September 12, 2017Byline: Karen ShihIt’s that time: Your company or organization is preparing for a redesign of its website. It’s a great moment to rethink how you’re presenting your brand to the public and how to keep up with the latest trends – and a critical moment to incorporate accessibility. “There’s so much opportunity at the beginning of a project,” said Jennifer Sagalyn, director of business development for Perkins Access, Perkins School for the Blind’s digital accessibility consulting service. “By including users with disabilities from the start, you’ll give developers and designers key information that will make the process go smoothly.” Whether you’re a university looking for top applicants or an e-commerce site looking to topple last year’s sales totals, building accessibility into every aspect of your site gives you the widest reach possible. You’ll save time and money by incorporating it into the redesign process, rather than retrofitting when the site is completed. Millions of people who are blind, visually impaired or have other disabilities want your products or services – and you can better reach them if you keep these five things in mind as you work on your new site. Start early – really early: Before you even begin selecting a color palette, building a wireframe or hiring a vendor, bring in an accessibility consultant to make sure you’re integrating accessibility through every area of your site. Aim for intuitive and simple-to-use: Don’t design something unexpected just to stand out from other sites. Channel your creativity into other areas, while keeping your navigation predictable and reliable, creating a responsive site that works seamlessly for desktop and mobile, and eliminating inaccessible elements. Embrace the concept of universal design: According to the National Disability Authority, “Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability... By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples' needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.” Set expectations for contractors: Just because you understand accessibility doesn’t mean the people you’re bringing on for the redesign will too. Since many companies hire outside parties for these projects, make sure you clearly communicate your standards before hiring them, so you’re on the same page about the accessibility standards you intend to meet. Vet third-party vendors: Few companies have the resources to build everything on their site from scratch. Whether it’s a widget for social media or encryption for credit card processing, companies often need to turn to vendors to complete their sites. Make sure that in your procurement process you’re requiring vendors to be accessible – and work to build in their products as seamlessly and accessibly as possible. Ready to bring in experts to give your site the widest reach possible? Perkins Access offers tailored consulting and solutions to meet your company or organization’s needs. Contact Access@Perkins.org or 617-972-7868 to learn more.