Accessibility statements and resource publishing best practices csun 2019
Accessibility features, products and services are of limited benefit if
consumers do not know
what is available, or how to access and use them. Companies that have taken the step of
creating a website focused on accessibility are reaching out to users who need that
information. Knowing the essential components to provide a sup
portive and positive
experience for users with disabilities will enable companies to develop or improve their
Intuit is in the process of developing an acc
essibility statement and resource center.
than reinvent the wheel, decided to research what other technology, e
transportation, and educational companies have done to see what works and what does not.
Welcome everyone! Thank you for coming here, today to watch our presentation about Accessibility Statements and Resource Publishing Best Practices. Our research, last fall, involved studying different companies’ accessibility webpages to learn the best practices that can benefit us all. I will delve into the research part to discuss our findings, a little later. Instead of using the term “accessibility webpage”, I will be using “Accessibility Resource Center” or ARC. It is where a company publishes its accessibility statement, and content related to accessibility. It may be a single page or a series of pages.
Why is ARC important? It helps users to find different resources in one place. It is also an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to users with disabilities. Maybe you have come here and want to hear about how wonderful accessibility is and you don’t want to hear about marketing and public relations. But both of these are really important. Marketing allows you to show your products and services that are accessible and helps your company to maintain profitability, so that you are able to offer good products and services. And, sadly, more importantly, it will give your accessibility team support from other parts of your company. Public relations is good for more than one reason. It allows you to show your commitment to the disability community and it allows the people inside your company to become interested and inspired in becoming involved.
Also, it can help your company to avoid legal actions. As Lainey Feingold wrote, “I believe that posted accessibility pages help organizations avoid legal action - so long as there is an active phone number and email address and site visitors get prompt and positive responses to feedback….It’s absence a sign that accessibility is not a priority - or worse.” This brings us to the three most important things that you must have on your Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) webpage, which are:
Easy way to locate the ARC, has contact information, and has an accessibility statement.
Why is an accessibility statement important? Please understand that when I say “accessibility statement”, I am not referring to a “legal statement”, even though a number of ARCs have those, as well. An accessibility statement can be meaningful to a lot to users with disabilities. It is an opportunity for companies to show their commitment to make their products, websites, and services better for all, and also that they’re being considerate of our needs. Looking at an ARC webpage without an accessibility statement versus looking at an ARC webpage with an accessibility statement provokes a different reaction. A user who has a disability and has encountered a problem with a product or service and wants to contact the company will feel more positively towards the company, if they see that the company has stated that they have a goal of being accessible, because this sends the message that the company is working towards that, even if they haven’t yet achieved full accessibility in all of their products and services. An ARC without an accessibility statement shows us that they have different priorities.
Delving further in our research, we chose 56 companies that have a daily impact on people in the United States, and we broke them down into five sectors, which are technology, e-commerce, finance, transportation, and education. Having a variety of sectors helped us to examine different approaches they use with their ARCs and to see if any specific sector can benefit other sectors, as well. We won’t cover every detail of our research, because it definitely would bore you...and me, as well! We will only focus on the most significant findings.
49 out of 56 companies have ARCs. 43 had accessibility statements, and 36 of them were legible.
After looking at a number of accessibility statements, we went on to explore all of their ARCs to see what’s and not beneficial. We found some flaws.
Let’s back up, for a moment. Remember Lainey Feingold talked about the importance of having contact information on your ARC? 45 out of 49 ARCs listed their contact information. I will be providing two different examples for comparison.
Here’s a bad example. There’s one webpage that mentioned that there was contact information below. And there was nothing below. Not joking. Also, some webpages were not user friendly about how you access the contact information. For example, on the first page says that to find contact information, click here. Clicking there takes you to page two. The second page says the same thing, then the third page says the same thing, and, finally, the fourth page says we can contact them through this phone number. The worst part is that the phone number was a general phone number, which means calling them would not get you to someone who could directly help you with an accessibility issue, but you would need multiple more steps to reach to the right person.
Some other ARCs did a much better job of providing their contact information. This one is my favorite. There is not just one option to contact them, but four different ways to contact them! With “Accessibility Support” on the top of the contact information list, this makes them look friendlier and more supportive than many other companies. Some other companies would just have “contact information with a phone number.”
This is really an amazingly nice contact section, offering a variety of options; however, to be honest, I am going to make a suggestion. Add an email address as a contact option.
Mel Baggs is an advocate for people with disabilities. She uses a speech synthesizer to communicate, and the process can be slow, as she types with one finger. She spends a great deal of time preparing her presentations, and, until the advent of automatic captioning, she captioned them, herself. When determining how users will contact your company, you need to consider the broadest range of accessibility in terms of contact. My assumption, and it is only an assumption, is that email would be the smoothest way for her to contact a company, as she would not be constrained by issues of time. But, I may be wrong. People often assume I prefer to use video-relay, because I am deaf, but I actually prefer live chat . So, this is just an assumption. But, again, the more options you provide, the better.
