So you’ve done it. You’ve made the effort to make sure your website and business are as accessible as possible. That’s it, then, right? You’ve done your part?
Unfortunately, the hard work you’ve put in is only the beginning. Accessibility is intricate and variable, and maintaining accessibility requires frequent updates and adjustments. Laws and requirements are constantly changing, so you should perform an accessibility audit at least every four to six months.
Performing this audit will ensure that your organization or business stays compliant with the most current accessibility standards.
What is an accessibility audit?
An accessibility audit is an “evaluation of your website using recognized guidelines and metrics.” Though the term was coined to talk about websites and mobile apps, the concept is still useful for ensuring your brick-and-mortar space remains compliant with physical accessibility standards.
As the term suggests, an accessibility audit requires a thorough knowledge of accessibility standards and expertise in the latest accessibility innovations. This requires you to keep up with research and stay open to change.
It may seem repetitive to do an audit every four to six months, but it’s essential. Regular accessibility checks can help you stay ahead of the game as requirements evolve and can prevent compliance issues.
The time put into running regular audits is well worth the effort when it can potentially save you money and prevent bad publicity.
What if nothing has changed?
If you run your accessibility audit and everything checks out, that’s fantastic! Hopefully, that happens most of the time. However, just because your last few audits didn’t reveal any issues does not mean you should slack on sticking to your audit schedule. Four to six months may not seem like a lot of time, but a lot can change in just a few weeks, let alone months.
The ADA has only been updated once since its inception in 1990, and there are other guidelines informing standards and requirements, so it is a good idea to look beyond the ADA when adjusting for accessibility.
Many disability-specific organizations, such as the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Association of the Deaf, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network publish recommendations that businesses can follow to improve accessibility.
They’re not alone, either: there are hundreds of disability-specific, general disability-supporting, and action organizations across the United States. It’s a good idea to research as many as may be relevant to your business to ensure you’re providing the best options for accessibility.
Why not just focus on the ADA?
The ADA is a law. It defines nationally-applicable legal requirements, but it is not and likely can never be as specific as the guidelines individual organizations can provide.
The ADA provides the foundation from which to build out your accessibility. It’s necessary for the protections it provides to people living with disabilities, but it should not be considered the end-all of accessibility guidelines.
It’s far more helpful to keep yourself up-to-date on guidelines and suggestions relevant to your industry. Of course, it’s impossible to ensure 100% accessibility for every disability: some disabilities have accessibility needs that conflict with others, for example. But it’s crucial to know your customer base and implement accessibility to serve them best.
Though it may seem repetitive, it is critical to regularly run accessibility audits to ensure your business offers the most accessible experience possible. Not only is this good for business and meeting legal requirements, but it also contributes to a happy customer base that knows your organization cares.
Implement accessibility audits and continuous improvements to provide the best service your company can offer.