How to write an Accessibility Statement
I worked on an accessibility strategy for Checkout.com, taking the first steps to make their products and websites more accessible.
The Design System’s team was keen to set out our commitment to accessibility by writing and publishing an accessibility statement. Having previously worked for big corporates, I’ve never has the chance to get hands-on with an activity like this. It was a useful learning opportunity so I thought I'd document the process here.
What is an accessibility statement? Why is it important?
An accessibility statement shows your users that you care about accessibility and demonstrates your commitment to improve your experience for everyone. In the UK private sector, it’s not yet a legal requirement but it is for some public bodies that implement the EU Web Accessibility Directive. If you’re unsure, W3C has a filterable list of accessibility laws and policies by country.
Regardless of laws, writing a statement is a smart move. It shows you are considering people’s access needs. It’s also becoming something companies increasingly look for as part of the due diligence process they undertake when engaging your services.
What to include
The Worldwide Web Consortium has a useful section on how to write a statement so is a great place to start. W3C suggests that a minimal statement should include:
- Your commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities
- What the statement covers
- The accessibility standard applied, eg. WCAG 2.1
- Contact information if a user encounters problems
- When the statement was prepared
A complete accessibility statement should also include:
- Any known limitations that might frustrate your users
- What your company is doing to improve
- Any technical prerequisites, like which web browsers you support
- Environments in which the content has been tested to work
In addition, this talk by the Government Digital Service also recommends including:
- how the user can obtain alternative formats
- a roadmap of planned improvements
- a link to an accessibility audit report
How do I know what is not accessible?
An accessibility audit is a good place to start. You don’t have to test every screen, I find a sample of the core pages and functionality is sufficient to highlight the majority of fails. If you have someone in your team with knowledge of WCAG, the technical skills and the time you can do an audit yourself. The alternative is finding a third party consultant or agency to undertake an audit for you. I have used the Digital Accessibility Centre, AbilityNet and Deque for past audits. They produce excellent reports and guidance for engineers on how to implement fixes.
The W3C has a template for a minimal and complete statement and a tool to generate a statement if you fill in the blanks. If your goal is to write a statement in plain English that doesn't read like legal T&Cs, check out these best practice examples:
- Web Accessibility Initiative
- I also came by this huge list of public sector accessibility statements. There’s no indication who owns this so apologies not to give credit but I found this roundup useful.
Before putting an accessibility statement live, you'll need feedback from your D&I team, design, product, engineering and legal. If you’re new to a company, this can be a great way to engage with all these specialisms and make contacts. At Checkout, my colleague on the design system formed an Accessibility Guild off the back of this initiative as it helped to get folks collaborating.
Publish your accessibility statement somewhere easy for users to find, ideally in the header or footer. If your site is not fully accessible to screen reader users, consider making the link to the accessibility statement the first link they hit so they are forewarned of the problems they may encounter. HTML is the most accessible format so avoid using a PDF or download.
Finally, keep the statement alive and remember to update when you get audit results, fix fails and make improvements.
I've enjoyed learning how to write a statement. If you’re planning to add an accessibility statement to your site, I hope these links help.
Disclaimer: I’m not an accessibility expert, just a keen amateur attempting to make the web a friendly place for everyone. If I’ve made errors here, please give me a 👋 wave on Twitter to help me improve.