All of the companies in our study have a home page. Often you would be able to locate their ARC from their homepage. 31 of the 49 companies with an ARC had a link to the ARC from their homepage. Another way to find it is through search engine (google, bing, yahoo, etc.) Sometimes, I would find three different links to three different ARCs for one company. The first link would be obsolete, then the second one would be unfinished, and then the third one is the current one. This is not helpful, when there is an issue and a user is trying to locate the company’s ARC in order to contact the company. This is the kind of flaw that companies need to check for, so that users can find the correct link.
Probably, you remember a game called The Sims. It was very popular, when I was growing up. Sometimes, people constructed houses without doors. The characters would be stuck inside or outside of the houses. In this case, the character is stuck inside and therefore spent a lot of time practicing the piano. If you develop an ARC and you do not make it easy to locate, you have basically made a house without a door. You have put all kinds of good resources inside in the house; and people who need to access them will have to find a window and climb up and get into the house that way, because you didn’t provide easy access.
Earlier, we mentioned that there were some legibility issues across different ARCs.
Let’s start with the bad examples, some of the ARCs overlapped pictures with words. Thankfully, none of the ARCs used cursive, but it’s just an example of bad legibility. Unfortunately, there were some extremely small fonts that I couldn’t even read with my glasses on. Imagine providing that to users with low vision specifically as your company’s accessibility website?
With good examples, the font size is appropriate and the color contrast follows accessibility standards. Only 36 accessibility statements were legible, which means that 7 or 16% were not legible.
Another example; some of the videos on the ARCs were captioned. Great, that’s accessible, but the ironic part is that the font size was too small on some, making them impossible to read, which means they are not truly accessible. Please understand this example is not an exaggeration, but is accurate in terms of the size of the font that was used. This is not a legibility issue, but another, connected accessibility issue that is even sadder. Some videos were not even captioned. Again, of all the places on a website to have videos that are not captioned, there is a special irony in putting them up on the ARC.
Legibility and readability are two different things. Legibility has to do with visibility, or what you see, while readability is based on reading level and how clearly something is written.
In the US, the average reading level for adults is between 7-8th grade level, but the comfortable level for them to read at is 5-6th grade level. This is because people do not want to be constantly struggling to read if it’s on their level, and they feel more confident reading things that are presented below their reading level. Now, think about people with disabilities and their reading levels. Some of us read above, at, or below the average reading level. There are more barriers for us while growing up, which lessens our opportunity to advance our reading levels. People with traumatic brain injury, concussion, cognitive disability, and/or learning disability struggle more when reading. Literacy issues strongly affect the deaf and hard of hearing population. Most of us barely read at a 4th grade level. Word choice, paragraph length, and complexity of sentences are all important to consider when presenting information on your ARC.
There are different tools for measuring readability. We used Flesch Reading Ease score, because it is mostly commonly used in different research fields, including education and government.
I want to express how grateful I am to Dr. Faith Wallace who wrote an amazing article about why accessibility is no good if readability is poor. I have linked the article so you can read it, later. She gave a comparison between a good example and a bad example of readability. The example was too lengthy to present on one slide, so I have only copied the first part of the passage.
Why is it difficult to read for readers who prefer to read 5-6th grade level? Clearly, this passage is above 5-6th grade level. The sentences are too long. Also, there’s a lot of fancy words. When preparing materials to be presented on an ARC, you need to think of who will be using the website and that you want it to be friendly for them to use. You may have to explain to the marketing department that the ARC is not a place to show off your use of technical jargon, the fact that you remember all of the words you studied to prepare to take the SAT, or how much you adore William Faulkner.
This short paragraph provides the same point as the previous slide, but it is more straightforward, has shorter sentences, and no fancy words. This is what the content on an ARC should look like. It should be readable.
This was the most startling part for me while doing the research, only 6.4% of the companies had a score of 60 - 70, which is between an 8-9th grade level. The rest of the companies required a higher level of reading comprehension. This means not one of the companies’ ARCs was actually readable. We need to ask ourselves some questions: Why did this happen? What is the point of having an ARC if it is not readable? For whose benefit were these written and posted? If you are truly committed to accessibility, you need to make an ARC with good readability.
Content is a big part of an ARC. I will tell you why.
I love movies. I enjoy movies because of the complexity of plot, character development, creativity, and sometimes they make you see things differently. I will tell you a true story. I happened to meet a person who told me that he really liked this movie that he saw, recently. I became curious and asked why he liked it. He answered, “Because it was good.” I was, of course, unsatisfied with the answer because it did not really answer my question. I tried, again, inquiring, “Okay...but why was it good?” He thought about it for a moment, then shrugged and replied, “I don’t know. I just thought it was good. I remember enjoying the movie.” This answer left me feeling stumped, because it gave me no real information. I had no idea if it was actually a good movie, or not. This is exactly how I look at an ARC webpage without content. A user might have positive feelings about the accessibility statement, but would not have any good information about a company’s products or services. This makes the user feels that they should probably go ahead and use another company’s’ products or services because another company has provided more information about how accessible their products and services are. And, incidentally, this is a really good movie.
