a negative reaction mostly because it is seen as a daunting task. At this past year’s Cascade CMS User Conference, Thane Webb, the Web Services Coordinator, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, spoke about his journey and success to improving their site’s accessibility.
I recently spoke with Webb to discuss what UNK’s goals for accessibility are, how they made their site accessible within a year, and what their best practices are for organizations just starting the process.
As the only person who oversees the website at UNK, Webb was solely responsible for improving their site’s accessibility. Starting in 2017, after the announcements about the changes to 508 compliance were made, he began working on a plan and timeline to present to his boss for approval. His goal was to knock out all the big errors and warning issues reported within a year, but create a plan for continued accessibility maintenance for the future.
It took about four to five months to create a plan and get it approved. Once the plan was approved, Webb started working hard to fix their site’s accessibility. Going into the project, he knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish, but knew that it wouldn’t be an immediate fix. Knowing that accessibility was going to be an ongoing process and not a one time task, Webb was able to break up his tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, focusing on accessibility by issue type, department or group, and importance.
Initially, they had started checking accessibility with free tools but found that it was difficult because they had to check accessibility for each individual page. With some money left over from their latest redesign, UNK purchased Siteimprove, a software that helps identify accessibility errors and problems on websites. To get through all the issues, Webb prioritized WCAG 2.0 Levels A and AA errors and warnings, then worked through manual reviews from Siteimprove. As the only member of his team, it was hard at first to find time to devote to accessibility, so he decided to set aside one day each week to focus on improvements. He had been working on it on his own and was able to get through the majority of the issues, but in September 2017, he hired a student worker to help with accessibility maintenance and QA. Webb set a goal to complete all errors by January 2018, and they were able to accomplish that goal, with the exception of one minor issue!
Webb said that the majority of his users understand the need for having an accessible site, and have been cooperative with any changes they need to make. He has gotten a small amount of pushback, but only for certain types of content added, such as infographics. Webb also uses training information from Siteimprove to teach his content contributors why accessibility is so important.
Webb has several plans to continue training his users and improve their site’s accessibility. He plans to set up departments in Siteimprove so individuals can see their own content and the areas they need to improve.
Their current Cascade CMS training includes basic accessibility checks, such as alt text for images, and image and link best practices. They also have a web support portal that includes basic accessibility guidelines for content contributors. Moving forward, Webb is creating a group training specifically for accessibility. Through Siteimprove, Webb can see which users’ content has the most offenses, so he plans to do one-on-one training for those users. He is also planning to share with his users the free training material and certifications provided by Siteimprove.
For future redesigns, all templates will be checked through Siteimprove before they are even implemented into Cascade CMS. This will allow them to prevent any technical accessibility issues and focus only on making sure their content is accessible.
Currently, UNK is on Cascade CMS Version 7, but Webb is really looking forward to upgrading to Cascade CMS Version 8 for many reasons. He knows reporting and content checks are improved in the new version, and with our new Siteimprove plugin, it is now easier and faster for users to check accessibility from directly within Cascade CMS.
As discussed in his presentation at #CUC17, Webb stresses that you do not have to give 100% of your time to accessibility to fix improvements. Having a small web team should not be a limitation for improving accessibility. Webb found it easy to complete the project with a small team because he was able to structure his own time and complete the project within the timeline without having to train anyone else.
Maintaining your site’s accessibility will be an ongoing task, so for organizations just starting to focus on accessibility, Webb recommends finding a good system that performs accessibility checks on your site.
Want to learn more about checking site accessibility in Cascade CMS? We offer several resources on our built-in accessibility checker, new Siteimprove plugin, and industry best practices you can use to make your site more accessible.
Want the latest version of Cascade CMS and access to the Siteimprove plugin? Upgrade to version 8.8 now.
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