SITUATION & BUSINESS CHALLENGE
A standard accessibility review by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) of a large credit union’s website and iOS mobile app identified a variety of issues that would prevent the visually impaired from leveraging the web properties effectively. Several months later, following several months of legal action, a settlement between the NFB and the credit union mandated the remediation of the accessibility issues by March 31, 2019. Consequently, leadership decided to undertake a comprehensive web accessibility initiative.
The remediation would prove to be a significant challenge:
- Developed 10+ years previously, the credit union’s website had never addressed accessibility, so a thorough code review was required for more than 500 site pages.
- In addition to changes to existing pages, accessibility would need to be incorporated into the normal feature update release cadence for the website and app, requiring immediate training of internal developers to avoid having to add the functionality at a later time.
- Remediation for both the website and mobile app would involve working with third parties in addition to internal development.
- Internal developers lacked the proper skillsets to remediate the accessibility issues on their own.
IT leaders searched for consulting expertise to lead the web accessibility initiative, particularly a firm that could impart the right change in both the code and developers, to ensure that accessibility is baked into the organization from the ground up. After discovering the long and successful track record of AIM Consulting’s Delivery Leadership practice, the organization’s IT director turned to AIM to lead the effort.
A small AIM team of a project manager, two developers, and several QA leads worked with the credit union’s online banking and marketing development teams to bring the website and mobile app into compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) A and AA visual accessibility standards.
The project flowed through several stages:
Documenting and remediating all website accessibility issues
AIM’s own accessibility review found more than 1,000 site pages in need of remediation — almost double the original estimate — and despite the work being far outside the project scope, AIM developed and deployed all necessary remediation for the website and mobile app on time and within the original budget. AIM provided additional value by remediating some auditory accessibility issues, although that too was outside the project scope.
The major new accessibility features that will assist blind website and mobile app users include the following:
- Addition of image text — screen readers are now able to describe every essential image on the website so the blind can know what the images represent.
- Tabbing ability — the blind can now efficiently navigate through the links and elements on web pages by tabbing on a keyboard.
- Proper color contrast ratio — with page elements no longer blending together, screen readers are now better able to describe all the elements on a page.
The NFB settlement mandated that general third-party accessibility training be provided for the development teams; AIM supplemented this training with side-by-side training of developers, greatly aiding the project by ensuring that accessibility changes were incorporated into new production code from the beginning. It also ensured that developers would have sufficient accessibility coding knowledge at project’s end. AIM provided similar training for the credit union’s development partners.
Partnering with mobile development teams to identify and remediate accessibility issues
AIM worked with internal and external mobile development teams throughout the project, also training these groups in accessibility coding. AIM hosted a series of phone and video calls to help the external group understand the class of issues that needed remediation.
Auditing the existing CSS framework and test automation tools
AIM’s developers ran into issues with the website’s cascading style sheets (CSS) framework early in the project and performed a complimentary audit of the framework for the client. As a result of the audit, AIM drafted several recommendations to improve the code during the project and provided a number of CSS frameworks for developers to use in the future. AIM also recommended and introduced several new test automation tools to help the development team become more efficient.
Delivering a full report of all accessibility issues addressed and providing recommendations and tools to ensure future WCAG compliancy
AIM provided a final audit to validate that the accessibility remediation was performed to expectations, and pointed the teams to accessibility tools to help ensure future compliancy. The teams are now licensed to use the JAWS accessibility tool along with several free tools.
Additionally, AIM assisted the IT team in setting up a new accessibility governance model, which called for educating product managers, content managers, and others to understand how and why accessibility needs to be considered at the start of all new projects.
As a flexible partner throughout the engagement, AIM provided value far beyond the original project scope. The client’s website and iOS app are now compliant with WCAG A and AA standards for the visually impaired. The credit union’s development teams are addressing auditory compliance as well as a follow-up action.
The client’s trust and confidence in AIM’s project delivery led to six new engagements following the web accessibility initiative, with several more prospects on the horizon.