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Accessible ADA Compliant Website Redesign RFP & Project Guide

David Gibson

As we approach 2024, your organization might be considering a website redesign. This is an excellent opportunity to not only enhance your site's performance and aesthetic appeal but also to prioritize a critical aspect often overlooked: web accessibility. Accessible web design is our specialty. We've been building engaging websites that convert visitors into customers since 1997. Making us quite unique, to compliment our web development team is our Accessibility.Works web accessibility consultancy. The two work hand in hand to ensure our websites attract and convert visitors of every ability. And this makes us very well suited to guide you in this process. Learn more about our accessible web design services.

In this guide, we delve into how to ensure that your website redesign aligns with the best practices in ADA compliance and web accessibility, turning a standard overhaul into an inclusive, forward-thinking project.

Legal Accessibility Requirements and Standards for a Website Redesign

In the US, digital accessibility is a requirement enforced by a patchwork of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act at the federal level. California's Unruh Civil Rights Act and New York State's web accessibility laws further tighten these requirements. These may seem confusing, but the good news is that there is a common standard for all: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The WCAG are not just about ticking boxes; they represent a commitment to building a web environment that's inclusive to all users. Breaking down WCAG’s principles and levels, we see a clear path to creating websites that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The Benefits of Embracing Web Accessibility

Web accessibility extends your reach far beyond compliance. It opens your website to a broader audience, including the 61 million Americans living with disabilities as well the aging Baby Boomer population with significant disposable income. Here are some additional benefits:

  • Legal Protection: ADA, 508, California and New York’s state laws all require web accessibility. The rise in litigation from both legitimate and serial plaintiffs underlines the necessity for strict adherence to web accessibility standards.
  • DEI in the Digital Realm: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion extend beyond physical spaces into the digital world. The pandemic has spotlighted how essential digital accessibility really is - for all people.
  • The Untapped Opportunity: With 61 million individuals with disabilities in the U.S. and Baby Boomers controlling over $548 billion in discretionary spending. Boomers are our first digital seniors, and they experience many of the same barriers that people with disabilities experience.  
  • AIO - The New Frontier: Technologies like Bing and ChatGPT highlight the emergence of AIO (Artificial Intelligence Optimization). Similar to assistive technologies, these AI tools face navigational barriers on non-compliant websites. WCAG adherence, therefore, is vital not only for traditional accessibility but also for optimizing your site for AI.
  • SEO Enhancement: An accessible website results in a more organized, clean, and navigable website, benefiting SEO. Search engines favor websites that provide a user-friendly experience, and accessibility features align closely with these SEO best practices.

Dispelling Accessibility Myths

The road to an accessible website is paved with misconceptions. Let's debunk a few:

  • Web Accessibility Forces Design Compromise: Accessible design does not limit creativity. It encourages innovative and user-friendly solutions that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Better accessibility is better UX for all.
  • Accessibility Only Benefits a Small Group: Accessible design benefits a broad spectrum of users, including those with temporary or situational disabilities, not just individuals with permanent disabilities.
  • Meeting WCAG Compliance is Too Time-Consuming and Expensive: Integrating accessibility from the project's start is both time-efficient and cost-effective compared to retrofitting a website later.
  • All I Need is an Overlay Widget for Web Accessibility: Absolutely not. Overlay widgets, plugins or toolbars should be completely avoided. Not only do they not work, they are a magnet for serial plaintiffs trolling for opportunity.

Crafting a Comprehensive RFP for an Accessible Website Redesign

Your journey to an accessible website begins with a well-crafted Request for Proposal (RFP). A good RFP sets the stage for compliance, demanding expertise in accessible design from potential vendors. It should explicitly state your accessibility goals, aligned with WCAG standards, and require a detailed plan for implementation. Importantly, it should emphasize the need for thorough testing, both automated and manual, to validate compliance throughout the design and development process. This RFP serves as your first step in ensuring that your redesigned website will be accessible to all users.

  • To ensure your website redesign meets accessibility standards, your RFP should:
  • Clearly state that deliverables must meet WCAG 2.1 A, AA standards.
  • Request accessibility credentials and experience.
  • Require a detailed accessibility plan outlining implementation strategies.
  • Emphasize the importance of testing, both automated and manual, for compliance. Explain tools used and how compliance will be verified.

Consider hiring a web accessibility consultant to assist with planning and evaluation of proposals.

Assessing Vendor Proposals with an Accessibility Lens

When the proposals start rolling in, your focus should be on discerning which vendors truly understand and can deliver on accessibility compliance. Evaluate their expertise and track record in creating accessible websites. A promising proposal will feature a comprehensive accessibility strategy, showcasing a commitment to thorough testing and post-launch support. The inclusion of detailed references and case studies adds credence to their claims.

When reviewing proposals, assess:

  • Vendors' experience and expertise in web accessibility.
  • The thoroughness of their proposed accessibility strategy.
  • Their accessibility testing tools and process for verifying WCAG compliance.
  • The vendor's approach to post-launch support and training.
  • References and case studies that demonstrate their ability to deliver accessible websites.

Ensuring Success Throughout the Project

At each step of this process, a qualified accessibility consultant can add significant value. 

Design Phase
The design phase is where accessibility starts taking shape. It’s about more than just aesthetics; it's about creating an intuitive and navigable experience for all users. This includes considerations like color contrast, font readability, and interactive elements. It's where the principles of WCAG are transformed into tangible design elements. An accessibility consultant can catch issues early and even annotate designs with guidance for the development team.

Development Phase
As the design moves into development, the focus shifts to technical implementation. This includes writing clean, semantic HTML, using ARIA roles where necessary, and ensuring the site is responsive and navigable by keyboard. Test as you go. There are a number of tools developers can use to test code as they write it. Always be aware that even the best testing tools can only detect ~30% of WCAG issues. Bring in a trusted web accessibility consultant to test templates and components as they roll off the line.

QA Testing Phase

In addition to testing for performance, cross platform display, and other standard criteria, be sure to include comprehensive WCAG compliance testing once the site is assembled and content is added. Be sure to have your accessibility expert do manual testing on the unique pages of the site and include screen reader testing as well.

Post-Launch: Sustaining Accessibility

After your website goes live, the work isn’t over. Maintaining accessibility is an ongoing effort. This starts with training for your content teams and continuous testing and updates to ensure the site remains compliant with evolving accessibility standards and technologies. If there are significant UX changes bring the accessibility consultant back in and manually test. Otherwise automated testing will catch content-base violations potentially introduced by content creators.

Wrap Up

A website redesign in 2024 is an opportunity to improve your website on every level. Meeting WCAG compliance will not only keep you out of legal hot water, but will also allow more visitors to use your website. Plus you're making a statement about your brand's DEI commitment to digital inclusion, which is attractive to both customers and employees. Not only is adopting web accessibility the right thing to do, it's also good business.

If you'd rather just skip this RFP process altogether and work with our specialized teams in both webdesign and web accessibility & ADA compliance, contact us now.