2.6: The Accessibility Specialist

Benefits In Hiring An Accessibility Specialist

You want to achieve accessibility and compliance but your organization lacks the resources and skills. This is when it’s worth hiring an outside firm for web accessibility consulting and coaching.

A qualified web accessibility consultant:

  • Understands good web page structure and content relationships. Accessibility is their main focus and full-time job. They might have an accessibility certification or lived experiences. Often, they have extensive training and expertise in very specific technical areas.
  • Has firsthand experience with disabilities. You may realize that your organization needs to be more accessible for your customers, but lack knowledge about those individuals’ actual needs. A reputable web accessibility consultant either has firsthand disability experience or works with associates who have disabilities. They know a great deal about how people with disabilities go online, how they use assistive technology, and how web barriers affect them.
  • Can perform functional testing. Relying on accessibility testing tools will give you a false sense of usability. These tools only check a small number of web page attributes and cannot perform functional testing by people with disabilities. A web accessibility consultant will do a combination of automated, manual and functional testing, checking every part of your website thoroughly to make sure it is barrier-free at every step.
  • Can make judgment calls. When a website is checked for accessibility, a key part of the process is making judgment calls. For example, an automated tool might tell you that 100 percent of the images on your website have alternative text in place. This does not necessarily mean those images are accessible. Alt-text must also be implemented correctly depending on whether the images are decorative and convey no information, are multiple images belonging to a group, or are graphs and diagrams conveying a great deal of data. When an accessibility consultant evaluates a website, they’re checking not only whether or not images have alt-text, but whether or not the alternative text has been properly used.
  • Keeps up to date. Digital accessibility is an area in constant flux. Web accessibility consultants make it their business to stay on top of the latest developments in the industry. They’re informed about the most current technical requirements for digital accessibility. They’re aware of new releases in assistive technology devices and software, and which of these are in the most widespread use. They know about trendy new electronic gadgets and apps. And, most importantly, they are knowledgeable about legislation, such as Section 508 and AODA requirements.
  • Will offer a worry-free, comprehensive package. When web accessibility consultants evaluate your digital properties, they do much more than identify your barriers in a report. They work with you in a systematic and prioritized manner to ensure the remediation process is thorough. They may even offer adjunct services in the area of digital accessibility, such as training, accessibility and conformance statements, assistive technology and marketing communications support.

Assessing the skills of an accessibility specialist

When you’re choosing an accessibility specialist, here are some things to consider.

  • The consultant has experience with making sites compliant. The consultant understands the needs of your target audience.
  • A web accessibility consultant should save you time. Ensure that they have had appropriate website training and experience with assistive technologies.
  • A web accessibility consultant should have good written and verbal communication skills in reporting accessibility issues and recommending solution techniques.
  • Consider the services the web accessibility consultant offers. They may offer some, but not all, of the skills you need e.g. analysis, testing, remediation, reporting, coding, etc.
  • What accessibility standards (e.g. WCAG) and laws (e.g. Section 508, AODA) is the consultant familiar with? Are they the same standards and laws your organization is obliged to meet?
  • What accessibility audits has the accessibility consultant performed in the past. Assess referrals to ensure that you are getting exactly what you need for your site and not overpaying for services you don’t need.