In the modern business-to-business (B2B) procurement cycle, companies with accessible products are at a clear advantage. In fact, 74% of organizations prioritize accessibility in software procurement. And the most effective way to achieve, and sustain, digital accessibility is an agile approach—proactively embedding accessibility throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC) and consistently iterating on progress.
To meet procurement requirements, simply assuring buyers that your product is accessible won’t seal the deal. You’ll need to complete a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT®, and produce an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR), demonstrating your product’s conformance with accessibility standards. But, unlike your dynamic, agile accessibility practice, ACRs are static. They only provide a point-in-time snapshot of a product’s accessibility. So, how should agile teams approach accessibility reporting when they’re continually iterating and innovating? In this post, we’ll outline four best practices for maintaining accurate, up-to-date ACRs at an organization committed to agile accessibility.
1. Create your ACR as soon as possible, but plan to make updates
Don’t wait until your next major product update to initiate the ACR creation process. Obtaining a report as soon as possible won’t just help you close upcoming deals—it will also equip you with a stronger understanding of which accessibility standards are, and aren’t, applicable to your product. Some types of ACRs (including those documenting Section 508 and EN 301 549 compliance) will also provide you with a better sense of the kinds of assistive technology that can be used to interact with your experience. Understanding this information will enable you to prioritize improvements that enhance your product’s usability and success.
2. Improve accessibility reporting efficiency by creating different ACRs for different user experiences
It might feel like overkill to request new accessibility reporting on your entire product when the updates you’ve made only affect one subset of users. Many software solutions, for instance, offer different capabilities for administrators and general users. By obtaining separate ACRs for these two groups, organizations ensure that when they make changes to non-administrative features, they only need to update the ACR associated with general users’ experience—they can leave their ACR for administrators’ experience as-is.
Similarly, if you maintain different versions of the same software for different operating systems (for example, an Android app and an iOS app), and update these versions separately, obtaining a unique ACR for each will streamline accessibility reporting.
3. Use monitoring tools to make informed decisions about revamping your ACR
As your product evolves, you’ll need to update your ACR to reflect its new state of accessibility. A general rule of thumb is to update your ACR every six months to a year, depending on how frequently you update your software. Conducting ongoing accessibility monitoring makes it easy to understand when it’s time to refresh your report. Monitoring tools track the volume of and severity of accessibility issues across your product over time, and a meaningful reduction in issues is a strong signal to update your ACR.
Outside of resolved accessibility issues, reasons to request an updated ACR include:
- The age of your ACR: a report older than a year may be perceived as outdated and unreliable by buyers.
- You’ve made significant changes to the content of your product, including the addition of new features.
- You want to demonstrate conformance with new or additional accessibility standards (like WCAG 2.2).
4. Request supplemental documentation to reinforce your commitment to inclusion
Chances are, not all the improvements you’re making to your product’s accessibility can be captured within a VPAT. And as buyers continue to require accessibility reporting in the procurement process, documenting the full extent of how your offering supports diverse users’ needs is key to gaining, and maintaining, a competitive edge.
In addition to an ACR, it’s wise to obtain supplemental documentation with details about your product’s accessibility that fall outside the scope of a VPAT. This additional reporting is an opportunity to share more in-depth information about product usability (the diverse ways in which users can engage with specific features of your product) and your accessibility testing practices.
If your organization is using an agile development methodology, as well as embracing an agile approach to accessibility, user feedback likely plays a central role in your development process. Your supplemental documentation may outline your approach to obtaining and addressing users’ input on accessibility, including your timeline for responding to accessibility concerns from customers or users.
Constantly innovating and improving your product is the ticket to expanding procurement opportunities, and embracing agile digital accessibility is an important part of this plan. By treating accessibility as an ongoing practice, rather than a one-time project, you can ensure you continue to meet buyers’ accessibility requirements—and provide equitable experiences for people with disabilities—as your product evolves. And with a strategic approach to accessibility reporting, you can keep the documentation you need to close deals up to date. For more guidance on adopting efficient, sustainable digital accessibility, visit our agile accessibility content hub, which offers thought leadership and how-to resources for organizations of all sizes and maturity levels.
A trusted partner for efficient, accurate accessibility conformance reporting
As the market-leading digital accessibility solution provider, Level Access has more than two decades of experience helping organizations achieve, maintain, and report on product accessibility. Our approach to conformance reporting includes a thorough evaluation of your product’s critical user flows, including testing with assistive technologies, and we’ll help you resolve any identified barriers before delivering a completed VPAT (ACR). We can also supply additional forms of accessibility reporting, including supplemental documentation, and even work with you on a public accessibility statement.
What’s more? Our advanced monitoring and analytics tools make it easy to track your product’s accessibility over time, so you know when it’s time to update specific reports. To learn more about how Level Access supports an agile approach to accessibility, visit our knowledge base.
eSSENTIAL Accessibility has changed its name to Level Access! Read More