Accessibility Technology

How to Win the Accessibility 3-Legged Race

This is my second session from the third day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “We need accessible web products from our design agencies.  How do we make sure they deliver on that?  We provide practical advice drawn from experience.”  These guys definitely have the best session titles, and all their sessions I’ve attended were entertaining and had great usable content.  The very first slide has My Little Pony, so we’re definitely off to a strong start.  This might be my last post of the conference, since I have a train to catch.  Onward!






George and Billy talked a bit about themselves and what they do.  They then said they’d help us with the often awkward “agency-client handshake.”  #awkwardhug



  1. Set yourself up for success
  2. Create strategy and stick to it
  3. Be realistic about your team’s a11y knowledge
  4. Use testing tools AND test with users
  5. ABC always be closing

Round-the-room discussion


If you ask a simple question as a client like “is the product keyboard accessible” and they come back with Ctrl-Shift-Alt-F2-w-t-f”  That will tell you a lot about the company.  Common excuses and comments:

  • An excuse is “on our web site we sell ___ so blind people will not visit our web site.
  • Accessible web sites are ugly


Set yourself up for success

  • Ask lots of questions.  Early on.
  • If you see a lot of checklists early on, that is often something to be concerned about.
  • If you’re in an AGENCY:  “we need an accessible web site” is not a good requirement.  Read between the lines…is it a legal requirement, or do they have corporate buy-in?  What if you’re the only agency who is successful in delivering accessible web products?  Make it something that you can sell, list it on your web site!
  • If you’re a CLIENT, talk to your peers.


Create a Strategy and Stick to It

  • AGENCY:  work the client to develop milestones and figure out how to get there.  Make it an integral part of your workflow, it’s becoming a competitive advantage.  Bake it in at every stage.  Your account/project manager needs to clearly articulate how accessibility is done.
  • CLIENT:  ask one question:  what’s your accessibility strategy?  Pro tip:  if you have style guides / development guidelines that include accessibility, share those with the agency.  Compromise is OK as long as it’s realistic.


Be realistic about your team’s accessibility knowledge

  • AGENCY:  use your strongest web guy for the job; your SharePoint guy ain’t gonna cut it!
  • You need your whole team to know accessibility.  Teamwork, not “the one guy who knows VoiceOver”
  • Start small, ask your team to take the short online AODA / Customer Service course (a google search will turn this up).  Pro tip:  put a requirement in your RFP that the agency must take  this course.  It won’t make them experts, but it will give them a baseline knowledge.
  • CLIENT:  testing only with screen readers is not going to cut it.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable with the agency’s accessibility knowledge.  Don’t get into meetings / calls with the sales team, ask for the PM, BAs, designers, etc.  Ask for examples of their work with other accessible projects.  If the agency has no proven knowledge of accessibility, hire a third party.


Use testing tools AND test with users

  • Find the testing tools that work for you and use them.  It needs to be a part of your workflow.
  • AGENCY:  Test with users with disabilities.  You don’t need to invest in expensive testing tools. Just turn on VoiceOver on your Mac or High Contrast Mode in Windows.  Other tools we recommend are WebAIM WAVE toolbar, aViewer, Web Accessibility Toolbar, Color Contrast Analyzer, etc.
  • CLIENT:  Test with users with disabilities or at least simulate with assistive technologies.  Use automated testing tools, especially for regularly-posted content.  Be smart about prioritizing:  1 big issue on 1 page versus 1 small issue on 80 pages.


Always be Closing

  • “We’ll just do it in phase 2” never happens
  • Use MVP (minimum viable product) for accessibility
  • Write a report that clearly depicts the accessibility results.
  • Do good work and don’t be afraid to show the client you can do it again, this is your chance to articulate that in the report.
  • CLIENT:  spot-check, then sign-off on it.  It’s better to launch with some accessibility issues than not launch at all. Planning for some remediation is OK.  Ask the agency to report on the results of their accessibility strategy/work completed.  HINT:  you don’t actually care how they report.  Major benefit?  You flip the accessibility process upside down!  You’re basically asking for two things:  do the accessibility work and tell me about what you did.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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