Setting your website up with accessibility monitoring for compliance will help you stay focused as you seek for it to become and remain accessible to all.

The Prize

When Alice Wine wrote down the lyrics to “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”, it became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement. It could as easily be a rallying cry for disability rights indicating the need for a continual push for accessibility, though.

In the previous post in this Accessibility series we noted the similarities and differences between the civil rights and disability rights movements, and here’s another similarity: the need for continual vigilance.

The phrase “keep your eyes on the prize” carries with it the weight of the continual struggle that’s needed to right injustices, enfranchise those who have been excluded, and bring about the true equality of access that’s needed in our pluralistic society. On a smaller scale, it also stresses the continual nature of the struggle that might be necessary for you in order to make and keep your website accessible to all.

The Obstacles

Accessibility can only truly be determined by having a person actually move through the site using an assistive technology like a screen reader. Unfortunately, the amount of time it would take for someone to do this for each page of a website is likely often cost prohibitive.

Most websites have hundreds or even thousands of pages. To pay someone to go into each of those pages to make sure there are no violations of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is simply not an option. Fortunately, an important subset of all the WCAG’s requirements can be determined by an automatic scan of a page.

Claims vary as to what percentage of errors can be caught with automated scans, but it’s generally accepted that automatic scans can catch from 25% to up to almost 60% of all errors. That leaves a lot of errors to be discovered by manual testing or user reporting, but when a website likely has hundreds of accessibility errors, even 25% represents a significant number of items that can be remediated to improve the experience of the website for disabled users. It’s certainly a good place to begin.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
–Tao Te Ching

The First Step in Accessibility Monitoring

All pages of your website should receive an initial scan to establish a benchmark, and then this should be followed up at least monthly with further complete scans. There are two main benefits to this continuous-accessibility-monitoring approach.

First, doing an initial scan and then periodic rescans will show you the progress you’re making in your accessibility efforts. This may seem like a soft benefit, and maybe not vitally important, but in reality it is.

The benchmark scan of your site may reveal that your site has a score of 47 out of 100. Of course, this only takes into account those 57% of problems that can be identified by the scan. On top of that, your Web Accessibility Specialist may be able to identify twenty or thirty other issues that need to be fixed.

Maintaining Focus

This can be overwhelming to take in, and potentially pretty discouraging. But if you contract with a company to fix those issues over time, the next month your score may jump to 72, and the month after it may jump to 84. Seeing it rise can be very gratifying and motivate you to keep working through those issues: you’re keeping your eyes on the prize!

On the other hand, if you just keep chipping away at the list of things your Web Accessibility Specialist has told you make your site inaccessible, but you have no indication of your progress, it may be difficult to stay motivated. This is especially true since so many of the things you’ll be doing won’t actually be noticeable to you unless you use some assistive technology like a screen reader.

It’s possible though unlikely that you’ve heard from some of your disabled visitors before about the things that made navigating your site difficult to them. It’s even less likely, unfortunately, that you’ll ever hear from anyone thanking you for making your site accessible. Your sales might go up because your audience increases when more are able to use your site, but the nature of our society is such that you’re less likely to hear from others about things you’re doing right than wrong.

"The changing score" A line graph shows upward progress. "You begin your website remediation efforts in February, and seeing your progress in an increased score keeps you motivated to stick with it!"With a tangible change in your site’s accessibility score, though, that’s something you can hold on to, and be motivated by. You’ll discover the joy, my friends, of watching your score go up as time goes by, in response to your efforts. It can be pretty heady!

Showing Progress

In addition to performing periodic full-site scans, and paying attention to them, we also recommend you create a public and easy-to-find log of the fixes you’re making. Logging these accessibility fixes on a consistent basis will indicate to your visitors that you really do care about accessibility.

This will be heartening and even endearing to your visitors who have disabilities, and it will also send a strong message to the sharks. The sharks I’m talking about are those lawyers who troll the internet looking for inaccessible websites they can have their plaintiffs test, find accessibility problems with, and bring suits over, or even just send demand letters about. points out that many plaintiffs and the lawyers that represent them are getting better at finding the right amount of money to ask for to settle out of court, increasing their chance of making that amount of money without risking losing the case, and then having to pay the defendant’s legal fees. Your efforts to make your site accessible throw an unknown variable into their equation.

Website owners who’ve been actively working on their accessibility are less likely to just roll over and pay the settlement, and more likely, in fact, to win if they are taken to court. With continual accessibility monitoring, coupled with continual fixing, and adding to that continual logging of your efforts, you show your good faith in the accessibility arena, which undermines the sharks’ cases against you.

Backsliding Not Allowed

The second main benefit of continuous accessibility monitoring is that it’ll ensure that any new content you add to your site is also accessible. LinkedIn suggests that companies should update their websites at least once a month for SEO and other benefits. Business2Community suggests you should add content 1–3 times a week. Whichever frequency you choose, or another one altogether, the fact remains that every time you add something new to your site there’s a chance that something inaccessible will come along with it.

The scores you get at baseline and with each progressive scan while employing accessibility monitoring won’t be perfect. Still, you should work to know all your site’s imperfections and make a plan to correct them.

Plus, let’s imagine you’ve just added a post and your accessibility monitor tells you that it has an image that’s missing alternative text, or that you added a link that opens in a new tab without giving a proper warning, or something.

If the notice comes to you shortly after you publish the post, you’ll likely find it easier to jump back into it and fix the error while everything in the post is still fresh in your mind. Thus a little bit of quick and easy action on your part can avert the degradation of your score, and it will also prepare you to avoid similar accessibility problems in the future.

After working to make your site accessible, you’ll likely know the major things that bring inaccessibility and so be able to avoid those pitfalls in the future. But like any vibrant business, you probably have a variety of new staff members being added from time to time who may not know anything about accessibility, its importance, and the actions that need to be taken to maintain it.

Hopefully you’ll have told them about your commitment to accessibility, so it won’t come as a big surprise when the monitor tells you that some content they’ve added has accessibility problems and you let them know what needs to be done to fix it.

Of course, even more so with others than for yourself, the quicker you catch the problem and require the fix, the less onerous the process for your new employees. It’s also more likely they will be able to change their own procedures for adding content to include accessibility in the future so they won’t have to go back and fix it in the future.

Arm in Arm

From one crusader to another, I congratulate you. You should be proud that you’ve started down the path of ensuring that your site is accessible to all your visitors. Actively working to make sure your site comes to be and remains accessible makes you as much of a crusader as any of the protesters back in the 60s singing “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” to anyone who’d listen. Setting up continual accessibility monitoring of your website will make sure your eyes stay on the prize, and keeping a log of your efforts will show your visitors your commitment.

Want a little help keeping your eyes on the prize? Contact us for a consultation and we'll help you set up continuous accessibility monitoring to help you stay focused.