To ensure long-term conformance, accessibility must be an integral part of the publishing process, ingrained in workflows and supported by technology. Agencies should review the technical infrastructure and publishing workflows to enable the production of accessible web content. This will help build an efficient and effective publishing environment that suit the needs of all users.
Within Phase 1: Preparation, under work item 1.3, of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS) agencies are asked to complete a website infrastructure assessment. This process will help agencies ascertain the capabilities of their technical infrastructure to support accessibility conformance, as well as assist the integration of accessibility into the publishing processes and workflows that generate content destined for publication on agency websites.
An assessment of the scope of any changes to technical infrastructure and/or publishing processes and workflows will assist agencies in developing their own work program for WCAG 2.0 conformance.
In order to complete work item 1.3, agencies should undertake two reviews of both the technical infrastructure as well as the publishing processes used within the agency to create and support the development and management of web content. They are explored in detail below.
Technical infrastructure includes but is not limited to content management systems (CMSs) that may be commercial off the shelf, customised, or hybrid builds; web development platforms; or any technical components that allow for the creation, development or management of web content.
Web content, for the purposes of the NTS includes both web pages as well as down loadable documents such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Rich Text Format (RTF) or Microsoft Office file types. Current technical infrastructure should be included in the review, as well as planned platforms (for future websites or content) and web applications provided by third parties for which the agency may be unable to control (i.e. Facebook).
The purpose of the review is to consider:
Agencies are not required to use a content management system(s) to support their websites, but may find them useful when managing multiple websites, a complex publishing environment (especially with decentralised publishing model), or if there is a limited number of skilled and experienced web developers or content authors within the agency. Regardless of the number and complexity of websites, agencies will likely find they use a combination of platforms and tools to create and manage web content, with varying levels of support for accessibility.
When assessing current infrastructure, agencies should consider the following:
Level of technical skill and experience possessed web development (and content authoring) staff.
To determine the level of support that infrastructure may hold over web content, agencies should review:
Technical Infrastructure may enable the creation of more accessible web content through:
The publishing processes are a crucial, but often overlooked aspect of ensuring accessibility. The entire end-to-end web content publishing process should be reviewed from: document design and planning; creation; revisions and reworks; to the final publication on the website, to consider where any points of failure exist that enable inaccessible content to be published. Where content changes frequently, agencies should ensure their review cycles include activity task to check the content for accessibility.
Ideally, accessibility should be considered both at the design and pre-publishing stages to ensure maximum conformance. As much as possible, authors should create accessible content, facilitated by web developers, communications or IT support teams testing the content prior to publishing. Accessibility is an ongoing business-as-usual (BAU) requirement in the management of websites, and should be checked at regular intervals or at least for every major release.
Agencies have a greater likelihood of improved conformance by ensuring accessibility early in the publishing process. They will also benefit from long-term reduced impact on resources by creating accessible content, as opposed to only testing after publishing. For example, content authors can create HTML web pages with properly structured headings (either through set templates, or in a CMS, or according to guidelines or training), or provide alternative text descriptions to images prior to content being published.
Similarly, web developers should always validate mark-up languages to ensure they parse before publishing. Simple BAU tasks inbuilt into current processes will lead to improved websites and minimise costs and resource burdens.
A review of existing publishing processes should consider the following questions:
At the conclusion of the Website Infrastructure Assessment, agencies should have a clear understanding of:
Last Reviewed: 2010-07-08