Article Overview 

A project manager is integral to getting projects completed on time and within budget and scope. This person is in charge of concrete responsibilities like planning and budgeting. Simply put, they are the ones who have a complete overview of the project in terms of vision and implementation.


Table of Contents 

  1. Accessibility Isn’t Just a Good-to-Have Feature
  2. It’s Important to Be Aware of the Accessibility Laws and Standards
  3. You Should Be Aware of Your Firm’s Accessibility Policies 
  4. Anticipate and Prepare for Challenges 
  5. The Process Is Complex
  6. Testing Early Is Beneficial
  7. You Should Have Plans to Maintain Web Accessibility 
  8. Remember: You Are Core to the Process 
  9. Summing Up

As a result, project managers involved in web development projects should be aware of critical matters that affect an organization’s standing, including upholding accessibility. 
Web accessibility is a vital element of mainstream websites today. PMs involved in the development of websites, apps, or other digital tools should ensure the proper implementation of accessibility techniques, thus protecting the firm from unnecessary legal battles and penalties. 
If you are a project manager, this post will offer you information on everything you need to know about accessibility. You will also find effective tips on how to position yourself as a gatekeeper and driver of accessibility in your organization. 

Accessibility Isn’t Just a Good-to-Have Feature

Web accessibility isn’t an optional feature that can be implemented if you have to budget or schedule. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) requires businesses and individuals to adhere to the digital and web accessibility guidelines put forth by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Non-adherence to these guidelines can attract digital accessibility lawsuits that are not just expensive but also bad for the firm’s reputation. However, despite the growing awareness of the significance of accessibility, the lawsuits are increasing each year. 

Federal ADA Title III Lawsuit Numbers Continue to Climb In 2019

Source

Most businesses are unaware of the guidelines until they get into a legal soup. Therefore, as a project manager, it’s wise to proactively audit your company site based on the WCAG guidelines and take measures to comply with them. 

It’s Important to Be Aware of the Accessibility Laws and Standards

Software development teams often get stuck on understanding the accessibility laws. Since the project manager has a complete overview of the project and is ultimately responsible to deliver accessible sites, they must strive to understand and stay updated on the recent guidelines. That way, they can offer support to the team and give them clarity, helping them deliver the project on time. 

The WCAG is considered to be the gold standard where digital and web accessibility guidelines are concerned. These are based on four core principles, namely perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. If any of these aren’t met, users with disabilities will not be able to access the web with ease. 

Moreover, the WCAG defines three levels of conformance in increasing order of accessibility.

Level A - This is the minimum level of conformance. Here, the web pages satisfy all the Level A success criteria or a conforming alternate version is provided.
Level AA - Here, the web pages satisfy all the Level A and Level AA success criteria, or a Level AA conforming alternate version is provided.
Level AAA - Here, the web page satisfies all the Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA success criteria, or a Level AAA conforming alternate version is provided.

To begin with, you should aim at meeting A and AA requirements to offer a reasonably accessible experience to your audience. However, simply stating the guidelines and the level of compliance you desire isn’t sufficient. Set up a clear plan on how you will achieve and measure this regularly. 
For instance, timely audits (internal or third-party), user testing, and automated accessibility testing can help your team deliver an accessible site. 

You Should Be Aware of Your Firm’s Accessibility Policies 

Keep an eye on your organization’s web accessibility policies. At times, even if a firm is measuring its WCAG compliance, the specifics of how those standards are implemented are not in place. Look for answers to these questions to get a clear picture. 

What’s the current level of WCAG compliance (A, AA, AAA)?

What’s the level you/your organization aiming at? 

What types of violations could prevent your site or a new piece of content from going live? 

Who makes these decisions? 

This simple exercise will help you come up with a smooth and more compliant project.

Anticipate and Prepare for Challenges 

The accessibility realm is rife with challenges. For instance, web designers may be aware of the fairly obvious accessibility guidelines (like adding alt text to images) but may be unaware of the lesser-publicized aspects (like link purpose or context).

Similarly, different content management systems, old web pages, and complex visual designs among other scenarios may mean that your team lacks adequate technical expertise to overcome the ensuing accessibility challenges.
When managing a web development project, you may come across many such accessibility surprises. Make sure you plan for them in advance to ensure high-level adherence to your business goals. This can mean anything from ensuring that the documentation and processes are in place to training your team to know more about accessibility. 

For instance, providing routine technical, editorial, design, or screen reader testing training to your team will help them be aware of the accessibility guidelines and encourage them to adhere to it.

The Process Is Complex

The guidelines shared by the WCAG aren’t easy to understand and require a specific level of technical knowledge. Therefore, getting started with web accessibility can be overwhelming for many. Most web developers are unable to properly interpret the guidelines. The process itself requires you to get multiple elements like browsers, users, design platforms, apps, and websites to come together.

So, a project manager needs to take proactive steps and work with the development team to evaluate the accessibility of their website and apps. Today, technologies like AI are making inroads in the web accessibility domain. Several AI-powered tools can help assess the accessibility of your digital platforms and help you create a plan to remediate accessibility barriers if any.

Testing Early Is Beneficial

Testing and retesting for accessibility compliance early in the web development process will reduce the disconnect between the proposed designs and how it’s finally delivered to the end-user. User testing and accessibility audits take time, yet it’s critical to dedicate time and effort to it. So, make sure you build in time for testing, enabling you to deliver the overall project within the timeline. 

Your development team should have the required web accessibility tools in place to test the site before it goes into the near-complete stage. Similarly, keep enough time for user testing among individuals with disabilities. Doing so early in the process will ensure that the prototypes built are accessible to the end-users. 

Both, testing and stakeholder reviews are critical to spotting and filling gaps early in the process. 

You Should Have Plans to Maintain Web Accessibility 

Web accessibility isn’t a one-time affair! You will have to review your site’s accessibility every time the guidelines change or you add some new content to your pages. Accessibility maintenance is critical to avoid risks of new accessibility barriers for your users with disabilities and costly litigation.

Accessibility demands constant monitoring and maintenance. Use these best practices for accessibility maintenance, thus preventing inadvertent mistakes that may cause your firm to drift into WCAG noncompliance. 

Make sure you have designated team members who can test, assess, and improve the site’s navigation and functionality with time. 

Make web accessibility an ingrained priority through the organization. Every business decision should be taken with web accessibility as one of the considerations. 

Where possible, automate! For instance, you can invest in automatic web accessibility solutions to reduce the risk of accessibility penalties and lawsuits. 

Train the team (everyone from the CEO to interns) on web accessibility to upskill and progress on your web accessibility efforts. 

Conduct annual audits and user testing. 

Remember: You Are Core to the Process 

Each team member has a specific role in creating an accessible web. For instance, the content, design, and web development team, each has a unique role to play in this process. However, if your creative team creates an attractive and accessible web page and your developer isn’t clear on how to make it accessible, the end product (the web page) will not be accessible. 
Your role as a project manager will be critical here. In fact, you are the one person who will be connecting the dots and keeping the project on track. You can plan for accessibility and engage the right people for the job that’ll help the team members work towards meeting the accessibility requirements. 
Hence, you are critical to the process!

Summing Up

Web accessibility has become one of the most-discussed topics today and for a good reason! In this age of digitization, it’s becoming ever more important to ensure that content and services offered by your firm are easily accessible to your audience, irrespective of their abilities. 
Accessibility encompasses a wide range of practices and techniques. Being at the hub of projects, project managers should have a decent handle of the accessibility best practices and steer the team towards creating a more accessible web. The information shared above will help you.