In our previous article, we looked at accessibility conformance claims, their use and how they should be applied – particularly in relation to WCAG 2.0 standards. In this follow-up piece, we investigate accessibility statements and accessibility policies, how they differ to conformance claims and one another, and hope to shed some much needed light on how the three document types can and should be used together.
Providing an accessibility statement for your website outlines clear information on the web accessibility considerations that have been made during development and the technologies that have been used to achieve your target level. It is a flag for a business to champion their inclusivity and to declare their commitment to a more accessible internet. It is also where the website owner can provide information on how to send feedback on the website’s accessibility.
A simple accessibility statement can present the target that the website seeks to achieve and contact details. While a complex accessibility statement may additionally include:
- A list of known issues where improvements have been identified, workarounds and time frames for the improvements to be implemented by.
- Details of the last test against accessibility standards that the website has undergone and plans for future tests, with testers or real users.
- Any specific features of the website that improve accessibility. E.g. if access keys are implemented, details of the keys, their functions and mappings.
Accessibility statements are an opportunity to make a commitment to a more accessible internet by ensuring your website is accessible for everyone, regardless of ability or user agent. The accessibility statement can also be used to outline any testing that has taken place on the website to ensure these targets are met. In doing this, this may detail the technologies used, such as JAWS screen reader or Dragon Naturally Speaking, or the environment tested on, such as Windows 10 with Edge browser or MacOS on Safari.
It is important to consider that any targets outlined within an accessibility statement should be achieved or be close to being achieved. For instance, there is no benefit in saying a website aims to reach WCAG 2.0 Level AAA if there is no attempt to include any form of captioning for visual media or if the site doesn’t have a viewable keyboard focus indicator.
Often accessibility statements are presented alongside accessibility tips for improving user experience when accessing the website. In reality, this information is best presented separately as it has a different target audience. Users that require help to navigate a site may not necessarily require the full details contained within an accessibility statement.
An accessibility policy is a statement of intent for internal (and occasionally external) use. It informs the creation, delivery and management of websites within a business. Normally these are internal communications, either as a standalone communication or included within other policies such as an equal opportunities policy. A clearly defined conformance level is outlined within a policy and may refer to a number of standards including WCAG, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0.
An accessibility policy helps to ensure that accessibility remains a core consideration within a business, and can be used to inform other documentation such as brand guidelines and project planning.
An accessibility policy will contain a clear scope of what websites it impacts and if it applies to internal websites. It may also contain policies for third party applications and content, tools that can be used in the creation, delivery and management of the website, and lists of approved technologies.
Timelines for conformance can be outlined with clear measurable and achievable targets, along with schedules for policy reviews and details of when the policy was last reviewed.
Guidance and feedback in the authoring of both accessibility statements and accessibility policies can be provided by Zoonou, separately from or as part of an accessibility test. While we would be happy to write this documentation for our clients, we feel they are best written in-house where writing styles, brand values and long-term business goals can be included. We offer comprehensive support and guidance through the process instead, with feedback on drafts and guideline compliance provided with claims where applicable.
We hope that together these two articles have helped to define the differences between conformance claims, accessibility statements and accessibility policies. While they all relate to the same topic, each document has a very clearly defined use and purpose.
Conformance claims address the specific standard a website has been built to adhere to. Accessibility statements provide more detailed information on the considerations and actions that have been taken to ensure a website is accessible. Finally, accessibility policies look at the wider goals and intentions of a business or organisation to demonstrate how it intends to cater for accessibility needs.
There’s not a requirement to have all three but as your business grows you may find the natural path is to build from creating an internal accessibility policy to publishing external accessibility statements and conformance claims.
If you’d like to discuss accessibility with one of our in-house specialists, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will get back to you. Please see our Accessibility Testing page for more information on the services we provide. If you’d like to get in touch about anything else, please head over to our Contact page.