Integrating Accessibility Across the Development Lifecycle
by Irfan Ali from Princeton New Jersey
“To produce a usable and accessible product, accessibility should be integrated into every stage of development. Before the project starts, it should be defined what accessibility means for the project. Product and project managers need to make accessibility a priority and ensure that accessibility is built into the overall process, track accessibility results and document decisions made throughout product development lifecycle.
The business requirements should include the user needs for people with disabilities. If third-party applications or development frameworks are needed for the project, they should be evaluated for accessibility before they are purchased. During interaction design, wireframes, and the product design, accessibility requirements must be met and more importantly, the accessibility decisions made during design must be communicated to the developers. Development must integrate accessibility and conduct unit testing to ensure that the code meets the accessibility requirements. Quality assurance needs to ensure that the product meets the business requirements, product accessibility requirements and works with assistive technology and browsers.”
Organizational Accessibility Integration
“In addition to key upper management support, accessibility should be integrated into corporate policies that directly impact the development of a product including design guidelines such as brand usage, web style guides, and design pattern libraries, technology guidelines such as technology strategy, browser and assistive technology support, and code libraries, procurement policies, product launch checklists, exception policies and procedures, support center call center scripts, FAQ documents, and social media guidelines.
Validation and measurement are key to success. Establishing metrics and tracking progress is important and should be integrated into business controls. The end goal of an accessibility program is to produce products that are accessible and usable for people with disabilities but making the statement that the products will be 100% compliance in a certain timeframe is unrealistic. Instead, it is important to set both short-term and long-term goals to drive accessibility transformation. Accessibility metrics will drive accessibility improvements and will uncover issues such as potential issues with overall processes, base technologies, issues with project and personnel management, training gaps, issues with developer and testing tools, potential issues with prioritization of priorities, and more.
Irfan Ali is am accessibility engineer and UI architect. Currently Irfan Ali lives in Princeton, New Jersey. You can follow Irfan Ali on twitter @ thea11y or check his personal blog at http://irfana11y.com