Accessibility in the Project Lifecycle

Tips for Project Managers

The following tips are intended to assist University of Iowa project managers in supporting accessibility in web development projects.

Be aware of the University Web Accessibility policy

The UI Web Accessibility policy is located at http://itsecurity.uiowa.edu/webaccessibility. This policy pertains to all new web development on the Iowa campus, as well as many existing web assets.

Key points

  • Accessible links for site visitors
  • Conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0, Level AA
  • Schedule for remediating existing web assets

How IT Accessibility group can help

  • Explain and clarify the accessibility policy for Project Managers

Communicate accessibility to stakeholders

The Project Manager is uniquely positioned to address accessibility as a project requirement.  PMs should ensure that issues are addressed at discovery, and that accessibility information is communicated to the appropriate stakeholders as the project progresses.

Key points

  • Accessibility is a required component of all University of Iowa web development projects
  • Accessibility is an intrinsic project issue, affecting timeline, budget, staffing, and other outcomes
  • All roles in the project team contribute to accessibility

How the IT Accessibility group can help

  • Provide accessibility presentations to project team and other stakeholders

Be aware of potential accessibility barriers in project requirements

Sites that are graphics-intensive use complex widgets or multi-media, require deep or frequent navigation, or provide dense sections of content all can enhance the value of a site, but they also can present accessibility barriers.  Understand that rich, interactive features may require extra time and development effort to get right.

Key points

  • The more complex the system, the greater possibility of accessibility barriers
  • Extra development time may be necessary to create robust sites and applications.

How the IT Accessibility group can help

  • Assist project teams in identifying potential accessibility pitfalls and courses of action

Know when to test

Any phase of a project's lifecycle is likely to intersect with accessibility guidelines.  An accessibility testing and maintenance strategy can contribute to a longer-lived, more robust product.  Testing early lets you catch and correct issues with relatively little disruption to the project.  Testing for accessibility as a late-phase quality check increases the complexity of addressing any issues.

Key points

  • Accessibility impacts a project throughout its entire lifecycle
  • Accessibility testing should take place at each stage

How the IT Accessibility group can help

  • Assist PMs in understanding key opportunities to check accessibility throughout the lifecycle
  • Assist in devising testing and assessment strategies for different phases of a project

Support team members in incorporating accessibility

Designers, developers, and other team members may experience a learning curve when first considering accessibility as part of their role.  As they do with other development skills, developers may benefit from accessibility skills development.  PMs should be available to address skills concerns and other issues, and divert those issues for resolution.

Key points

  • Any team member may require additional supports in integrating accessibility into their practice
  • Resources are available to help team members understand their role in project accessibility

How the IT Accessibility group can help

  • Direct team members toward training and professional development resources
  • Work directly with team members to identify accessible techniques and practices

Understand that accessibility is not a discrete feature of a site

Like security, visual design, code quality, branding, content management, legal clearance, and other factors, accessibility is properly an integral aspect of any project.  All stakeholders should agree on this, and recognize that functional accessibility is a primary deliverable.

Key points

  • Accessibility is one of numerous success criteria for a project
  • A project isn't done until it's accessible

How the IT Accessibility group can help

  • Champion accessibility as critical to project success
  • Foster discussion of how accessibility fits with usability, UX, and other project considerations