Halfway through a morning run yesterday, I realized I’d neglected to add something to my website. As soon as I got home I set to fixing that, and published an accessibility statement after a couple hours of work. It was an oversight on my part, and long overdue.
It’s possible your organization’s legally required to provide an accessibility statement, as David Sloan reminded me. But if the term “accessibility statement” is new to you, that’s okay! It’s relatively new to me. I will say that if you’re hoping to learn more, I quite like the Web Accessibility Initiative’s explanation of why they’re so helpful:
Accessibility statements are important for several reasons:
- Show your users that you care about accessibility and about them
- Provide them with information about the accessibility of your content
- Demonstrate commitment to accessibility, and to social responsibility
Three short points, but there’s a world of good within them. A world of nuance, too.
But hey, it’s possible you’re still wondering why an accessibility statement’s important. If that’s the case, maybe I’ll start by sharing a few accessibility statements I like quite a bit:
- Eric Bailey’s accessibility statement
- Prime Access Consulting’s accessibility statement
- Vox Media’s accessibility statement
- Deque Accessibility Statement
- GOV.UK’s guidance around accessibility requirements, and their sample accessibility statement (shared by David Sloan on Twitter)
If you squint closely, you’ll quickly see some similarities between these statements and mine. Each of these documents were really helpful references for me, and I took a lot of cues from them on language, structure, and tone. Along with various conversations I’ve had, each of these documents contributed to my understanding of what accessibility statements should do, and why they’re so important.
First and foremost, an accessibility statement’s meant to help the reader. Put another way, it’s a document that helps them better understand the accessibility features of the website they’re using. That’s why my statement mentions the focus styles I’ve designed, that I’ve tested my color palette (well, palettes) for sufficient contrast, and covers key structural elements of my pages. For someone visiting my site — whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth — my accessibility statement hopefully provides them with the information they need to better navigate my site.
Maybe more critically though, an accessibility statement should clearly acknowledge any flaws in the website. If there’s still work to be done, or errors to be found, they should be clearly, plainly detailed. Personally, I love the language on Vox Media’s accessibility statement: they cite specific design patterns or conventions they realize aren’t ideal, and mention specific accessibility improvements they’re planning to make.
I thought that was pretty inspiring, so I tried to do something similar with my accessibility statement. The Known Issues section is an attempt tried to acknowledge that my site has plenty of flaws — not unlike myself — and that I’m working to fix them. Again, this isn’t for my benefit, but for my reader’s. Anyone visiting my site needs to know that I wasn’t always diligent about accessibly labeling embedded videos, which could impact them if they’re reading an older post of mine.
Related to that, an accessibility statement is best seen as a living document. As my site changes, I’ll keep my accessibility statement updated. As I learn about bugs in my code or issues in my content, or if I get feedback from users, I’ll add them to the Known Issues section.
And finally, I hope my accessibility statement tells readers that I’m listening to them. Personally, I love how Eric Bailey’s accessibility statement phrases this:
Issues with this site’s accessibility can be submitted as a Git Hub issue, or by emailing me directly. I take these issues very seriously and will try to remedy the problem as quickly as time allows. A list of known reported issues is also available.
I learn a lot from Eric, and this phrase is no exception: “I take these issues very seriously and will try to remedy the problem as quickly as time allows.” This felt like a good bar to set for myself, which is why I’ve said something similar. I want to make it very, very clear that if there’s a way I could make things more accessible for my readers, I’d love to hear from them.
Anyway, these are a few of the reasons why I added an accessibility statement to my website. Maybe you’d like to add one to yours, too.