Teams managing digital accessibility today face more pressure than ever to operate quickly and effectively. Globally, regulators and buyers alike are holding organizations to higher standards for the accessibility of digital products and content. At the same time, accessibility budgets are tightening amid a challenging economic environment, forcing teams to accomplish more with fewer resources.

A young woman with curly hair writes lines of code on a desktop computer, while a young man looks on beside her.

Our CEO Tim Springer recently unpacked these developments in our on-demand webinar, “Decoding the Digital Accessibility Landscape: Key Trends and Strategies for Success.” Building off Springer’s insight, in this article, we’ll explore the key factors fueling a greater need for efficient digital accessibility, and provide actionable guidance for maximizing the impact of your efforts in the current environment.

Today, efficiency is integral to accessibility success

Whether addressing accessibility or other organizational priorities, most organizations aspire to work smarter—not harder. And in recent years, a confluence of factors has made it especially critical for professionals managing digital accessibility to focus on efficient progress.

First, regulatory requirements for digital accessibility are becoming stricter in the U.S. and internationally. Recent legislation, including the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) new rule under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the European Accessibility Act (EAA), will lead to stronger enforcement of accessibility standards, making accessibility even more of a legal and regulatory imperative for organizations across sectors.

Additionally, organizations are increasingly requiring proof of accessibility, in the form of a completed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®), when procuring digital products. In fact, 73% of senior leaders surveyed for our Fifth Annual State of Digital Accessibility Report shared that accessibility is a procurement requirement most or all of the time at their organizations. Buyers’ prioritization of accessibility in procurement processes can be partly attributed to stricter accessibility laws (both the ADA Title II requirements and EAA apply to third-party products), as well as increasing recognition of the business benefits of accessible websites, applications, and hardware. For digital product vendors, digital accessibility is now essential for winning new deals and keeping existing clients.

While digital accessibility is increasingly becoming not only a legal obligation, but also a business requirement, many organizations are scaling back the resources they devote to accessibility initiatives due to the challenging economic environment. To navigate these circumstances, accessibility leaders must find creative and strategic ways to achieve their goals with limited budgets.

Strategies for navigating the current digital accessibility landscape from our CEO

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How accessibility teams can accomplish more with less

So, how can accessibility leaders maximize the impact of limited resources, ensuring continued success in today’s complex regulatory, market, and economic landscape? Let’s explore two core shifts teams can make to improve efficiency: leveraging automation, and proactively addressing accessibility throughout the digital experience creation life cycle.

Integrating automation into your accessibility practice

Manually testing digital experiences, and remediating the issues these tests identify, is resource-intensive. By leveraging tools to automate aspects of these processes, organizations can more strategically use their teams’ time, and more swiftly improve users’ experiences. While automation is not a replacement for a comprehensive digital accessibility program, it can make a profound impact if used effectively.

Organizations can take advantage of three types of automation to enhance their accessibility efforts:

  1. Testing automation: Testing automation allows organizations to automatically test digital experiences for many of the most common accessibility issues, reducing reliance on manual testing. Test automation solutions typically fall into three categories. In the first category, heuristic automation, accessibility tests are run based on specific rules written by a human. In the second, machine learning is used to train software to identify common accessibility issues. And in the third, known as assisted diagnosis, teams leverage automated testing to surface common errors while manual testers focus on more complicated tasks.
  2. Specific issue remediation automation: Thanks to recent technological advancements, AI-powered tools can now provide accurate, scalable fixes for common accessibility issues, including missing or inaccurate alternative (alt) text, form labels, and headers. Just as automated testing may be used to free up manual testers’ time, specific issue remediation automation allows organizations to dedicate development resources to complex issues that automation cannot yet address.
  3. General issue remediation automation: This technology takes a broader approach to accessibility remediation by using copilots or chatbots to scan HTML code and rewrite it to incorporate accessibility features. General issue remediation automation is still in its infancy, but it may become a reliable solution in the next five to ten years.

Proactively incorporating accessibility into the experience creation process

While automation can help teams more quickly detect and fix accessibility issues in live experiences, the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure accessibility is to prevent issues in the first place. In fact, it’s estimated that addressing accessibility proactively, rather than through reactive remediation, can save organizations roughly $100,000 by reducing development hours.

To shift to a more proactive way of work, teams should integrate accessibility throughout the digital experience creation life cycle, beginning in planning and design—an approach known as “agile accessibility.”

Five steps to shifting to agile accessibility

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Agile accessibility may involve:

  • Including people with disabilities in user personas, and embedding accessibility requirements into the acceptance criteria for user stories.
  • Evaluating new designs for accessibility issues prior to development—and ensuring accessibility requirements for designs are clearly communicated to developers.
  • Checking the accessibility of code throughout development by leveraging accessibility-specific software development kits (SDKs) and testing integrations.

Our blog, “Play Your Part: Role-Based Advice for Agile Accessibility,” offers more practical guidance for specific teams to support a proactive, agile approach to accessibility.

Accelerate accessibility with an expert partner

Digital accessibility is no longer a “nice-to-have” for organizations—it’s critical to legal compliance and business growth. But as budgets tighten along with regulations, teams need to refine their toolsets and processes to maximize impact while minimizing time and resources. For a more in-depth exploration of the current regulatory, market, and economic factors impacting digital accessibility, and how to navigate them, access our full on-demand webinar, “Decoding the Digital Accessibility Landscape: Key Trends and Strategies for Success,” with CEO Tim Springer.

Of course, identifying and implementing process efficiencies is easier said than done. A third-party expert can provide you with the tools and support you need to streamline your workflows and upgrade your accessibility tech stack, setting you up for sustainable success in the current landscape.

With more than 25 years of experience in digital accessibility, Level Access has helped thousands of organizations swiftly and reliably meet their accessibility goals. Our approach combines advanced technology, including automated solutions and design and developer tools, with the industry’s deepest bench of industry expertise to support lasting accessibility and compliance. To get started, contact our team today.