This is a really good example of plentiful content. How to get information is presented in a straightforward way under the heading of “Find Guides and Resources”. The information in each category is substantial and it will take hours and hours to read all of it. This content is specifically geared towards accessibility and helps users to see more reasons why they should use this company’s products.
What would be good standards and solutions when creating or modifying an ARC? The ARC should be easy to access from the homepage. This is the real estate equivalent of location, location, location. It should provide more examples on how products or services can be accessed. Not all of the ARCs have this information. The language used should be positive. We saw several words that should not be used. From our findings, “when requesting an interpreter to assist deaf student…”, the word “assist” is not the right word to use. Deaf people do not use interpreters because they need assistance. They use interpreters because they need access to communication. Also, readability is important. ARCs should be written in a clear way and be easy to understand.
We also can’t forget about good organization and design. To find things requires clear navigation. Contrast colors need to be accessible. Good organization and design also includes considering having a clean layout with ample space between elements and consider the guidelines for visual and semantic hierarchy. The ARC should not be the poor step-child of the website, with no thought, attention or effort paid to these elements.
Some of the companies went further than the minimum requirements. This was wonderful because you can see the companies showed, with this effort, a greater level of support for and commitment to people with disabilities. I would highly encourage, when developing or modifying an ARC, including more additional information, such as inclusive hiring, video tutorials, videos showing people with disabilities using their products, survey opportunities, information about the company’s involvement in the disability community, information about their different research projects, and information for software engineers looking to improve their coding to be more accessible.
To address flaws, when setting up an ARC, companies need to designate responsibility for maintaining it. Regular maintenance could reduce errors in content, design, and organization. Doing focus groups of users with disabilities also increases the experience quality. Collecting surveys of people using the ARC would also lead to insights as to what works well and what needs to be corrected or added.
I am sure you remember the scourge of computer users in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I am talking about the pop-ups that would take over your screen and which you would have to battle to get rid of. I want to leave you with a very important pop-up message that I hope that you will not get rid of, but will consider when setting up and maintaining your company’s ARC. Is your ARC truly accessible?
Accessibility statements and resource publishing best practices csun 2019
and Resource Publishing
Ted Drake, Intuit
Sarah Margolis-Greenbaum, Intuit
CSUN ATC, March 2019
Why is it important?
● Resources in one place
● Demonstrates commitment to users with disabilities
● Marketing opportunities to highlight other products
● Public relations opportunity to show involvement
with disability communities
Why is it important?
“I believe that posted accessibility pages
help organizations avoid legal action — so
long as there is an active phone number
and email address and site visitors get
prompt and positive responses to
feedback....It’s absence a sign that
accessibility is not a priority — or worse.”
– Lainey Feingold
Accessibility Resource Center Requirements
● Easy to locate ARC
● Contact information
● An accessibility statement
Readability - Bad Example
Bank On is a national program managed by the Cities for Financial
Empowerment. It is a comprehensive strategy to bring unbanked and
underbanked residents into the financial mainstream. With the goal of
helping families lay their financial foundation, the City of Atlanta will launch
its own program later this year-Bank On Atlanta. In partnership with local
financial institutions and community organizations, Bank On Atlanta will
provide practical financial skills that will enable residents and small
businesses to better manage their finances and plan for their future. We will
also provide increased access to low-cost personal and business accounts
and services, as well as ongoing, high quality financial education and one-
on-one individualized financial coaching.
Readability - Good Example
Welcome to Bank On Atlanta! Are you ready to learn how to better manage
your money? Do you want to own your own home or business? Do you
want to open your own bank account, in the easiest way possible? You’ve
come to the right place.
● 6.4% of companies had a score of 60 - 70 (8 - 9th
● 12.8% had a score of 50 - 60 (10 - 12 grade level)
● 38.3% had a score of 30 - 50 (college level)
● 40.4% had a score of 0 - 30 (graduate school level)
● 2.1% had a negative score (unreadable)
Standards and Solutions
● The ARC should be easy to access from the
● Explain how products or services can be accessed
● The language used should be positive
● Should be written in a clear way
Good Organization and Design
● Clear navigation
● Accessible colors
● Clean layout
● Visual and semantic hierarchy
● Inclusive hiring
● Video tutorials
● Videos showing people with disabilities using their
● Survey opportunities
● Involvement in the disability community
● Research projects
● Sharing accessible coding
● Designate responsibility for maintaining the ARC
● Regular maintenance
● Focus groups of users with disabilities
● Surveys of people using the ARC